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Review: Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur
08.19.2016
5 10

PLOT: Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a Jewish prince, is betrayed by his adopted Roman brother, Messala (Toby Kebbell), who accuses him of treason against Rome. Sent to the galleys as a slave, after a dramatic escape he hatches a plan for vengeance involving a wealthy sheik (Morgan Freeman) and a grand chariot race.

REVIEW: One can’t fault director TImur Bekmambetov for being ambitious. On paper, a remake of BEN-HUR tying into the burgeoning Christian market probably made sense, but this 2016 version of the oft-told tale hits theaters riding a wave of bad reviews and dire box-office predictions. While he’s working with a considerable $100 million budget, this new BEN-HUR can’t even begin to compete with the spectacle of the previous versions. Heck, both the 1925 silent version and the 1959 Charlton Heston epic cost so much they nearly bankrupted their studios (only to rake in enormous profits after being released).

The ’59 version directed by William Wyler is still a benchmark film as far as historical dramas go, and this 123 minute version of the story feels like a CliffsNotes version compared to the 212 minute original. It’s amazing how much that film manages to dwarf this one in spectacle, with even new 3D visuals not being able to hold a candle to the huge scope of the original.

By necessity, much of the story has been condensed, with major characters being dropped and the action being limited mostly to Jerusalem, with Judah’s galley slave episode only briefly leaving the bowels of the ship. As such, this feels like a pale imitation of the original, and no matter how much CGI spectacle you sprinkle-in, it can’t compare to the majesty of the original, which holds up pretty well fifty-seven years later.

However, despite the early brutal reviews this BEN-HUR redux isn’t a total disaster. There are things to like about it. For one thing, Bekmambetov is admirably toned-down compared to some of his other films, and it’s clear he was trying to make a solid, serious adventure – although the handheld, GoPro camera work for certain bits was jarring and cheap. Jack Huston also makes for a pretty solid Ben-Hur. While not the towering icon Heston was, Huston does his own thing, and even if the film is a flop, Huston deserves another shot at big-screen stardom. The only area his performance falls flat is in his chemistry with love interest Nazanin Boniadi, but this is more due to her role being badly under-written.

Toby Kebbell is also good as Messala, playing him as more confused than straight-up evil as Stephen Boyd did in the other version. Morgan Freeman also has fun as the Sheik, who trains Judah with his horses, and it must be said, Freeman’s hair in this is off-the charts amazing. Rodrigo Santoro also makes for a good Jesus Christ, although maybe not as solid as Cliff Curtis was a few months ago in RISEN (which seems underrated now after a little distance).

Despite being co-produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s faith-based production company, for the most part this BEN-HUR isn’t all that religious – at least not until an ill-conceived epilogue to the story that shoehorns in a “forgiveness” message that seems tacked-on from a different movie and leads to a Sunday school ending complete with a pop song over the end credits. It’s a shame this ending mars the movie so badly, as for the most part this is an acceptable take on Lew Wallace’s story, with the centerpiece chariot race being a good sequence if – again – nowhere near up to the standards of either previous big-screen versions of the story. If you haven’t seen the original BEN-HUR, and leave immediately after the crucifixion, you might actually enjoy the film somewhat, but if you stick it out to the end, the ending just about saps whatever goodwill towards it you’ll have. Again – this isn’t the full-on disaster some were predicting, but it’s still just mediocre and with perhaps a little reworking of the epilogue, it might have made for a decent film.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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3:52AM on 08/21/2016
Another stupid remake.
Another stupid remake.
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5:13PM on 08/20/2016

