Russian Director Timur Bekmambetov teams up w/ talents Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, legend Morgan Freeman and Rodrigo Santoro to retell the classic in Paramount Pictures' BEN-HUR. Our reviewer Nick Askam breaks down the modern Ben-Hur. Click through for his in-depth review of the film.
Ben-Bad (I’ll see myself out)
I think the trailer shows off the main flaws and the best parts of the film. I came in to the film with super low expectations seeing as remakes this year haven’t been the most well received (Ghostbusters especially and Poltergeist last year). I haven’t seen the original, so I thought I’d give this a shot. I think my fundamental problem is with the shooting of the film. It almost tried by an “epic” while giving such a small perspective of everything going on around the character. I think films like Son of Saul use this technique super well. This film on the other hand struggles to stay away from being claustrophobic and unemotional. It’s truly apparent that the story was compelling at one point in time, but the actors struggle to keep up. It’s kind of odd watching a film that Morgan Freeman just feels so out of place with these brand new actors that I never care or feel for. There were some special effects moments that I did enjoy, but they were all shown in the trailer for the most part.
This picture especially highlights the worst part of the film. The whole time, this film is building to this chariot race and when we finally get it, they’re running in a small oval. I’m sorry but I thought this was supposed to be epic and compelling. I didn’t care for any of the other riders and immediately knew that they would lose the race and it would come down to these two so why didn’t they just save money and just make it these two? There’s absolutely no tension until the final lap because it’s obvious that none of the other riders stand a chance. Also, the first scene has both of them racing. So when Morgan Freeman walks up and bets on Judah Ben-Hur, it’s pretty obvious that the king will say yes. This is another shot when the camera feels too close. I understand that they put so close to make it feel intense, but seeing the film in 3-d made it feel lame. I didn’t understand why it was in 3-d because nothing popped. There were no moments in the film when I thought, 3-d was worth the extra expense.
This whole film feels like it’s missing something. I think it’s the little things. I never felt like anyone was struggling when the characters are in perfect makeup and Esther has perfect eyebrows. They all should be disgusting. I didn’t watch the film to see what perfect humans would’ve looked like ancient times. Another problem was it looked like the characters got on this horse and were wearing jeans. It’s almost like the costume design team forgot what they were supposed to be wearing. It would’ve been one thing if they weren’t tight either. Good thing they had technology not invented for 1870ish years to ride their horses (http://www.historyofjeans.com).
I’ll keep this point brief. But the slave ship bothered me a lot. It was the only part that I thought being claustrophobic was worth it. But how did they eat, go to the bathroom, and not go insane? I get that humans are resilient and all. I just wish there was more explaining. I was also super confused by how quickly Judah regained his strength and his ability to speak.
This film wasn’t super terrible until the last 10 minutes. The whole time, Jesus relatively unaddressed. Then he becomes the main character and then everything is happy. Wow, was it heavy handed. I didn’t see any reason for it. I guess to get an extended run time to make your film seem more like an epic. It didn’t seem to be allegorical at all, so I didn’t understand why it was necessary. It really threw off the tone of the film. There were people crying in the theater when it happened, so maybe it was powerful. But I just wanted the film to be over. I thought the fractured family would’ve been a stronger conclusion and would’ve made the film a little more thought provoking then just slapping a bow on it and saying “everything is better”. This movie is not Barney and Friends, it’s a film about overcoming obstacles.
Overall, this film is bland, boring, and lacks any luster to keep my attention for more than 2 laughably terrible delivered lines. My favorite part of the film is when Judah falls off of his horse and Messala looks around, sees no one, and then yells “HELP!” He knows full well that no one is within earshot. Then picks him up to go home. That was hilarious! Unfortunately, that wasn’t the tone that the film was going for and it never found it throughout the whole film.
Score: 3 out of 10