Spielberg helps revitalize ‘West Side Story’ remake

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Eliana Wade , Staff Writer

“West Side Story” is a tale of drama, violence and broken hearts. Based on one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, “Romeo and Juliet,” “West Side Story” takes on the same narrative as the playwright’s romance: star crossed lovers from opposing sides falling in love in the midst of conflict. However, instead of the Capulets and the Montagues at each other’s throat in a fictional city known as Verona, we see the Sharks and the Jets prowling around the streets of New York City in 1957. They are separate teenage gangs who are fighting over neighborhood control. Tony, the Romeo of the story, is a Jet, while Maria, our Juliet, is a Shark. They meet at a high school dance, and instantly fall in love, causing discord to stir up between the groups. The result of their romance ends in fighting and tragedy, as a Shark and Jet could never be together.

Back in 2014, Steven Spielberg, 2021 film director, spoke about his interest in doing an adaptation of the 1961 film, directed by Jerome Robbins. In 2017, Tony Kushner announced he would write the script. 

Audiences were on the edge of their seats waiting to see the cast as the infamous lovers. The musical drama stars Ansel Elgort as Tony with Arianna DeBose as Maria. Supporting roles were played by Mike Faist as Riff and David Alvarez as Bernardo, the two leaders of the opposing gangs, as well as Rita Moreno, playing Valentina, a lovable grandmother figure to Tony. Justin Peck, choreographer, created all the amazing dance scenes we get to see in the film. The dancing is very up-beat and brisk, and the characters almost seem as though they are gliding across the New York City setting. The music is another amazing aspect that plays a big role in the story. David Newman, who took the job of composing, was able to recreate incredible original songs such as, “One Hand, One Heart,” “Somewhere” and of course, “Maria.” 

One major difference from the original was that the Sharks, who are Puerto Rican, speak Spanish in some scenes without subtitles. Spielberg wanted to incorporate this aspect, out of respect for the language and culture, to exist equally with English.

The adaptation of the story is incredible, keeping the integrity of the original movie. Many scenes, sets, and costumes are based off of the first movie, just with some added modern day pizzazz. Overall, this is a really great film, and I definitely recommend it to anyone wanting something new to watch.

Now streaming on Disney+.

4.5/5 stars