3:10 to Yuma Original versus Remake

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Rose and I went to see the remake of 3:10 to Yuma over the weekend after viewing the original 1957 version earlier in the week. The verdict? Although we enjoyed the remake, we both liked the original version better.

The remake is good. It is fast-paced with plenty of action. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are both excellent in their characters. I was surprised how closely the remake followed the original, right down to the dialogue in some parts. But the most important place where the remake differed was in the two main characters and their motivations.

In the original film Glenn Ford played the outlaw Ben Wade, and Van Heflin played the rancher Dan Evans. Glenn Ford’s outlaw is a dangerous man who kills when he feels necessary but also seems to have a code of honor. For example, when he kills a man who tries to stop him from robbing a stagecoach, he is concerned that the man is buried in his hometown. His gang also seems to have some honor as far as outlaws go. In contrast, Russell Crowe’s outlaw is much meaner and so is his gang. They have little to no honor and kill ruthlessly.

Similarly, in the original film Van Heflin’s rancher is a man of integrity. At first he takes the job of escorting Wade to the train because he needs the money for his family, but as the story progresses, he continues with the job simply because he feels it is the right thing to do. He is a man of quiet strength and principle, and Wade helps him in the end out of respect. In contrast, Christian Bale’s rancher is much weaker. He keeps going not so much because it is the right thing to do, but because he wants to prove to his son that he is a hero. Wade continually outdoes him and seems more motivated to help him at the end out of pity than respect. (Although, I believe Wade does have genuine respect for him at the end of the film.)

So, although we enjoyed both versions, we liked the characterization of the first film better and felt it did a better job of playing the two characters off against each other. Did anybody else see either or both of the films? What did you think?

Note to parents: The 2007 movie contains graphic violence and strong language. The 1957 version should be fine for children 10 and up.


  1. Michele says:

    I gotta say, the new one was better. I think the ending was better, and Dan in the new one also continued going because it was the right thing to do, it wasn’t JUST about being a hero or getting the money.
    The character depiction was just so much better. I understood WHY (even if some of the motives were questionable) the characters did what they did.
    In the original IMO some of the main characters had little to no depth.
    I don’t care if it IS a western, I want characters I can relate to.
    I will say Glenn Ford did an awesome job playing creepy Ben Wade. Van Heflin has never impressed me, not in the original of this film, not in Shane, or anything else I might have seen him in.
    The acting alone puts the new one heads and tails above the other.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Michele – I agree the acting was better in the second one (at least Christian Bale over Van Heflin — I might have to give Glenn Ford and Russell Crowe a tie). But I still think Dan Evans’ motivation is off in the remake. It seems he keeps going to impress his son, not necessarily because it is the right thing to do. But, I thoroughly enjoyed both versions, and am glad they are both there for comparison. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Mark says:

    This is 11 years too late but the 1957 version had better dialogue particularly that of Ben Wade relentlessly tempting the dirt poor rancher to take the bribe money for the sake of his long suffering wife. After all that’s Satan’s title ‘the tempter’. Brilliant script.

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    Mark – I agree on the 1957 version – great script, great movie.

  5. Blaise says:

    The remake was more subtle in its morality. Dan wasn’t fighting just to be a hero for his son.

    In the bridal suite, the script crafts a moral dilemma in a few different steps. First, the money is presented, but Dan turns it down, after some hesitation over a clear internal struggle, with the reasoning that no one would believe him that Wade magically got away while Dan mysteriously returned with a fortune in money.

    So Dan was presented as working for the money, but didn’t take Ben’s offer only because he wouldn’t be able to use Ben’s money without making others suspicious. So the viewer is led to believe Dan’s stubborn quest was about the money.

    Then as all the marshall’s men abandon their duties and Butterfield himself calls off the escort in the face of sure death, nevertheless promising a fat reward for Dan, Dan still remains on escort duty. He is invited to quit and *still* get the money. This should be exactly what Dan wanted, so why does he stay behind?

    In responding, Dan hesitates again, just as before with Ben’s offer. We realize the earlier hesitation wasn’t to think up the excuse to turn down the money, it was because something else wasn’t sitting right with Dan over the whole matter, something he couldn’t put his finger on. Even with the money right in front of him and logic telling him to stop, something doesn’t sit right and he can’t abandon escort duty.

