In 1959, director William Wyler and actor Charlton Heston unleashed an epic historical drama film, that would go on to become the biggest grosser for the year, the second biggest grosser of all time (until then) and the winner of an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards. It was called Ben-Hur. It may seem reasonable for a remake of such a historic movie to be attempted, but it needs guts too. There is so much greatness associated with the 1959 film, one of those classics that you hear of long before you watch it, that a remake will draw comparisons and the barriers to be surpassed will be high. Nevertheless, Paramount Pictures and MGM are co-producing the remake which goes by the same name, and now we get the first look at the upcoming film. So to begin with, the trailer ain’t bad at all!
The trailer begins in the midst of the seas, giving us a glimpse of how far the use of special effects has come over the past six decades. The opening shots of the trailer are quite spectacular, which also immediately draw our attention to the plight of our hero Judah Ben-Hur. Some flashback scenes reveal that Ben-Hur was a rich prince in Jerusalem, who was falsely accused by his adopted brother Messala, and banished to live the rest of his life as a slave. Ben-Hur does not however forget the treachery shown by Messala and vows revenge which becomes the prime theme of the film, before it turns into something with even a bigger message. To understand that, watch the movie.
The remake is being directed by Timur Bekmambetov, a man who knows how to make a stylish, lavish film, having done it successfully with 2008’s Wanted though not so successfully with 2012’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He may not be the first choice for a movie of such massive proportions, but Bekmambetov can pleasantly surprise us. Actor Jack Huston is set to play the titular character, the role immortalised by the great Charlton Heston. Not many would be easily familiar with the name of Jack Huston, who is still to make a definitive mark in the movie industry though was a part of the TV series Broadwalk Empire. Toby Kebbell, a much more known face in cinema, will play the treacherous Messala. Morgan Freeman, a commonly known name, face and voice, will surely shine as Ilderim, a sheikh who trains Ben-Hur to become a great charioteer.
The great chariot race of 1959’s Ben-Hur will feature in the 2016 version too, and quite prominently it seems, considering how much space it occupies in the trailer. In the trailer it makes for some entertaining viewing, and I hope that the longer version on a bigger screen will be far more captivating. Though I seriously hope that the remake is a trimmed down version of the 212-minute epic of 1959!
Ben-Hur is scheduled to release in the USA on August 12, 2016.