After dealing with the Gods of Egypt and watching Joseph Fiennes explore all who have Risen, we are now going to check in on Ben-Hur. Headed by one of the worst mainstream directors in Hollywood, Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), this flashy remake looks to be giving all the teenagers what they want in a hip new adaptation of the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century.
From what we can see, Boardwalk Empire's Jack Huston has finally stuck around attached to a film long enough to become a new leading man based on studios pushing him on us (honestly, he's great in 'Boardwalk', but you get it) and will be playing Judah Ben-Hur. Toby Kebbell will star as Massala, the big bad of the show. Morgan Freeman in dreadlocks will play the Obi-Wan role. And we also have Xerxes himself, Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus, who is said to be prominent and respectfully representative, as Paramount doesn't want to be near controversy again, after giving Darren Aronofsky a chance to be creative and different with his interpretations in Noah.
There are some things to note. This will be the fifth time Ben-Hur has been made into a film. Obviously it wont be a 4 hour epic and more suited to modern sensibilities. That in mind, while I do not expect much depth from a Bekmambetov picture, I am curious whether or not the more dramatic elements that will elicit real emotion and characterization are being left out of this action-heavy trailer. Right now we are seeing lots of 'cool' moments and the promise of an epic chariot race (ideally with lots of practical elements, like the 1925 and 1959 versions) shot in 3D.
Being slotted for a mid-August release puts the film in a weird position. It could mean the studio has just enough faith to give it the 'throwaway action film' slot or it means they just find it to be too weird for any other date, so it may work or it may be terrible. 12 Years A Slave's John Ridley worked on the script, so that's one thing, but the Bekmambetov name is still sitting there as credited director, screaming at me, "No time for nuance, make it bigger."
We'll see what happens, but for now, Ben-Hur arrives on August 12, 2016.