The original Ben-Hur is one of the movies that defined the term epic during the golden age of Hollywood. Attempting to remake such a classic film is a herculean task, to say the least. And yet, that’s exactly what Paramount Pictures has decided to do. Among the summer blockbusters this year, we will see a new take on the chariot battle starring Jack Huston as the titular hero. Now we have our first look at the new film. Check out the first trailer for Ben-Hur.
The new Ben-Hur will follow in the footsteps of its previous incarnations, as well as the book both films were based on, and attempt to at least match the epic scale of the original. The story follows Judah Ben-Hur, a prince who is falsely accused of treason and enslaved when he refuses to help his adopted brother hunt down people that are deemed enemies of the state. After escaping his captivity, he attempts to earn his freedom in the arena of the chariot races. The film co-stars Toby Kebbell and Morgan Freeman
While the original Ben-Hur was a massive cinematic undertaking in its time, the new version will be competing in a Hollywood landscape where every movie is a major blockbuster. Still, Ben-Hur looks to be pulling out all the stops. We see some major set pieces here including a major sea battle complete with a sinking ship as well as our first look at the chariot battle which is the iconic sequence from the story.
It will be interesting to see what this Ben-Hur tries to do to make the story its own. Trying to remake one of the most famous movies ever made has two significant problems. One the one hand, there is a tendency to make the movie very similar to the original, because that’s what was successful the first time. At the same time, being too close to the original Ben-Hur isn’t particularly creative. The film is being directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who is known for spectacle, but more of the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter variety.
While Ben-Hur will be an actual adaptation of a classic Hollywood film, it’s not the first one this year that will try to recapture the flavor of those sword-and-sandals epics. The recent Gods of Egypt was an obvious attempt to use modern technology to update the classic formula. Ben-Hur looks to be staying a little bit closer to home in regards to its effects. The stadium is surely a mostly digital effect, but it looks much more realistic than anything we saw in Gods of Egypt.
What did you think of your first look at Ben-Hur? Is this the epic storytelling that movies need, or is this a remake we could do without?