I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
The trailer for this most recent film version of Ben-Hur was just awful. CGI mess showing us what’s wrong with Hollywood. Time to see whether my fears were justified.
Ben-Hur is the classic tale of revenge and chariot racing in the Roman world originally brought to us in a novel by Lew Wallace. Judah Ben-Hur is a Jewish aristocrat in Jerusalem at the time of Christ who is betrayed and placed into slavery by rubbing friend of his. Come to think of it, it really is a lot like that Ridley Scott film. You know, Blade Runner.
The story was most famously adapted in 1959 into a movie directed by William Wyler. That version 1 a record 11 Oscars (like that ever meant anything) and included the single most impressive action scene ever committed to film, a glorious chariot race.
While the link is one of them must see sword and sandal pictures, it is actually the first film version of the story. Before it to silent versions existed which were apparently very good.
So maybe a remake in 2016 is that sacrilegious.
In some regards, in fact, this movie is an improvement on the 50s version.
While I’d or slow pace in some epics, I understand that the 1959 Ben-Hur’s near four-hour runtime is hard to stomach for some. This iteration is more manageable for modern audiences in terms of the speed of events.
Connected to this is the film structure which allows for an opening action sequence to get the crowd pumped rather than a long close-up of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the old version. CGI is all around, but at least there is some inciting violence.
What they really mean an upgrade on was the real relationship between Ben-Hur and Masala, the Roman who betrays him. We now care about the latter and really believe that there is a loss for both sides. This idea of love and enemies is a much better connection to the Christian centre of this film.
Yes, this film is Christian. In this movie Jesus does appear. I have no sympathy with people who will be offended by this. There is however a substantial difference in the betrayals of Christ in both versions.
50s Jesus is always shown with his back to the camera and with no lines providing with a sense of gravitas moving with the times, the 2016 Jesus seems more human and shown in full as a man. Both versions are great and show different sides of the Messiah will stop its up to who you prefer.
There are a couple of good editing months to. Not much to say on it, but it is another positive.
So a good Ben-Hur? Well, I don’t know…
The action does get quite exciting in the way’s shot, but it is hampered by truly terrible computer-generated imagery. Stuff that would make 2000s TV shake its head.
The majority of this film’s problems are in its aesthetics. The digital photography is so clean that looks like we are watching people play Romans rather than Romans being Romans.
Charlton Heston played the title character in the old version and that man, for all his flaws, could do unbridled charisma. Whoever it is in this movie, I can’t remember who it is, just count. Nobody except Morgan Freeman in a supporting role (giving completely unnecessary narration occasionally) seems to have the look and gravitas to feature in an epic.
There are other problems I Get into without going into spoiler territory. Suffice to say though, Ben-Hur ends with a pop song over the CGI closing credits in 2016!
Recommended Scenario: If you think you can put up with what is described in that last paragraph, this movie may be for you.