I've seen the 1960 original several times, but not recently, so it's not fresh enough in my memory to really compare the two properly. What I will say is that I feel this new version is true to the overall story but doesn't feel chained to the details, and the result is a film that echoes the original without being an exact carbon copy. That seems to me to be a reasonable approach to making a remake.
Is it good? I think so. Is it as good as the original? I don't really know, I think there's definitely ways in which it's better and ways in which it's worse; I can only really say that overall I personally didn't like it as much.
Look, it's a big modern movie, the cinematography and action scenes were pretty much always going to be better. The characters are more culturally varied, which is something that I personally like to see. I feel that the Seven were more unique and had a little more personality than the originals, though I didn't feel as if they had more depth.
But there is one area where I felt this one had problems, and that was in the characters' motivations. I'll go into a bit more detail in the spoilers section, but I just didn't feel as if we were given convincing motivations for most of the characters to be there. This is an area where I feel the original was stronger.
I don't really have much else to say about it; for me it was a 7/10 (hmm, irony?): it's a fun western action movie.
In the original Magnificent Seven, the seven gunmen signed up with the belief that all they had to do was present a show of force to scare a group of bandits away; they weren't signing up for a suicide mission. When they realised that it wouldn't be that easy, they debated what to do. In the end they decided to stick it out; they'd started it, they would finish it.
But in this one, they pretty much all know right from the start that they will be fighting against impossible odds for people they don't know, and none of them even gives it a second thought. That I could not buy into. We're not really told how much money they are being paid, but there's no indication that it's very much; I seriously doubt it was enough to walk into near certain death for. So I guess right from the start, they are all doing it out of the goodness of their hearts?
Except that the main character, Chisolm, isn't. We find out at the end that he's doing it all for, wait for it, you'll never guess, really original stuff this: revenge! Sigh. <sarcasm>Never seen that before</sarcasm>.
Personally I'm not a fan of the desire writers seem to have to forcibly insert a deeply personal and selfish reason for the protagonist to fight the antagonist into stories where there isn't a reason for there to be one. I get that normally it makes sense to give the protagonist a strong motivation, usually something personal, because it makes the conflict feel more meaningful; if the protagonist is more emotionally invested that makes us more emotionally invested. But you don't always have to force it in, and why does it always have to be something self-centred? Do you think the audience can't accept someone doing the right thing simply because it's the right thing? Is that what writers think of us, or is that just something that doesn't make sense to the writers themselves, and if so then what does that say about them?
The problem here though is that, because we don't find out about Chisolm's desire for revenge until after it's all over, it doesn't actually fulfil the normal purpose of such a plot device; we aren't watching the film eagerly wondering if he will / waiting for him to get his revenge. It doesn't increase our emotional investment. We only find out that it is in fact revenge after the fighting is over, at which point all it does is retroactively rob his actions thus far of their nobility. It suddenly transforms him into the most selfish of the Seven; the rest all stayed to fight for the people, while he manipulated everyone just to get his revenge. His own friends died for it in fact.
What's more, the scene where he finally reveals his history with Bart really annoyed me. I always remember a line from a Discworld novel:
"... if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you're going to die. So they'll talk. They'll gloat. They'll watch you squirm. They'll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar. So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word." - Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms.
Chisolm could have killed Bart right away, but he didn't. He wanted to torture him. He put off the moment so long that Bart almost managed to turn the tables. This is not "good guy" behaviour. This is the thing that Bond villains do, that allows Bond to escape. Chisolm is not a good man.
Even though I've already asked about why they are all there to begin with, I have more questions concerning character motivation. For one thing, if Chisolm wanted revenge against Bart so badly that he was willing to risk his life (nevermind the lives of a whole bunch of other people), why didn't he do anything about it earlier? Surely a man with his skills could have found an opportunity to kill Bart if he put his mind to it.
Why did Goodnight join them in the first place if he was too scared to fire a single shot? And why didn't Billy follow him when he left? And what exactly changed his mind and brought him back; did he catch sight of the gatling gun and decide he had to warn everyone?
Why were those hired guns still running around trying to kill people when their own side was strafing the whole town with lead? At what point do they decide it isn't worth it anymore? How come we didn't see any of them get hit when they were out in the open, while all the townsfolk who were in cover were getting shot up? I still don't get why nobody fired at the group manning the gun even though they were out in the open; the Gatling gun has a fast rate of fire but it doesn't out-range normal rifles. Also, where exactly were the children hiding? I though it was underground, so why did they feel the need to relocate them?
Why did Bart decide to mosey on into town after his entire army had been completely wiped out? Did he really think those last two guys he had left would were enough? Was he just assuming that everyone was dead by then? Just... he had no reason to do it, other than because some guy he never met called him a coward. That's kindergarten logic right there. Ah well, I'm pretty sure the guy was on opiates or something.
This might be a weird thing to say, but I felt that there was too little internal conflict in the group. Now this all took place when racism was kind of a thing, and the Seven were very varied in their backgrounds. Two characters fought on opposites sides of the civil war, two mention that their grandfathers fought on opposites sides of the Alamo (there's even a line that goes somethign like: "Hey, maybe my grandfather was the one who killed yours!"), one scalped Native Americans for a living and another is a Native American, and of course Faraday is just constantly make fun of the others.
Despite all this, nothing really comes of it; they keep insulting each other and they all just let it slide. We never get a scene with a real argument, no-one ever has to say "Come on guys, we're one the same side here, save it for the enemy" or whatever. Now these are fighting men; the first we see of many of these characters is them killing someone. They are used to solving problems with violence is what I'm saying. So how is it they are all so congenial and easy-going about being insulted? Especially when they must be under so much stress, you would expect them to be on edge. It's not like these are old comrades, they literally just met. It was all just too easy, and what's more it was a missed opportunity to give them a little depth.