    Dan sums up his motives in two lines: “Then what did the good doctor die for?”


    “I ain’t never been no hero. Only battle I was ever in was a retreat. My leg was taken off in friendly fire. You try telling that story to your boy and seeing how he looks at you then?”

    The first line adds the moral imperative. Accepting the burden of someone else’s duty to give their death meaning is a moral theme more common in Eastern culture, but isn’t any less noble if you think about it. The doctor gave his own life saving them, and he was a good, honest man. His death would be meaningless if Ben escaped; in hindsight it was equivalent to a good man having thrown his life away by deciding to go on the trip. To a degree the same for the marshall and his men wrapped up in the affair.

    The second line pulls Dan’s history full circle to give his backstory and relationship with his family meaning to the central script. Dan has no pride left, abandoned even by his own family. Had he taken the easy road and let Ben walk, this would not have changed. Specifically, this line clarifies *via Dan’s own words* that Dan is *not fighting to be a hero*. He’s fighting to salvage his standing as a man in his family. He’s fighting for his own life in the sense of societal respect. To say he’s fighting to be a hero is implying delusions of grandeur that Dan never had. He was a dirt-poor man trying to gain equality by death or high water, not an equal man greedily overstepping his limits to be a hero.

    The original film is a more traditional good vs evil. The bandits are unforgiveable villans, while the heroes, even Wade who might do bad things, only do bad things for a reason (ie. hanging with Prince because he had a debt for his life and otherwise displaying honor in his banditry). Every moment of Wade’s supposed villainry is tempered by a redeeming action that makes him somehow likeable. It’s a superficial and simple morality where all the likeable characters are good guys, and fate (ie. the writers) save them because good guys are rewarded.

    The remake shifts it away from superficial morality by providing stronger motives to the main characters’ Dan and Ben. The morality is intertwined with their motives, making it less straightforward and more interesting.

    Dan’s motives were discussed above. He chooses to value honor over his own life, clearly so because he pays the price of his life to achieve it. The viewer is therefore invited to question whether the pride of a normal man and the fates of his comrades (the good doctor) are worth the price of a life.

    Ben’s conversion is more authentic. Decades of decadent ideology aren’t shifted in a few days of mere conversation. Throughout the remake, there’s a track of signs pointing toward the climactic moment of conversion. Ben, a ruthless crime lord, gave Dan extra change in the beginning of the film even when Dan, a peasant in comparison, dared to demand more money from Ben; Ben explained how Byron the bounty hunter was a one-note character, implying through this and other interactions that Dan’s morality interested him. Most powerful of all happened in Contention, the sympathetic glint in Ben’s eyes as Dan told his son to wait in the side room and watch over the family if Dan didn’t return—Ben had just previously explained his own situation of being abandoned by his mother after his father died in a whiskey bar fight. Ben had a parental complex leftover from his crappy parents, and his respect for Dan stemmed from Dan struggling genuinely to be a good father. That’s why Ben immediately killed the bounty hunter and Hollander’s man for disrespecting him, but he notably never begrudged Dan’s rude talk earlier in the film when the topic concerned defending Dan’s own family. In those moments, Ben was insulting Dan or toying with his son/wife to bait Dan, to test both his family and himself as a father figure and husband—and Dan and his family passed Ben’s test.

    That’s how you change someone with decades of ingrained ideology; not with conversational words but striking them where they have no ideological defenses.

    There was more complexity to both Ben’s and Dan’s characters, a psychological depth communicated to the viewer through a subtle secondary narrative of hints and passing remarks or facial expressions. It was this richer complexity that made the climax so much more meaningful to me in the remake. Given the films were otherwise unremarkable without the climactic moral dilemmas both Dan and Ben faced, I appreciated the climax having more than one note to delve into.

