Ben-Hur (2016) Preview

Patrick walks through campus deep in thought. Where do you go when you are Sly Stallone in 1989? He said ‘school’ so that’s where he went. People point and gawk at the sad lonely walk of a Sly Stallone. A crowd forms and soon he’s surrounded by looky loos. “Sly! Flex for us,” one shouts. “Yo, Adrian! Where’s Adrian?” another chides playfully. In a sudden panic he tries to escape the taunts, but he can’t break through. He cocks back his arm, ready to use his age-appropriate muscles crafted from years of exercise and eating well. Before he can pulverize an innocent fan he feels a tiny hand on his arm and a quiet voice asking “Sly, sir, may I get an autograph?” He looks down to see a child, no more than three or four. He’s dressed in the colors of the college, ready to root on his favorite team, “Gladiators” splashed across his chest. Patrick’s eyes widen. “Kyle?” he gasps.

Jamie walks through campus deep in thought. Frankie Jr. is popping b-gum (as the kids now call it) and strutting around the school. “Yo, pops, you’re cramping my style.” Jamie just murmurs sorry and continues to think. If he’s here, where is Patrick? Who is Patrick? He looks around in panic, suddenly gripped by paranoia. Who is anyone? He grabs a nearby student and screams, “Who are you?” much to the horror of Frankie Jr. He feels a hand on his shoulder and turns around, his arm cocked back, old skin drooping down from years of hard living. The principal stands in front of him, an old man with gray hair and beard. He’s dressed in the colors of the school, “The New Gladiators” splashes across his chest. Jamie’s eyes widen. “Kyle?” he gasps.

That’s right! It’s a double gladiator week as we catch the 2016 remake of Ben-Hur and pair it with an Italian sci-fi picture, The New Gladiators. Remaking Ben-Hur was always a mistake. It’s also appropriate we catch at least one Italian film in this cycle as they played such a big role in the type of future/action genre of the times. Let’s go!

Ben-Hur (2016) – BMeTric: 41.2; Notability: 61 – BMeTric: top 16.4%; Notability: top 4.4%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 20.4%; Higher BMeT: Fifty Shades of Black, Zoolander 2, Cell, The Forest, Exposed, Yoga Hosers, Meet the Blacks, Cabin Fever, Max Steel, The Darkness, Dark Crimes, Blair Witch, Independence Day: Resurgence, The 5th Wave, Urge, Shut In, Boo! A Madea Halloween, Gods of Egypt, Get a Job, The Assignment, and 21 more; Higher Notability: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Zoolander 2, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Brothers Grimsby, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Warcraft, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Allegiant, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Ice Age: Collision Course; Lower RT: Cabin Fever, Dark Crimes, Term Life, Urge, Max Steel, Amateur Night, The Darkness, Fifty Shades of Black, Shut In, Misconduct, Mother’s Day, Exposed, The Do-Over, Get a Job, I.T., Dirty Grandpa, The Forest, Cell, Allegiant, The Choice, and 30 more; Notes: The notability is off the hook here. It’s 2016, so obviously there are going to be huge ones coming out around then, but it is near The Huntsman sequel? That’s big. – 3.0 stars – Does the movie radically re-arrange both its source material and that material’s most famous adaptation? It sure as hell does. But I doubt that many contemporary viewers consider either of those as holy writ. This is a “Ben-Hur” of and for its time, but also a little better than its time, it turns out. I’m not qualified to say whether it’s an effective delivery system for its Christian message, but I think I can credibly pronounce it a good popcorn movie.

(My God. One of the big pluses for this film according to this review is: it’s shorter than the previous 4 hour epic. Alright. For the record I liked the previous adaptation. It is long, but has some really interesting stuff in it. Somehow I still doubt this stands up.)

Trailer –

(Wow, the hard rock soundtrack is an interesting take. Also, absolutely nothing about Jesus in the whole trailer? Just hard core chariot action? I would be down if that were the case. Unfortunately, it is not.)

DirectorsTimur Bekmambetov – ( Known For: Wanted; Profile; Night Watch; Day Watch; V2. Escape from Hell; The Arena; The Irony of Fate 2; Yolki 5; Six Degrees of Celebration; Yolki 1914; Peshawar Waltz; Future BMT: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; BMT: Ben-Hur; Notes: He was born in what is now Kazakhstan. Night Watch and Day Watch are a series about vampires that made him famous.)

WritersLew Wallace – ( Known For: Ben-Hur; Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ; BMT: Ben-Hur; Notes: He’s the author of the original book. He died in 1905. He was also the governor of the New Mexico Territory and later minister to Turkey besides being an author.)

