The rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks will live on for another day, thanks to Steven Spielberg. The acclaimed and world-renowned director has already established himself in numerous ways during his extensive, esteemed career as a filmmaker, but he'll be breaking new ground — through a familiar story — as he makes his first-ever musical with his retelling of West Side Story. Certainly, there are many reasons why you should be excited.
A new Steven Spielberg film is always a case for celebration, particularly for cinephiles. West Side Story (2020) should be no exception, hopefully. But since we have over a year before we see the film in its completed form, let's break down the reasons why we're very excited to see this new movie.
Steven Spielberg Doing Something New With A Classic Story
What seems most exciting about Steven Spielberg's West Side Story is the possibility of seeing something new, which is also timeless at the very same time. West Side Story is a classic in two respects. The musical itself — both on the stage and in the theater — is a treasured achievement, with memorable songs, gobsmacking dance choreography, an adorable, then tragic, young romance and a sense of place and time that makes it pop. But it's also a classic in that it takes the iconic romantic fable of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and presents it in a fresh, exciting new way.
Similarly, Steven Spielberg will expand himself by going back to the post. In order to advance his storytelling capabilities, the Raiders of the Lost Ark filmmaker will attempt to mine a traditional old-fashioned cinematic musical, while giving it his own blend of cinematic pizzazz, splendor and technical and storytelling prowess. The result, if done well, will be a lovely, enthusiastic mix of classic and revolutionary-- allowing the great, acclaimed filmmaker to expand his wings and strut this stuff while providing moviegoing audiences with a new look at an astounding, award-winning cinematic experience.
We have seen Steven Spielberg make action blockbusters, historical dramas, thrilling adventures and a whole lot more under his decades-spanning career. West Story Story should hopefully provide the legendary filmmaker with a chance to showcase his talents for a variety of different genres — all while giving him a chance to do something he's never done before. Few filmmakers extend themselves quite as well as Steven Spielberg. Even at 72, the seasoned storyteller is willing to push himself in big and bold new ways, while still celebrating the triumphs of cinema that came before his tenure.
Hopefully, that's what we should expect to see with Steven Spielberg's new and promising retelling of West Side Story. Remakes are always very risky business, but we shouldn't expect Steven Spielberg to waste his time making a subpar retelling of a movie that's already a bonafide classic. Indeed, the prospect of Spielberg doing new, yet timeless, with this great story promises something very exciting from the beloved and award-winning director.
Steven Spielberg Will Once Again Work With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Screenwriter Tony Kushner
Tony Kushner is a name that you might not immediately recognize, but there's a very good chance that you're familiar with his excellent work. He is the writer behind the play Angels in America, which won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1993. But has won a National Medal of Arts from President Barrack Obama, and he has been widely acclaimed for his work. So it makes sense that when it works with Steven Spielberg, they typically make some magic together.
Tony Kushner co-wrote the screenplay for 2005's Munich, and he also wrote the screenplay for Lincoln. For my money, each of those films are among Steven Spielberg's finest achievements in the 21st century. So, when it was announced that Kushner was returning to work with Spielberg by writing the screenplay for this new remake, that news gave me the confidence that this project was, yet again, in dependable hands from tremendous talents.
Ultimately, the foundation of any great story is the writing. If you have the blueprint to excel, it just takes the right people and the right amount of talent to bring it to life on the screen. Thankfully, the writing for West Side Story is already great, and it does not sound like Tony Kushner or Steven Spielberg are planning to tamper with it too much. They're keeping the music in, of course, and the story is said to be similar to what we saw in the original 1961 film. But they're still planning to make updates. While that might be cause for concern, there's reason to believe Tony Kushner delivered a great script.
The director and the screenwriter will keep the music in, of course, and the spellbinding story is said to be similar to what we saw in the original 1961 film. But they're planning to make updates. While that might be cause for concern, there's reason to believe that Tony Kushner delivered a great script.
It's An Opportunity For Audiences To See A Great Musical On The Big Screen Again
There is no denying that West Side Story is a classic movie. It won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and it was once the record holder for most wins by a musical. It is in the Library of Congress as a significant film, and it has been referenced, paid tribute to and celebrated for decades now. But unless you go to a retro showing of the movie or you lived in 1961, you never saw the movie in theaters —the way it was always meant to be seen.
Personally, I have only seen West Side Story on a 14 inch television at a friend's house. While it is still one great movie, no matter what size the screen might be, it's undeniably not the experience that director Robert Wise intended for the movie. This is a theatrical movie, in all the right ways, and it was meant to be seen — big and loud — on the big screen. That opportunity has been fleeting for most people these days, but thankfully, Steven Spielberg is going to give audiences another chance to see this beloved musical the way it was meant to be seen: on the absolute biggest screens in the world.
To be truly swept in the story in all its grandeur, it should be seen on the big screen. And thankfully, thanks to Steven Spielberg, moviegoers around the world —young and old — will get a chance to see this timeless tale the way it was meant to be seen, and with a new sheen to give it a bit more dazzle.
These are only a mere few reasons why West Side Story's remake should get you excited. There's also the fact that Steven Spielberg put Indiana Jones 5 on hold to make this passionate retelling first, or the fact that it'll give audiences a big, lavish musical that has sadly become an increasingly rare experience to find on the big screen. But it's clear that, if you were getting ready to dismiss this remake, you should expect more from it when it dances its way into theaters on December 18th, 2020. I know I'm planning to see this remake as soon as I get a chance to. Hope to see you there.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.