I was with everyone else who, when hit with the news of a BEN-HUR reboot, cried “WHY?!” But did I speak too soon?
There’s a saying “bigger than Ben-Hur” for a reason. So who would be crazy enough to tackle yet another film adaption of this already sufficiently realised story? (The novel has been adapted to film four times previously).
The answer is Russian Timur Bekmambetov, a relatively unknown director who managed to rustle up $100 million to spend on this “reimagining” of the novel.
There’s no denying, the story of Ben-Hur is pretty darn sensational. Occurring parallel to the rise and fall of Jesus, it follows Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince who is falsely accused of treason by his beloved adopted Roman brother. He battles the good old revenge vs. forgiveness debate – made even more powerful by the fact that Jesus is knocking about in his hometown!
As I had not seen any previous film of BEN-HUR (I know, I know; pathetic of me!) I offer a fresh and unbiased view of this remake. I stand as a good representation of the majority of filmgoers who most likely haven’t invested the four hours it takes to watch the acclaimed 1959 flick, or bothered to try the two silent versions that came earlier.
I do like a good epic. Though I feel, for the most part, that since LORD OF THE RINGS quality offerings in this genre have been thin on the ground.
Despite the growing pile of scathing reviews from other critics, I have to say that I rate this latest BEN-HUR adaptation!
With little in-depth knowledge of the story prior to walking into the cinema, I found myself caught up in the grand tale – and I wasn’t the only one (my movie buddy spent much of the film crying).
It’s undeniably a good looking film: There’s lovely sets, great location shoots, gorgeous costumes and an equally stunning cast (who knew it was possible to get so many incredibly attractive people in front of one camera?!)
I could also count the number of dodgy CGI shots on one hand…which is a rare pleasure these days! (Don’t get me wrong; they were there! But it appears as though Bekmambetov tried to use as much live action as possible).
Aside from Morgan Freeman as Ilderim and Rodrigo Santoro as the J-man himself, the cast is made up of relatively new faces whose works to date are mostly on TV. I give this a big “tick” as it helps to make characters believable and assists in immersion.
As with any film with a religious undercurrent, some will argue it’s too heavy handed, while others will accuse it of shying away from true faith. I feel the screenwriters have achieved a fine balance; there is a solid religious nod, yet it’s not too preachy…aside from the final few minutes.
In an interview, Bekmambetov said the 1959 version was more vengeful than the novel, and that his film had taken the “forgiveness route” (in closer alignment to the book). I haven’t read the novel, or seen the 1959 flick – so I can’t comment.
Call me crazy, but I thoroughly enjoyed BEN-HUR! The story is a cracker, the film looks lovely and the leading man (Jack Huston) is to die for! Aside from a truly awful final 30seconds, the rest of the film was quality cinematic escapism in my book! I rate it 7 stars.