By Christian DiMartino
I like to consider myself something of a “movie whisperer.” Or rather, I can predict when a movie is going to be a bomb. So I thought, that is. Recently, I’ve been wrong. Which is weird, because I’m right about everything all the time.
I was wrong about Suicide Squad, yes. I was wrong about Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, in a pleasant way. However, there are some movies, like Nine Lives, where you just smell the atrocious stench. Where you practically see fumes exiting the screen. Turns out I was right about Nine Lives, and I know for a bloody FACT that the upcoming Ben-Hur remake will be a giant turd.
Do I really have room to talk? I haven’t even seen the William Wyler’s original, which won Best Picture. I know, I have shame. But I feel like I do, because let’s face it: how often to remakes REALLY succeed? Here and there there’s some that surprise, like Kimberly Pierce’s Carrie, and then there’s great ones, like True Grit. But more often than not, we find ourselves going back to the old saying: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Here I sit with a drink in my hand, babbling as I do when I usually sit with a drink in my hand, because I have had enough. I am targeting Ben-Hur not even because it’s a remake. But because I can smell a flop. What I gathered from the trailer was a limp-ass, expensive attempt to make the old new again. But that’s the thing: how many of you were pining for a remake of Ben-Hur? Tell me. Not even Morgan Freeman in dreadlocks will get me to show up to this movie.
Or is it, seriously? It could work either way.
We live in an age where visual effects can be either put to tremendous use, or to the point of overkill. I think it really depends on the filmmaker. Take last month’s The BFG, for example. Not a great film, or even remotely one of Steven Spielberg’s best. But yet in terms of visuals, the CGI was marvelous. There’s almost a certain kind of beauty and artistry behind it.
And thankfully, The Legend of Tarzan was released the same day, and I say thankfully because it will help prove my point. Now some films are surrounded in CGI, like Gravity and Avatar, but yet those films are pretty much innovative. They transported us to places that we knew were created by a computer, but yet sold us otherwise. The Legend of Tarzan was a film surrounded by CGI, and yet it didn’t work. It’s supposed to look believable, people. But that s**t looked fake, on multiple occasions.
Ben-Hur 2k16 will fall in the latter category. I know it, because so many bombs do. The trailers showed a film surrounded in CGI, pretty much drowned in it. Maybe the reason why I know this film won’t work is because films like this don’t work anymore. Think about it. Look back at Lawrence of Arabia, or The Ten Commandments. Those films were made decades ago, and they were triumphs. Epics like that worked back then, and they didn’t need visual effects. They were authentic, they were real. That was real filmmaking.
It’s not often when we get epics. But when we do, they just feel… like they’re trying to recapture the magic of the old days. Dammit people, the magic is gone. Look at Pompeii from two years ago. That movie was “sofa king we todd did.” The funny thing about it was that it took itself so seriously. It’s as if the filmmakers convinced themselves that they were making the best movie of the year. The result was… well, hilarious.
It’s one thing to be ambitious. It’s another thing to just try and take a stab at this whole “epic thing,” which is what happens a lot of the time. The ambition is gone. Granted, there are plenty of ambitious filmmakers. But I guarantee you that Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) is not one of them. I guarantee you that he just wants to make a Ben-Hur movie… because he can.
I realize I am knocking this movie, and I haven’t even seen it. But you know where I’m coming from, right? They’re releasing this movie at the end of August, in a somewhat quiet weekend. And you know what? It’s going to be a flop. Not even just critically, but financially. Why? Well, it’s simple: we know better. Sometimes, we don’t, hence why everyone went to see Suicide Squad instead of something small, but solid, like Cafe Society or Florence Foster Jenkins. But for the most part, when we have a bad feeling, we drift away from it.
And also, we’ve been here, and done that. Did you see Gods of Egypt? No? Good. Sometimes billions of dollars simply just doesn’t amount to a good movie, and I’ll be damned if Ben-Hur isn’t one of those cases. Maybe in another 50 years, you can try again. Whatta ya say, guys?