Paramount Pictures' Ben-Hur retelling will hit theaters this summer, with Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) headlining as Judah Ben-Hur - the role that Charlton Heston won an Oscar for playing back in 1959 - and Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) costarring as Judah's adopted brother-turned mortal enemy, Messala. The film, like previously-released movie versions of Ben-Hur, draws from the novel by Lew Wallace (fully titled "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ"), though this take on the story was directed by Timur Bekmambetov: the Russian filmmaker that most U.S. filmgoers are familiar with for his highly-stylized (and violent) comic book movie Wanted, as well as the (also very stylized) historical fantasy/action film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
The marketing push for Bekmambetov's Ben-Hur is now underway, following the release of the first official images from the movie. Case in point, we now have an official trailer for the film (which you can watch, above), as well as a poster - one that shows Huston's Judah Ben-Hur in the midst of Ben-Hur's all too famous chariot race.
Here is the official synopsis for the 2016 big screen version of Ben-Hur:
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.
Rounding out the Ben-Hur cast alongside Huston, Kebbell, and Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland) are such names as Oscar-winner Morgan Freeeman, along with Ayelet Zurer (Daredevil), Pilou Asbæk (Lucy), Sofia Black D'Elia (Project Almanac), Moises Arias (The Stanford Prison Experiment), and 300/300: Rise of an Empire's Xerxes himself, Rodrigo Santoro as none other than Jesus Christ. You can have a look at the Ben-Hur poster, below:
Bekmambetov's Ben-Hur, like his previous films as a director, looks to deliver in the action and spectacle department - though, it's difficult to tell if the movie will prove successful at seamlessly blending its digital elements with its practical ones, given how much the CGI in the Ben-Hur trailer stands apart (not in a good way) from the practical set pieces that are on display here. Likewise, there are stylistic elements in this trailer that bring to mind Bekmambetov's past movie work (including his pre-Hollywood movies Night Watch and Day Watch), but on the whole the Ben-Hur footage doesn't look all that different from recent swords and sandals fare like Exodus: Gods and Kings, in terms of its aesthetics. That would be disappointing if true, seeing as Bekmambetov is known for being a visually inventive storyteller, if nothing else.
As for the story: the Ben-Hur narrative is very archetypal in terms of its individual parts, with such Ridley Scott swords and sandals films as Gladiator and, yes, Exodus (among other historical epics) having explored very similar storylines in recent times alone. Ben-Hur was scripted by Keith Clarke (The Way Back) and Oscar-winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave), so the screenwriting talent behind the film may help to elevate its familiar narrative; otherwise, one imagines that this movie will join the list of remakes/re-adaptations that fell well short of being a worthwhile retelling of a tried and true story.
Ben-Hur opens in U.S. theaters on August 12th, 2016.
Source: Paramount Pictures