About two months ago, on a day when I was in no way questioning my career path and life choices, I asked a question: “Is 2016 the worst summer movie season ever?” In early July, it was probably a little premature to raise that issue, but with theaters were filled with dreck like Independence Day: Resurgence, The Legend of Tarzan, and Alice Through the Looking Glass, it was hard not to wonder. At that time, I looked at the Rotten Tomatoes ratings from hundreds of wide releases from the last decade, and found that while the overall scores from 2016 were basically in line with those from ones from each of the last five years, the scores for just the biggest movies, the ones like Tarzan or Independence Day with budgets in excess of $100 million, were way lower this year.
And thus the 2016 summer movie season ended in a manner that reflected these past few months as a whole : with a whimper. Despite three new releases, the rapidly tumbling Suicide Squad clung to the top spot, with last week’s runner-up, the raunchy animated film Sausage Party, once again coming in second place. It was a tough weekend for War Dogs, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Ben-Hur, each of which limped into the top 10 with unspectacular numbers.
What’s more unlikely than a gritty, edgy remake of Ben-Hur (of all things)? It might be the moment in the new trailer when Toby Kebbell, in the role of the titular hero’s nemesis, shouts, “Are we having fun yet, brother?!” It’s a line that belongs in an episode of Party Down (RIP), and one that seems hilariously out of place in a movie that features chariots.
Hail, Roman! You look weary, having traveled the many foothills of this great Empire with nothing more than a kind cup of wine and the company of the occasional courtesan for comfort. The libations that your countrymen at ScreenCrush offer today, however, are of a less material sort. We’ve consulted the Oracle at USA Today, who in turn delivered unto us a vision of a gritty, color-desaturated, white-knuckle future. With eyes possessing of all Minerva’s foresight, the Oracle gazed into the distant world of this August, when the great forgotten hero Ben-Hur shall take up the reins of his chariot once more. And yea, the portents foreseen by USA Today herald a future bearing a suspiciously striking similarity to the recent rash of reheated Greek epics.
From the director of ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,’ comes an all-new ‘Ben-Hur!’ No, for reals. The chariots are off and running as Paramount and MGM announced today that production on their remake of William Wyler’s classic Bible epic ‘Ben-Hur’ is officially underway in Italy.
This ‘Ben-Hur’ remake is collecting quite an impressive cast—Jack Huston is set to play the lead role, with Toby Kebbell, Pedro Pascal, and Morgan Freeman in supporting roles. And now the film has finally found its Jesus in ‘300’ star Rodrigo Santoro. The guy’s got some big sandals to fill, that’s for sure.