Sunday, September 18, 2016



From IMDB:


Judah Ben-Hur, a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army, returns to his homeland after years at sea to seek revenge, but finds redemption.

38 Metascore From
Reviews 122 user | 158 critic
From Rotten Tomatoes:


The epic story of Judah Ben-Hur, a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala, an officer in the Roman army. Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves, Judah is forced into slavery. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but an encounter with Jesus leads him to the Crucifixion, where he discovers forgiveness and finds redemption.
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and disturbing images)
Genre: Classics , Drama
Directed By: Timur Bekmambetov
Written By: John Ridley , Keith R. Clarke
In Theaters: Aug 19, 2016 Wide
Box Office: $25,573,081.00
Runtime: 124 minutes

Average Rating: 4.7/10
Reviews Counted: 151
Fresh: 40
Rotten: 111

Critics Consensus: How do you fight an idea? By filming a remake that has too few of its own, and tries to cover it up with choppy editing and CGI.

AUDIENCE SCORE 65% liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 16,263

So once a rich nobleman and the other's an orphan but they're bros so what could mess things up, right? ©Paramount Pictures

Ben-Hur, a movie remade twice but was only truly successful once... 

So I actually watched this film several days ago but since it's already been playing in the US for a while and I didn't think much of it I didn't feel like sitting down and getting to writing down my thoughts to it until now. So here it goes.

Ben-Hur began as a novel published in 1880 titled Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ written by Lew Wallace and was so successful when it came out that it inspired other novels set in biblical times. Here's a little description of what the novel is about from the Wikipedia page for it.
The story recounts in descriptive detail the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a fictional Jewish prince from Jerusalem who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. Running in parallel with Judah's narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, who comes from the same region and is a similar age.[4] The novel reflects themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion.
Symbolism. Many, many symbolism but it's okay it all takes place when this was normal. ©Paramount Pictures

In 1925 Fred Niblo turned that successful novel into a silent film but even this wasn't the first time this story was put onto celluloid, that honor falls to a silent short film that was made by Canadian director Sidney Olcott but it only ran for 15 minutes and only put the chariot race on film. It also was made without the permission of the author's estate. The 1925 version on the other hand was the most expensive movie ever made in the silent movie era at $3.9 million dollars at the time. It also had the chariot scene that was so creative and influential that it would influence not only the 1959 version of Ben-Hur but also possibly every action movie ever since in some way. Unfortunately it didn't do so well at the Box Office.

Then in 1959 it was adapted into a movie starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur and by all accounts it was epic in every way. From start to finish to what it achieved at the Box Office it was huge. Few movies have managed to do what Ben-Hur did when it comes to what happened during production when it comes to how long the actors had to work, to the sets that were built, to how many costumes were made and how many people it took to make it, to what they did to make the action scenes happen. Then when it was released it was such a success that it became the fastest and highest grossing films in 1959 and went on to win 11 Oscars. 

Being a criminal is hard back then. Not only did you lose your freedom but you had to become the engine in a ship. ©Paramount Pictures

So now almost 60 years it shows up again on the big screen. But this version is not the faithful adaptation of the novel or the the silent movie versions or the much revered and oft referred to version starring Charlton Heston. There are similarities of course but this updated and shiny version falls far short in so many ways. 

So here are some of the things I didn't find to my liking.

1) The story which has gone from epic to shallow and somewhat preachy in not a subtle way. If you watch this version and don't notice that there might be making comments about the situation in the Middle-East and not in a very veiled way then maybe it's just me. Also not only isn't it subtle but it's not very well done.

2) The acting which really doesn't shine in any way from anyone with the exception of Morgan Freeman, maybe. Is it just me or has Morgan Freeman been showing up in a lot of crappy movies lately. 

3) The editing which was choppy, or maybe that fault lies with the adaptation of the story for a new audience which results in scenes that leave little impression on the audience and doesn't help with the characters development. You watch the characters and no matter what happens to them you're sitting there thinking and wondering why you should care about them. 

4) The story which has changed quite a bit from the novel or the 1959 movie. I'm not sure if there are other versions of this movie but there are rumours that the version that was released in my country had scenes with Jesus deleted. Now the novel and the 1959 film both alluded to Jesus and in fact had Jesus in it. Ben-Hur finds peace because of Jesus at the end but in this 2016 version I saw not even the shadow of Jesus. So if you guys out there saw a version that had Jesus in it, let me know if it was good or made a difference to the whole films experience.

5) The action scenes. Let's just pick on one scene shall we? The chariot scene. Everyone talks about how amazing and epic this scene was in the 1959 version. It ran 10 minutes long. It influenced a lot of movies. It had actual charioteers and real horses and the chariots were weaponized. The version in this movie felt like it ran too long but I can't tell if it lasted for 10 minutes. It was obvious that nothing on screen was real or at least most of it wasn't. The chariots weren't weaponized. It was amusing but it wasn't gripping or exciting.
Morgan Freeman. The man who once played God in a movie now helps train charioteers. ©Paramount Pictures

And here are the things I like. 

1) Hmmm... some of the locations were nice. It looked fake but it was nice. Made it feel sort of sci-fi in some instances.

2) Morgan Freeman was not bad.

3) Nazanin Boniadi who plays Esther is quite attractive.
Overall Ben-Hur was a disappointment and an epic fail when it comes to living up to the standards set by the last one. All it had to do was give it a nice shine and polish to what the 1959 version already had done right but instead what we get is a steaming mess of fancy shiny bits trying to hide a social commentary about what's happening in a certain part of the world. What happened to telling a good solid story with amazing dialogue and acting and letting the audience take away what they will from the movie at the end of it on their own? Letting whatever lesson, message, moral emerge on their own after reflecting on the movie hours after watching it? Or maybe I'm asking too much.

Oh, look it's Jesus. I didn't get to see this in the movie. ©Paramount Pictures

Anyway, I didn't enjoy it as you may have noticed. Ben-Hur which stars Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur, Toby Kebbell as Messala, Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus, Nazanin Boniadi as Esther, Sofia Black-D'Elia as Tirzah Ben-Hur and Morgan Freeman as Ilderim among others and directed by Timur Bekmambetov famous for Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006) is only getting a 1.6 out of 5 from me. 

Here's the trailer if you haven't seen it.



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