Timur Bekmambetov is making the rounds right now to promote Hardcore Henry, an action film he produced that comes out April 8, and along the way he has talked a bit about the new Ben-Hur, which he directed and is due to come out August 12.
Speaking to SlashFilm, Bekmambetov said his Ben-Hur — the fifth live-action take on the story since 1907, and the first feature-length big-screen version since the 1959 classic — will be more “grounded” than some of the other films he has made:
The style comes from the script and the tone of the movie. For example, in Ben-Hur, it’s very, very different. The visual concepts are very different, because it was very important, for this project, following John Ridley‘s (12 Years a Slave) script, to make it as grounded as possible and as real as possible. In the whole movie, there’s not one slow-motion shot [Laughs]. It’s handheld, no huge crane shots, slow-motion, or whatever. It’s a very grounded style of filmmaking, which was important.
That’s an interesting comment, in light of what we have seen so far. Early on in the first trailer, there is a point-of-view shot as Judah Ben-Hur is dragged out of a sinking ship and tossed into the air, and the camera looks down at Judah’s feet…
…which many people have compared to the point-of-view shots in Hardcore Henry:
So perhaps the two films aren’t entirely different, as Bekmambetov suggests?
Recall, also, how Bekmambetov said last year that his version of the iconic chariot race will be inspired by YouTube videos (“a lot of whip pans and zooming”).
Anyway, moving right along, Bekmambetov also suggested that the “groundedness” of his film will set it apart from earlier adaptations of Lew Wallace’s novel:
No matter what, people will compare it [to the 1959 film], and there’s no way you can survive comparisons made to the classical movies. People will not compare us to the movie, but to the dream, the memory [of the movie]. The movie should be very different in order to survive, and that’s why Ben-Hur is very realistic. It’s a realistic, deep drama, not a huge tentpole attraction. It’s just drama.
One other thing the SlashFilm interview makes plain, which I somehow hadn’t fully registered yet, is that Messala is Judah’s “adopted brother” in this film.
I had thought that the use of the word “brother” in the trailer was only figurative, but it seems this is another change that the filmmakers have made to the story — along with eliminating Judah’s adoption by Quintus Arrius after the sea battle and adding a scene in which Judah meets Jesus before Judah is enslaved by the Romans.