Keith R. Clarke – ( Known For: The Way Back; BMT: Ben-Hur; Notes: Not much about him. He has an upcoming movie which sounds like Catch-22 but concerning redeployment to Afghanistan.)

John Ridley – ( Known For: 12 Years a Slave; Three Kings; U Turn; Needle in a Timestack; Red Tails; Undercover Brother; Jimi: All Is by My Side; Cold Around the Heart; BMT: Ben-Hur; Notes: He won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave. He wrote a draft for Beverly Hills Cop 4 which apparently was rejected.)

ActorsJack Huston – ( Known For: House of Gucci; The Irishman; American Hustle; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; The Twilight Saga: Eclipse; Hail, Caesar!; Their Finest; Antebellum; Above Suspicion; Kill Your Darlings; Outlander; Factory Girl; Earthquake Bird; Shrink; Night Train to Lisbon; Shrooms; The Yellow Birds; Boogie Woogie; Not Fade Away; Mr. Nice; Future BMT: The Longest Ride; BMT: Ben-Hur; Notes: For a while I was convinced this was Jack Heston, as in a stunt cast to cast Charlton Heston’s son. Nope, this is Anjelica Huston’s nephew and thus John Huston’s grandson. Heston does have a son, he directed the box office bomb Alaska.)

Toby Kebbell – ( Known For: RocknRolla; Kong: Skull Island; War for the Planet of the Apes; Match Point; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; Gold; Dead Man’s Shoes; A Monster Calls; War Horse; The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Destroyer; Control; The East; The Conspirator; Chéri; The Angel; The Hurricane Heist; Held for Ransom; Wilderness; Becoming; Future BMT: Alexander; Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time; The Counselor; Wrath of the Titans; BMT: Fantastic Four; Warcraft; Bloodshot; Ben-Hur; Notes: He’s English and was nominated as a Rising Star at the BAFTAs.)

Rodrigo Santoro – ( Known For: 300; Love Actually; Focus; 300: Rise of an Empire; Rio; Project Power; Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; 7 Prisoners; The Last Stand; Rio 2; I Love You Phillip Morris; The 33; Jane Got a Gun; Pele: Birth of a Legend; Redbelt; Carandiru; There Be Dragons; Rio, I Love You; Last Call; Monica and Friends: Bonds; Future BMT: Post Grad; BMT: What to Expect When You’re Expecting; Ben-Hur; Notes: From Brazil, and most notable for his role in Westworld. He also was the voice of Stuart Little in the Brazilian dubbed version of both movies.)

Budget/Gross – $100,000,000 / Domestic: $26,410,477 (Worldwide: $94,061,311)

(My god, what a bomb. I’m telling you, they should have got James Cameron to do it. That would have been the way to make a Ben-Hur film.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 25% (47/191): How do you fight an idea? By filming a remake that has too few of its own, and tries to cover it up with choppy editing and CGI.

(Jamie had to point out to me that “how do you fight an idea” is a big part of the previous Ben-Hur film. I’ve seen that film. But I didn’t remember the quote. The Rotten Tomatoes consensus hitting that up hard in a tongue in cheek manner is weird, but at least now it makes sense to my brain instead of sounding like actual gibberish.)

Reviewer Highlight: Very rarely does it try to impress us, or overwhelm us, shock us, move us. – K. Austin Collins, The Ringer

Poster – Jesus: The Movie

(It’s an exciting picture from the film, but not exactly poster material. Nice font, though. Comes out just about even. C.)

Tagline(s) – Brother against brother. Slave against empire. (B)

(I can’t fault it for passing up the rule of three. Would have gotten pretty long if you tried to add another one. But needs something more to get to the next level. “Crime against God” doesn’t work, but that’s the kind of clever third entry they could have tried. Just merely good as it is.)

Keyword(s) – past

Top 10: The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Forrest Gump (1994), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Django Unchained (2012), Gladiator (2000), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Schindler’s List (1993), The Prestige (2006), Shutter Island (2010)

Future BMT: 88.6 BloodRayne (2005), 72.9 The Unborn (2009), 70.3 Texas Chainsaw (2013), 70.1 Black Christmas (2006), 69.7 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), 65.8 The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2014), 64.5 The Final Destination (2009), 62.1 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), 59.7 Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), 59.0 Apollo 18 (2011)

