The idea behind remaking a classic film is something we understand well. Quite often we find ourselves reminiscing of The Good Old Days, longing to relive those memories and feelings. For many of us, movies played a large role in shaping our thoughts on the past, so it’s easy to see why classic movies are so often remade. Sometimes, it doesn’t always work out well. However, there’s one upcoming remake that provides the best of both worlds: the epic story and nostalgic feeling of the classic mixed with the technological advancements in movie magic, and some of the finest actors and storytellers of this generation. Of course, we’re talking about the 2016 release of Ben-Hur, and we couldn’t be more excited to see it!
For those who haven’t heard the story of Ben-Hur, here are the brass tacks: In AD 26, a wealthy prince and merchant by the name of Judah Ben-Hur is betrayed by his adopted brother Messala. Forced into slavery, Judah got through quite the adventure to return home to Jerusalem, seeking his revenge. We won’t give too much away, but Ben-Hur is widely considered to be one of the greatest stories ever told. And, it has the hardware to back it up: the 1959 film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning an unheard-of 11; it also became the fastest-grossing and highest-grossing film of 1959. Finally, after 57 years, Ben-Hur has been remade; so we decided to compare the two versions of the film, to see how they stack up. Needless to say, we can’t wait for this movie to come out!
Since the story revolves around the trials and tribulations of the titular character, it was extremely important for the casting of Judah Ben-Hur to be perfect. While the 1959 version found its leading man in Charlton Heston — who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the role — 2016’s Ben-Hur will feature the up-and-coming Jack Huston.
If you’re familiar with his work, than you’ll agree that Huston is up to the challenge of filling Heston’s sizable shoes. Huston is no stranger to playing notable characters either. You may have seen him in 2013’s Kill Your Darlings, in which he shined as Jack Kerouac. You might also remember him from American Hustle, where Huston stole every scene he was in as the gangster Pete Musane.
Heston wasn’t the only star to shine bright on the 1959 big screen. Hugh Griffith gave a memorable performance as Sheik Ilderim, the man who asks Judah to drive his chariot. Griffith also won an Academy Award for his performance, so the 2016 version of Ben-Hur had to find someone worthy of the role. We think they hit it out of the park.
2016’s Ben-Hur features none other than legendary actor Morgan Freeman in the role of Ilderim. Freeman has countless memorable performances under his belt, but one needs only to see his portrayal of Red in 1994’s Shawshank Redemption to know that he is the perfect fit for this character.
If you’re a fan of the 1959 version of the film, you probably remember how stunning the setting was. Shot in Italy, Ben-Hur had the largest set built of any movie at the time. 2016’s Ben-Hur is also shot in Italy and, with a little movie magic, perfectly recreates the world we remember from the 1959 film (and dare we say, improves on it?).
One of the more memorable scenes of the film was the sea battle, and it’s here where the advancements in technology give the 2016 version an edge. The 1959 version show the scene using miniatures in a huge tank on a backlot of MGM Studios. If you watched the trailer above, you can see how much more action the 2016 version contains.
The Chariot Race
Speaking of memorable scenes, nothing compares to the famous chariot race. This nine-minute masterpiece is usually the first thing that comes to mind when we think about Ben-Hur, and for good reason. The climactic sequence featured an 18-acre set, 78 horses, and 18 custom built chariots (nine of which were used for practice). Preparation for the scene took nearly a year to complete, including daily three-hour chariot driving lessons for Heston. As a result, the scene is one of the most influential in the history of movies.
We know what you’re thinking: “The 2016 version of Ben-Hur can’t compare to the original chariot race, could it?” We could tell you, but we’d rather show you.
If that doesn’t get you excited for the movie, then we don’t know what will. Ben-Hur hits theaters August 19, 2016, and you can bet we’ll be ready to relive this classic story, told in grand style. To find out more, click here!