Ben-Hur, director William Wylar’s epic 1959 historical drama starring Charlton Heston, is one of the greatest movies ever made. Its eleven Oscars and indelible place in cinematic history stand as testament to this fact. Call me cynical, but I don’t think the new remake* from the guy who made Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is quite going to match those heights.
Just two days after we got our first glimpse at director Timur Bekmambetov’s new take on the classic tale of Judah Ben-Hur – a Jewish prince who is betrayed by his Roman best friend and sold into slavery – the first trailer has dropped, and… well, just look for yourselves.
Ben-Hur is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army. Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption.
Yep, as expected, Bekmambetov has taken a moving tale about humanity, spirituality and friendship and turned it into Fast & Furious: Chariot Drift. Which is a pity as I’m a huge fan of both Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell, the two leads respectively playing Ben-Hur and his friend/aggressor Messala, and I know they’re capable of so much more than the typical sword and sandal action fare seemingly asked of them here. Also it appears that this movie sees Morgan Freeman cosplaying as a henchman from The Matrix sequels for some reason.
I have to point out though that this Ben-Hur may just have fallen victim to a case of bad-trailer-itis, as some studio exec tried to push the action angle too hard. After all, this version is scripted by Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, who certainly knows his way around a deep and layered story of struggle and triump. It has also been revealed that Jesus Christ (played by Rodrigo Santoro – who received a blessing for the role from Pope Francis himself) and the religious angle of Ben-Hur’s crisis of faith will be featured even more prominently here than it was in the 1959 version, so there could be a lot more depth to this than this trailer is letting on.
Or a spade is just a spade and this is exactly the type of move you would expect from the guy who made Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
To be fair though, Bekmambetov is a brilliant visual action director (at least he was in Night Watch and Wanted), so if you just resign yourself to the fact that this is Ben-Hur by way of modern movie sensibilities with nearly every ounce of subtlety and nuance removed, then you should at least be able to get some action kicks out of it. The first time they start gearing down in a chariot race though, I’m walking out of the cinema.
*Yes, I know that technically this isn’t a remake of the 1959 version. In fact, the 1959 version is actually a remake of a 1920’s silent film, which adapted Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel of the same name. This is actually a new adaptation of Wallace’s work which is now in the public domain.
Ben-Hur also stars newcomer Nazanin Boniadi. It is scheduled for release on August 12, 2016.
Last Updated: March 17, 2016