  6. Ray Fowler says:

    Blaise – Great thoughts and great interpretation. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Aronou says:

    Nice posting!
    I’m a bit more blunt and i’ll say that the remake is terrible. Awful.
    The original seems way more fresh… the remake feels like born old and outdated.
    The remake got the mais bulk of the film and Added without need a bunch of characters and unnecessary detours (the first sequence, all the in between Dan’s house and getting to the city). The story became bigger, not better.
    In all of its violence… there’s no point for it. It’s just confetti.. while in the first.. the killing of Ben’s own crew is sufficiently shocking to make us startle until the end of the film.. and the violence works as a suspense element and not just for sheer shock.
    Couldn’t help to read Blaise’s remarks above too.. and I completely disagree.
    Just because its more evident it doesn’t make it more complex. The glares and stares, tests or not, its there to make you think he has complexity but I felt that in the remake both characters were barren. Ben got much more psychotic and chaotic that his ‘transformation’ at the end should surprise us more but it just made it not believable. It pushes the limits.. and for me it pushed past it. The characters got flatten out. Lost a dimension in trying to add more and more.
    The drunk is replaced by a doctor that didn’t want to be there… In the original Dan also says about the drunk’s death as in the remake. But in the remake his death is indeed a waste for there was no courage involved. The drunk, on the other hand, stepped up to his fate (against all odds) – and sacrificed himself for his town and his own redemption. The good doctor.. just died like a lot more died… So in a film where violence and death means nothing and is all around… It gets in the way of Dan’s reasoning (as claimed by Blaise above) and makes it purposeless for the audience. As in the original.. well, it creates a bit of more depth to the story and Dan’s motives.
    Exchanging the wife for the son also was something I didn’t like at all. Female characters were driven out basically.
    The ending is something that in the original also bugged me.. but not as part of the story but as how it was done.. the last jump on the train was hard to swallow but ok. The redemption of Dan is worth it… and Ben ends with a lot of charm and charisma. His motivation makes you think and wonder… Why did he do it? What part has the wife in it for him? He did it for Dan or her or…? Why the hell not? He has escaped from it before anyway.. I love that ending with the rain coming as well. The story is complete there and the characters know. Its felt through…
    In the remake.. why the hell would Ben KILL EVERYONE OF HIS GANG?!?!?!!?!? is this more complex? Its just more insane… He’s doing it for the image that his son has of his father… and that’s the whole final sequence… Ben kills Everyone.. because that guy’s son doesn’t think of his father as a hero?.. It pushes it too far. He goes to jail so the family can get the money.. ok. That’s it. Blood, money and having a hero. Print the legend.
    Sorry but Dan and Ben in the remake are hollow.. and their motivations flat – in the context that the remake creates with all its fireworks – whilst in the original there’s much more than the eye can see.

  8. Ray Fowler says:

    Aronou – Great thoughts! You make me appreciate the original even more!

  9. Tim says:

    I prefer 2007 for the exact same reason that the reviewer prefers 1957—the character motivations. “Because it’s the right thing to do,” is not nearly as powerful to me as, “because I’ve been weak my whole life, and this is my one chance to earn the love and respect of my son.” I find the latter much, much more compelling. I also didn’t think 2007 Ben Wade was as cold-blooded as the reviewer did. He pays Dan for his time, even permitting Dan to demand extra pay for his sons. He’s cold when—and because—he has to be. I really enjoyed his response to Dan’s son at the end along those lines. Frankly I think the film had the potential to be even better if they’d explored Wade’s character a bit more, specifically with respect to his decision to shoot some of his own men in order to deliver what was ultimately a somewhat empty service to Dan. But it’s still a very good film in my opinion. (I agree with those who have said that Ford and Crowe are both outstanding).

  10. John says:

    The 2007 version was a more accurate depiction of what the Wild West would have looked like. The older version seemed a tad cheesy. At times, Wades’s gang seemed more like Boy Scouts. I know that the time period during the time the original was made didn’t allow for much violence and cussing, but the newer version was far more realistic.

  11. Rafael R. says:

    I watched the 2007, hated it, then found out there was an original and this one I enjoy. The original is better mainly because of the ending.

    I can understand men acting like they did in the original ending, however unlikely.

    The new ending makes no sense and I think only mad people would act like that. The city folk taking their guns because some criminals offered sone money is insulting to poor people – I’m poor and no one I know would such a thing and all the history I have read about the Old West tells me people had way more integrity than what was portrayed.

