review by Bobby Blakey
There is no denying that the Charlton Heston led Ben-Hur film from 1959 is considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. This wasn’t the only adaptation of the famed Lew Wallace film and now director Timur Bekmambetov is bringing his vision of the classic epic to life with a great cast including Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, and Morgan Freeman, but can it capture the iconic story or will it be a race that it fails to win?
Ben-Hur follows the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur, a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption. To start off I have to say this is an entertaining movie as a whole. It clearly doesn’t offer up the overall quality and scope of the Heston film, but Bekmambetov brings his own vision to the story. From the moment this film opens it is clearly obvious that it was all about the chariot race and not much else. Sure there are plenty of nodes to the Jesus portion of the story with the character popping up randomly, but most of it just doesn’t have the impact it should have had with the exception of the final moments of the film. While Jesus may not have had as big a presence in the original as well, the source material has him a lot more prominent and since they clearly were trying to do that here they could have done so much more. This doesn’t necessarily hurt the film, but it would have added a much needed layer to it. In addition there are some changes to the story making Judah and Messala brothers for no apparent reason and took to make happy Hollywood ending that really hurt the power of the story. Another change to the story is what caused Judah to be locked away in the first place once again that served no point other than to try and connect it to the Jesus part, but this takes away the pain of the true betrayal that occurred in the source material.
The cast all do a good job with what they are working with and are entertaining to watch. Visually the film is stunning to look at and while has an epic visual tone to it, there is something still small about the overall feel of it all. The chariot race itself that has become the center piece to the Ben-Hur film lore is great fun to watch, but fails to offer up anything that really stands out that you haven’t seen before in some way. In the end despite its flaws this film still works on some level if for no other reason it gives the new generation a glimpse into the famed story and who knows maybe it will get some of them to take notice of the classic version as well.
In addition to the feature this release will include a variety of special features including deleted & extended scenes, music videos and numerous featurettes that take you further behind the making of this epic film. Jump in your chariot and race to get your copy of Ben-Hur available now on Digital and on Blu-ray and DVD on December 13th from Paramount Home Entertainment.