West Side Story, the iconic Broadway musical that Steven Spielberg adapted in 2021, retains the whole plot while incorporating contemporary viewpoints. The original, which was influenced by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, depicts the tale of two loves who become embroiled in a gang fight for territory and race. Despite having impressive form and grandiose scenes, the movie occasionally lacks the depth it might have.
West Side Story Plot Summary
A section of a west-side Manhattan neighbourhood is being torn down to make way for brand-new apartment buildings when the movie opens in 1957. One of the neighborhood’s teenage gangs, the Jets, is led by Riff. He gathers his members and marches them to a park where they deface a Puerto Rican mural. The Puerto Rican immigrants known as The Sharks step in, and the two competing gangs engage in a fistfight. The Jets and Sharks frequently engage in conflict over who should have control of the neighbourhood; the Jets believe they should since they are white, while the Sharks believe they should because they are primarily Puerto Rican. A racist white police officer named Krupke and his supporter, Lt. Schrank, arrive to break up the conflict. When the Jets refuse to cooperate informally with the NYPD, Krupke warns them that the city council would soon evacuate the entire neighbourhood, thereby putting an end to the existence of both gangs. Both gangs pay no attention to this, and once the Sharks leave, the Jets resolve to further escalating their conflict at the dance ball that night. Riff invites Tony, his closest friend, to join them in the fight. However, Tony, who was formerly a member of the gang and had just completed a year in prison for assault, wants to make a difference and abstain from violence. When Tony adamantly declines his plea, Riff becomes very upset and leaves; as a result, Tony chooses to go to the dance solely for his friend’s sake.
On the other hand, the Sharks are led by a fiery, passionate young guy named Bernardo; on the night of the dance, Anita, his lover, assists Maria, his younger sister, in getting ready for the event. Maria lacks Bernardo’s inhibitions, who wants his sister to hang out with his close friend Chino and does not want her to be involved with any white men. The following night, at the dance ball, the organisers invite the attendees to try dancing with each other regardless of race, but the members of both gangs reject this request and engage in a friendly dance battle. While this is going on, Tony and Maria catch glimpses of one another and immediately get attracted to one another, dancing and kissing behind the seating stands in the hall. But as soon as Bernardo learns about this, he becomes quite angry. Riff and Bernardo decide to stage a large rumble, or fight, between their two gangs the following night to settle once and for all who the neighbourhood belongs to. While both gangs try to keep things quiet within the hall.
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What Happens To Bloodthirsty Rivals Bernardo And Riff?
Tony searches for Maria in the Puerto Rican neighbourhood that evening, and when he finally locates her on a balcony, he declares his love to her. Despite her initial fear, Maria eventually confesses her attraction to and interest in Tony, and the two agree to meet the next day. The following morning, when Maria’s flatmates Bernardo and Anita argue over life in America versus life in their home countries, Maria learns about the planned street brawl and realises that it is being waged over her love for Tony. After unsuccessfully pleading with Bernardo to end the battle, she meets Tony and requests that he convince Riff to do the same. Tony is initially uninterested but is eventually persuaded by Maria’s confession of love and their want to be together. In the meantime, Riff purchases a gun illegally to use in the battle out of concern for the Shark’s easy access to weapons. He sees the gun and hands it over to Tony when he arrives to talk sense into him. Riff battles Tony and wins the pistol back with assistance from the other Jets because he is irate and frustrated that Tony hasn’t participated in their fights.
On Krupke’s orders, the police department had also attempted to break up the fight by questioning the Jets about it; however, this was unsuccessful because Anybodys, a member of the gang, caused a commotion inside the police station. The two gangs meet up at a salt warehouse at night and are about to engage in combat when Tony and Chino join them (who wanted to be a part of the Sharks but was dissuaded by Bernardo). When Bernardo spots Tony there, he challenges him to a duel and riles him up. Tony first stays silent, but eventually they start fighting, which sparks a knife fight between the gangs. In a furious fit, Bernardo stabs Riff to death. Following this, Tony loses all self-control and stabs Bernardo to death. Both groups leave the area as soon as the police show there. Maria is informed of the events by a very alarmed and disturbed Chino, who then sets out to kill Tony with Riff’s gun, which he had stolen at the crime scene.
This is how Spielberg, as part of the contemporary conversations that have virtually become a necessity in today’s modern world, adds depth to the classical musical’s discussion of racial inequity and immigration. Even though each of the Puerto Rican characters—especially Maria, Anita, and Bernardo—has a specific purpose in the story, they also have a bigger responsibility to speak out against racial injustice in America as well as social and economic injustice in the countries they have left behind. These enunciations, however, may come out as strained and skimpy, with only passing remarks being made. However, since Spielberg chose to faithfully adapt the original play, this may not be a criticism of him or the movie.
What Happens To Tony And Maria?
Now that Maria is aware of Chino’s plans, she sends Anita—whom Maria has pardoned for her love and the outcome—to alert Tony to the danger. Anita tries to go to the general store where Tony is hiding, but the surviving Jets surround her. The young males attack her in a wicked rage, calling her names and making sexual advances. The shop’s elderly owner, Valentina, saves her in time and gives her a bogus account of how Chino killed Maria. Tony learns about this from Valentina, and as he rushes outside, he immediately notices Maria coming towards him. But the joyful scene is abruptly interrupted when Chino emerges from the shadows and kills Tony. Maria, who is stunned, initially threatens to shoot everyone with a gun but finally is unable to. In response to the gunfire, the Jets players take Tony’s body away as police cars approach.
West Side Story Ending Explained: Why Does Maria Not Shoot The Gun?
Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, serves as the inspiration for the characters and the plot of West Side Story. Like in the play, Tony and Maria are intended to be at odds with one another, but when they fall in love, everything changes.
Maria has always been opposed to the notion of racial prejudice as well as the gang conflict her brother is a part of. She first rejects the notion of becoming close to Tony since she doesn’t want to fuel the conflict between the Sharks and the Jets. She tells Tony on their date that she would sooner give up on her relationship than start another fight. Tony tries his best to persuade Riff to end the fight with his own changed perspective on life and violence, but Riff is too irrationally motivated by aggression.
Emotions override reason in a romantic tragedy in its purest form. Maria is unable to separate herself from Tony; instead, she declares her love for him, naturally with the understanding that he will do his best to put an end to the violence. However, Tony also succumbs to his emotions and, in a fit of rage over Riff’s passing, stabs Bernardo.
When Maria refuses to let her emotions carry her over and kills Chino at the end of West Side Story, it is a significant divergence from both this overpowering fleeting passion and from the tragedy of the bard. She declares her hatred and her determination to kill as many gang members (from both groups) as she can before snatching the gun away from Chino. But after having a profound change of heart, she drops the gun and hugs Tony’s body. Maria seizes the opportunity to represent forgiveness and peace because she is sick of all the violence surrounding her at this point, which puts a stop to the gang war. She may be motivated by a calmer and deeper love for her beloved Tony than fury and decides to carry out their shared wish to bring peace to the neighborhood. By doing this, Maria’s character rises above everyone else because she is the only one who has maintained her word despite suffering.
West Side Story’s cinematic execution is fairly delightful; the iconic songs are performed while being accompanied by lavish choreography. The camera and its fluid movement are perfectly fitting throughout the settings, especially during the song sequences. It might be argued that Spielberg s West Side Story does not add too much to the original productions, or even create an unforgettable experience on its own, but it definitely provides a good retelling of the classic incorporating some elements of the present day.