“An adaptation of the 1957 musical, West Side Story explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.

Director: Steven Speilberg
Writers: Tony Kushner, Arthur Laurents
Staring: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zelger, Ariana Debose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno
Release Date: December 10, 2021

Is West Side Story (1961) untouchable? Steven Spielberg doesn’t think so.

One of Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers in history is taking on one of the most beloved musicals of all-time in an ambitious remake. The hype around this modern version of West Side Story is palpable with many saying it will be part of the 2022 award’s discussion.

Casting is obviously a major talking point and for the most part, this rendition has names that are unfamiliar to most. Ansel Elgort is playing Tony and the rising up-and-comer Rachel Zelfer is playing Maria. this is going to be Zelfer’s first major motion picture, but she is already in the docket for Shazam! Fury Of The Gods (2023) and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (2022). Those are two MAJOR releases that are going to have a lot of eyes on the. Zelfer is going to be big if all things pan out. Her main counterpart in the movie is Ansel Elgort, who is looking for a jump in his career after The Goldfinch (2019) was a flop.

Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort in West Side Story (2021)

David Alvarez is playing Bernardo and Make Faist is playing Riff. The coolest casting may be that Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for playing Anita in the original West Side Story, is back playing the part of Valentina here in 2021.

Let’s start looking at the trailer which was released back in mid-September.

It starts with Maria leaning outside on her fire escape beginning to sing “Tonight.” From there it is into Spielberg’s vision of West Side Story. Maria is shown trying on the white dress she fights Anita about in the original and her dialogue is centering around the American Dream which was a motif for the Sharks in the original story.

We have Bernardo gathering his family and friends to get ready to go to the dance. He is preaching family and speaking ill of the “gringos.” AKA the Sharks. Bernando says that the first gringo to look at Maria…he is gonna pop him. There is going to be more than just a simple popping.

Maria and Tony are talking underneath the bleachers of the gym. It’s a classic young romantic setting, and it is a change from the original movie.

Anita lets Tony know that he is starting world war three by talking to Maria, but neither young lovers seem to care.

After the one-minute mark of this trailer we get to see how Spielberg and his team are going to mimic the color pallets, group dance sets and overall themes of the Jets and Sharks. We that Spielberg is going to be staging the “Tonight” song setting a bit different; plenty more stairs and literal barriers between the two individuals.

This shot here at the 1:20 mark of the trailer makes me excited for what West Side Story may look like. This shot takes place right before the rumble.

We get our first look at look (well really hearing him talk) of Riff about halfway through the preview.

This trailer highlights the story in the first half and attacks the audience with the visuals for the second portion. Looking at this trailer and the unarguable track record of Spielberg, there is no denying that West Side Story is going to look amazing. Spielberg is working with his long time Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski. Even though this is the duos first ever time creating a musical, it is hard to have any misgivings.

We don’t get a great look at Lieutenant Schrank (Corey Stoll) or Officer Krupke (Brian D’Arcy James). We see Rita Moreno back in the movie that had her famous at the 1:46 mark and she appears to be giving Tony some advice. She would know, wouldn’t she?

West Side Story releases in theaters on Friday, December 10, 2021.

Review of original West Side Story (1961).


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