As I type this, Ben-Hur debuted with a dismal $11.4 million, making it one of the year’s biggest movie flops. Aside from the fact it reportedly cost $100 million to make, Ben-Hur adds to the ever-growing list of 2016 movie bombs. Simply put, this summer of “blockbuster films” have been a disappointment in the worst way possible. It also brings up another topic of discussion: why is Hollywood so infatuated with remaking classic films?
It goes without saying, that a film of Ben-Hur’s stature shouldn’t have been revisited again. The movie based off of author General Lew Wallace’s 1880 book, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ has been brought to the sliver screen two times prior to this mistake of a film. The most popular version was the William Wyler’s 1959 adaptation starring Charlton Heston, which went on to win a then record-setting 11 Academy Awards, and turned Heston into Hollywood royalty. This new film lacks everything the 1959 film embodied and more. The film currently holds weak-ass 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while director Timur Bekmambetov (of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter fame) has been under serious fire for butchering such a classic.
For those who have been living up under a rock, Ben-Hur is the tale of a Jewish Prince who was betrayed by his childhood friend for a crime he didn’t commit. Falsely accused of treason, he was made a slave for years until he later got vengeance on his childhood friend by throwing down the gaunlet in a chariot race. In the mist of all this happening, Jesus is thrown in the mix, and changes Judah Ben-Hur’s life forever.
Though this 2016 version is being packaged as a “retelling” or a “new interpretation” of the 1880 story, you can’t help but cringe at how poorly executed this film is. Jack Hutson, who’s in the title role, just doesn’t move me as Judah Ben-Hur. The same can be said of his co-star Toby Kebbell as Messala. Though he does a better job than Hutson when sharing screen time, his inadequacy to own the screen like Stephen Boyd did in 1959 is so blaring that it’s murder to the eyes.
I hope that Hollywood can stop being so trigger- happy with remaking old films. Yeah, I get that you want to introduce a new generation to a classic, but Ben-Hur is a film that is adored by our grandparents, and it should be left there to be cherished. The 1950s-60s saw a cluster of religious-based films that made their mark and brought serious revenue and prestige to movie studios. Today, we have seen Hollywood trying their hand again in religious-themed movies, but it’s just not garnering the same reaction as it did back then.
2016’s Ben-Hur plays like Rocky meets the Fast & Furious franchise. The sea battle and chariot race–the film’s two most pivotal scenes look awesome, but theres no amount of CGI and expensive theatrics to save this film from being a complete letdown.