    The worst offender, however, is that very final shooting scene. The whole “killing his own gang” thing at the end was pretty braindead and insane to me. Prince and gang was acting as instructed and out of loyalty. I have no respect for a man that betrays such loyal henchmen like that without a single warning or instruction, so Wade ended up as crazy, dishonored and stupid while Dan ended up dead.

    The original portrays the Old West in a better lense than the 2007 one too. The 2007 one has so much gratuitous violence that only someone who thinks really poorly of the West would come up with it.

    I’m glad there was this original, because knowing the new one was critically acclaimed gave me the impression the World was getting as insane as the characters in that movie – now I know it to be true.

  12. William Wei says:

    Looking at the comments above, I think people generally side with the version of the film with a more relatable ending and character development.

    For me, the 2007 movie was both believable and relatable. Criminals who kill and rob for a living are impulsive and aggressive, if they were calm courteous people they wouldn’t be in the business of threatening and murdering people.

    In Dan, Wade finally met a man who puts principles above self interest, and it is revealed to the audience at one point that Wade considers his gang to be animals, who are loyal to him out of fear and self interest. The truth is, Wade doesn’t respect anyone, that’s his world view and Dan shatters it by being a principled man so devoted to his family, principles and moral compass that he’s willing to stay and die while butterfield and the sheriff runs. When Charlie prince kills Dan, for Wade, it was like killing a tiny ray of hope for good that Wade saw in the world, a world that isn’t only about money and killing for selfish interests. When Charlie Prince throws Wades gun back to the criminal leader, we see a pissed off impulsive killer receiving a pistol called the “hand of god” who just recounted the first book he ever read cover to cover – the Bible, and he’s now looking over at his gang of killers, none of whom he respects, and realizing they just killed the first good man he’s ever met.

    For me, knowing many impulsive people that are way less angry than the fictional Ben Wade, there was nothing surprising about what he did. He killed his gang and felt good doing it, He was a natural born killer using the hand of god to deliver justice in a moment of rage, nothing more believable than that for me.

  13. Daniel says:

    I would add Wade spent almost the entire movie trying to get away from his gang, but Charlie in particular wasn’t willing to let him go perhaps because Wade was their meal ticket, Charlie saw him as a father figure or maybe had a serious man crush on him. Charlie did say he hates Pinks and posses after all. Killing them served Wade’s interest in escaping a present situation of which he had grown weary in addition to the anger he felt about Dan’s death.

  14. Ken burken5 says:

    The old one looks good in black and white. The camera work is much better.

  15. Todd says:

    I like both movies. The most notable differences are the endings. Both endings seem to reflect the Hollywood tropes of their day.

    * Spoliers *

    I think the sequels killing of the Dan was the wrong movie to modernize the movie. After than Wade has a cliché spaghetti western super powers moment shooting all his men down. There are other ways this could have been done differently.

    1. He could have been the one killed accidentally by Prince (or by self sacrifice or both), causing the gang to fall apart by the impact of it, allowing Dan and everyone else they would enact their revenge in to be spared. The drought ending ending could still be used which I think is really important.

    2. After Prince shoots Dan, wade boards the train anyway, showing rejection to his gang which is a moral defeat for them, thus having them fall apart. (I don’t like Dan dying as I like the drought ending ending and maybe this could be done with him living).

    3. Follows the original ending.

    I will say, the idea of the entire town becoming blood thirsty when offered money seems a bit much, in part because murdering people isn’t something I think most people even in that environment would feel right about doing for money, and also, every one of those people would likely be hanged themselves and there would have been a ton of witnesses.

    I liked both movies. I wished the second one ended differently.

  16. Todd says:

    But was it really?

    There was an almost demonic sadism to them. There is a difference between ruthlessness and being sadistically evil. That’s Hollywood. And the townspeople, is it really realistic that they would murder for money, not just for moral reasons but also because they would likely be hanged.

    No, I think it might feel more realistic because of the way we experience movies these days. He’ll, the idea that one guy could shoot down five guys standing in different places in seconds with pistols totaling defies that.

    People back then wouldn’t behave as they do in movies in the 1950s or 2000s.

Leave a Reply