It was Good

I thought the movie was good. It didn't try to be the 1959 film. Who could top that? But it was better than a lot of other re-boots and remakes. The Chariot Race was good (no one died in this one). Much like the Heston version Judah was redeemed in the end, but this time he and Massala both learned forgiveness. Kebbell's Massala was a more reluctant villain than the over the top Stephan Boyd. I think this more overtly Christian version ( much more closer to the source material) is why so many
I thought the movie was good. It didn't try to be the 1959 film. Who could top that? But it was better than a lot of other re-boots and remakes. The Chariot Race was good (no one died in this one). Much like the Heston version Judah was redeemed in the end, but this time he and Massala both learned forgiveness. Kebbell's Massala was a more reluctant villain than the over the top Stephan Boyd. I think this more overtly Christian version ( much more closer to the source material) is why so many critics are panning it. Leaving at the end removes the entire message of the movie out. That despite the harshness of Rome, love and brotherhood and yes love of God can overcome. If Ghost Busters was an 8 you would have to give this at least a 6.5. And Ghost Busters was no 8.
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2:01PM on 08/20/2016

Religous

Sigh
Sigh
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6:39PM on 08/19/2016

I disagree

I liked the film, check out my review: [link]
I liked the film, check out my review: [link]
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2:32PM on 08/19/2016
This is like the Nickelback of action movies
This is like the Nickelback of action movies
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12:51PM on 08/19/2016
Toby Kebbell needs to fire his agent.
Toby Kebbell needs to fire his agent.
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12:14PM on 08/19/2016

They had it coming.

Certain films should be left alone. It's just that simple. Ben-Hur is one of those films. What's next? A remake of Gone with the Wind? Isn't the whole point of a remake to improve upon the original? How do you improve upon a classic like Ben-Hur? Does anyone in Hollywood respect classic movies anymore?
Certain films should be left alone. It's just that simple. Ben-Hur is one of those films. What's next? A remake of Gone with the Wind? Isn't the whole point of a remake to improve upon the original? How do you improve upon a classic like Ben-Hur? Does anyone in Hollywood respect classic movies anymore?
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1:22PM on 08/19/2016
No, that's why they remade Ben Hur only 34 years after the original came out!
No, that's why they remade Ben Hur only 34 years after the original came out!
2:33PM on 08/19/2016
I understand that remakes are nothing new, and that they will never stop being produced, but I'm not sure why anyone would want to remake a film like this. I would make the argument that the 1959 version was meant to be a major step up from the 1925 version. This isn't to say that silent films aren't classics, but when you consider that the '59 version is considered by many to be the definitive version of Ben-Hur, it becomes very difficult to improve upon that.
I understand that remakes are nothing new, and that they will never stop being produced, but I'm not sure why anyone would want to remake a film like this. I would make the argument that the 1959 version was meant to be a major step up from the 1925 version. This isn't to say that silent films aren't classics, but when you consider that the '59 version is considered by many to be the definitive version of Ben-Hur, it becomes very difficult to improve upon that.
12:02PM on 08/19/2016
I still don't see any need to remake such classic film like Ben-Hur, of which I think Charlton Heston's version is the best. What's next, then? The remake of Cleopatra? Pfft.
I still don't see any need to remake such classic film like Ben-Hur, of which I think Charlton Heston's version is the best. What's next, then? The remake of Cleopatra? Pfft.
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11:42AM on 08/19/2016

Nobody called this a disaster, just unwanted and forced

The trailers appeal to those who want a generic action movie and that is what they will get. Anyone who wants something relevant to the Ben-Hur story or even are fans of the original will ignore this. This just comes across as forced and a shoddy remake. Remakes are making so little money these days that hopefully we will stop seeing them in masses by 2020.
The trailers appeal to those who want a generic action movie and that is what they will get. Anyone who wants something relevant to the Ben-Hur story or even are fans of the original will ignore this. This just comes across as forced and a shoddy remake. Remakes are making so little money these days that hopefully we will stop seeing them in masses by 2020.
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11:50AM on 08/19/2016
spot on. i love the Heston verson. one of the best films ever. i have no interest in this and it does look like some generic action movie. the silent version was pretty epid too!
this is forced.
spot on. i love the Heston verson. one of the best films ever. i have no interest in this and it does look like some generic action movie. the silent version was pretty epid too!
this is forced.
12:08PM on 08/19/2016
I agree as well. Just that chariot race scene of the Heston's version alone looks much better than this new version.
I agree as well. Just that chariot race scene of the Heston's version alone looks much better than this new version.
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