I’m actually kind of excited about the Ben-Hur remake.
I loved the book, and the Charlton Heston movie is one of my all time favorites, but for those who are saying “movies shouldn’t be remade”, it should be noted that the Charlton Heston Ben-Hur was second (third, if you count the 1899 Broadway play, which was a smash hit in and of itself) remake of Lew Wallace’s story. Even now, there are websites mistakenly referring to Heston’s as “the original”.
For those who haven’t seen the 1929 silent Novarro version, you need to drop what you’re doing and watch it now. As amazing as the Heston version is, the naval battle in the Novarro version is not to be outdone and it gives the chariot race a run for its money.
There are a lot of reasons why it would be worth remaking/seeing a remake of Ben-Hur; most of them are things from the book which many of the adaptations do not explore, which offer possibilities for the new film.
-The first section of Ben-Hur is a very beautiful and detailed retelling of the Christmas story; this is reduced to a very short intro, in part because…
-Balthasar the wise man, though a major character in the book, is usually absent from film adaptations. He is one of the moral centers of the story, except…
-Balthasar’s daughter is wicked and thinks her father is crazy; she’s a minor character in the Novarro film, and – despite being a significant villainess and love interest in the book – absent from the Heston version.
-Ben-Hur’s period as a leader of an anti-Imperial Jewish militia group is pretty much always axed.
Also, it will be interesting to see whether the film goes the typical gorefest blockbuster route or aims for the spirit of the original work; while most people remember the ship battle and the chariot race, Ben-Hur is an explicitly Christian morality tale that significantly subverts the revenge story tropes; after all he goes through, it is only through Christ, the Crucifixion and miracle of Resurrection that Ben-Hur is able to find any meaning or solace in his life.
I’m not saying the new Ben-Hur will be good or bad; what I’m saying is that it has unexplored possibilities that make it impossible to simply write it off just because it is a remake.
This bit from the wikipedia article is promising:
In September 2013, Timur Bekmambetov was hired to direct the film. Bekmambetov said the story of Ben-Hur reminded him of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and any story written by Anton Chekhov. He was fascinated by the 1959 film but found the focus on revenge rather than forgiveness to be the main problem. Hence, he wanted to stress on themes of forgiveness and love rather then mere vengeance.