The In-Depth Ben-Hur Trailer Breakdown That No One Asked For

By  · Published on March 16th, 2016

If you’re going to make a new version of the classic Ben-Hur, how do you honor such a massive legacy as was left by William Wyler’s epic? If you’re director Timur Bekmambetov, the high-velocity action auteur behind such films as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Wanted, you do a number of very specific things:

  1. Insist that your movie isn’t a remake, but rather another take on the original Lew Wallace novel.
  2. Get Morgan Freeman.
  3. Cast Jack Huston, a guy who has the looks of Charlton Heston, but hopefully none of the problematic politics.
  4. CGI the shit out of everything.

The result of this formula is 2016’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ. In the trailer below, you’ll see a lot of familiar story – it’s about a prince who is betrayed by his friend, sees his family murdered, and then is sold into slavery. It might be considered reckless commentary at this point, but it’s hard to imagine that Bekmambetov took much time out of planning action sequences to mill the original novel for any new ideas. The original Ben-Hur story appears to be on display.

Watch the trailer for yourself below, then we’ll talk about it.

Let’s break this trailer down, because someone has to do it.

For Game of Thrones fans, this trailer has a number of treats. The first is James Cosmo, who played Lord Commander Mormont. In Ben-Hur, he appears to be playing a slave-driving warship captain. It’s a darker turn.

As if 300: Rise of an Empire didn’t have enough gratuitous CG violence on the open seas, Ben-Hur is going to give us more. Only this time, no Eva Green. Just this guy:

And while Timur Bekmambetov produced Hardcore Henry, which is completely shot in first person, he didn’t leave the technique behind. Here’s a shot of some first person medieval kitesurfing, sans kite.

Morgan Freeman is here to play the wise person of color who guides our pale hero toward his destiny. Behind those eyes is a soul that’s slowly dying.

Toby Kebbell plays Messala, the brother who betrays Judah Ben-Hur, solidifying his place in the pantheon of bad villains of the decade alongside himself in Fantastic Four.

Not to belabor this point of racism in Hollywood, but how many times do we have to watch a white guy defeat a horde of agile, dark-skinned savages before we start to demand something different?

Future Game of Thrones heartthrob and swarthy pirate Pilou Asbaek shows up as Pontius Pilate. It’s too bad he only just now came to Game of Thrones, otherwise Kit Harington could have warned him with tales of Pompeii.

Jesus Christ.

Grand CGI sets!

This is representative of all of us. Just holding on for dear life.

Ben-Hur is in theaters August 12, 2016.

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)