I’ve been dumping on Timur Bekmambetov‘s Ben-Hur (Paramount, 8.19) sight unseen for just about two years now. (The first hit piece, “Ben-Hur Knee Deep in Christian Swamp“, was posted on 9.22.14.) So I guess it wasn’t hugely surprising that Paramount publicists not only didn’t invite me to Monday night’s all-media but ignored my requests earlier that day to allow me to attend. I used the word “please” four or five times. No dice, said their ominous non-replies.
I don’t care, doesn’t matter, I’ll suffer through it this weekend. Critics with a semblance of integrity are panning it, of course — Rotten Tomatoes is currently at 33%, Metacritic at 41%. The $100 million epic opens the day after tomorrow, and all signs point to a financial wipe-out.
The “bad” Ben-Hur is “battling devastating pre-release tracking that [it] may be one of the year’s most painful flops,” Variety‘s Brent Lang reported this morning. “Paramount, which co-financed the film with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is hoping that the picture can hit $20 million when it debuts across 3,100 locations this weekend, [but] outside tracking agencies are less bullish, pegging a debut in the $10 million to $15 million range, a disastrous result considering the film’s steep budget.”
“What’s the point of making a cut-rate version of Ben-Hur?,” writes Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy. “Of creating a chariot race so heavily digitized and over-edited that it’s the worst scene in the picture? Of casting lightweights in the leading roles? Of laying a wailing modern pop song over the end credits?
“Since its birth as a novel 136 years ago, Lew Wallace‘s grand melodrama of a Jewish prince whose life intersects with that of Jesus under Roman rule in Judea has always been a Grand Event — as a best-selling book, a stage spectacle that toured for decades and two spectacular film blockbusters, silent and sound. Misguided, diminished and dismally done in every way, this late-summer afterthought will richly earn the distinction of becoming the first Ben-Hur in any form to flop.”