BMT: Epic Movie (2007), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), The Fog (2005), Movie 43 (2013), Super Mario Bros. (1993), Glitter (2001), Holmes & Watson (2018), The Master of Disguise (2002), The Legend of Hercules (2014), Grease 2 (1982), The Bye Bye Man (2017), Jonah Hex (2010), Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), Wild Wild West (1999), Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994), The Ridiculous 6 (2015), Highlander: Endgame (2000), Black Knight (2001), Chernobyl Diaries (2012), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Cool World (1992), The Musketeer (2001), An American Haunting (2005), Ishtar (1987), The Nun (2018), The Curse of La Llorona (2019), Pinocchio (2002), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Bones (2001), Shanghai Surprise (1986), House of Wax (2005), Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991), Season of the Witch (2011), The Tuxedo (2002), Mannequin: On the Move (1991), Pompeii (2014), Ghost Ship (2002), Assassin’s Creed (2016), The Scarlet Letter (1995), Timeline (2003), Dolittle (2020), The Quest (1996), X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019), Wagons East (1994), The Three Musketeers (2011), Diana (2013), Ben-Hur (2016), Rambo III (1988), Around the World in 80 Days (2004), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006), The Blue Lagoon (1980), Cutthroat Island (1995), Texas Rangers (2001), Sucker Punch (2011), Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001), Jobs (2013), Universal Soldier (1992), Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004), Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Original Sin (2001), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), American Outlaws (2001), Winter’s Tale (2014), Harlem Nights (1989), The Identical (2014), I Dreamed of Africa (2000), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Chamber (1996), The Marrying Man (1991), Wild Bill (1995), In Love and War (1996), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Gods and Generals (2003), The Lone Ranger (2013), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Halloween II (1981), September Dawn (2007), Young Guns II (1990), Oscar (1991), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), Evening (2007), The 13th Warrior (1999), White Comanche (1968), Gangster Squad (2013), Now and Then (1995), A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

Best Options (Action): 88.6 BloodRayne (2005), 69.7 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), 64.5 The Final Destination (2009), 62.1 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), 56.7 Robin Hood (2018), 53.7 Spy Hard (1996), 50.1 The Last Legion (2007), 48.2 You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008), 48.0 Alexander (2004), 47.9 King Solomon’s Mines (1985), 47.7 The Dark Tower (2017), 47.1 Bad Girls (1994), 45.9 Samson (2018), 45.5 Operation Dumbo Drop (1995), 45.3 Red Scorpion (1988), 44.6 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), 43.6 Top Dog (1995), 43.5 Missing in Action (1984), 43.3 The Kitchen (2019), 43.2 Iron Eagle (1986), 42.5 Pan (2015), 41.3 Ben-Hur (2016), 40.9 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), 40.3 End of Days (1999), 40.2 The Delta Force (1986), (and many more)

(We went far down here, but actually really like … look at the options. The only other one I could have maybe went for was the other notorious bomb, Alexander. There are just so many films sent in the past that are terrible.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 18) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Morgan Freeman is No. 4 billed in Ben-Hur and No. 1 billed in Kiss the Girls, which also stars Ashley Judd (No. 2 billed) who is in The Identical (No. 2 billed) which also stars Ray Liotta (No. 3 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (No. 2 billed) which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 3 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => (4 + 1) + (2 + 2) + (3 + 2) + (3 + 1) = 18. If we were to watch Just Getting Started we can get the HoE Number down to 16.

Notes – Director Timur Bekmambetov insisted that the chariot circus be built for real, and be realized with as little computer graphics imagery as possible. He felt it was absolutely necessary to make the chariot race look and feel realistic.

This version of the story is 87 minutes shorter than the previous version, Ben-Hur (1959).

Timur Bekmambetov explained the film’s adaptation in an interview with “Collider”: “When we say ‘original “Ben-Hur”,’ we have to be very concrete about which original version we are talking about. There were two big-screen versions made, in 1925 [Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)] and 1959 [Ben-Hur (1959)]. These are the two most famous ones. There was also a Broadway stage version at the beginning of the 20th century. There have been a lot of television versions. The Ben-Hur story reminds me of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Hamlet’ and any story written by [Anton Chekhov]. It is timeless, so every new generation wants to go back to it in order to adapt it for the new world. The screen version made in 1959 runs for four hours, and there [are] only a small number of people who can actually stay through the whole movie. It is about people different from us. And it’s normal, because people used to be different. The audience was different, too, as well as the cinema language the film was made in. The 1959 movie was about revenge, not about forgiveness. For me that was the main problem, as I think that the novel is mainly about forgiveness, about the fact that a human being learned how to forgive. I got so excited about the project when I read John Ridley’s script. I understood that John’s vision of the story has so much light to it, and that he shares the same thoughts about certain morals as I do. We talked with him about our modern world, which actually reminds me very much of a huge Roman Empire. In the Roman Empire the most important values were pride, rivalry, power, strength, the dictatorship of power and self-love. This kind of world does not have any prospects today. Humanity has to learn how to love and forgive. This would be our only solution.”

The film was originally set for release on February 26, 2016. In October 2015 it was pushed back to August 12, 2016.

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