Timur Bekmambetov first caught my eye when he directed 2008’s Wanted. It had a real strong visual style that set it apart from other action movies that year, I looked forward to seeing what he did next, and what he did next was disappoint audiences and fans of the novel alike when he directed the adaptation of Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter in 2012. So I pretty much just forgot about him when I all of a sudden heard word of this remake of Ben Hur coming out soon. I don’t recall ever watching the original adaptation, all I know of that is it’s got an epic chariot race scene, and Charlton Heston proclaiming “You really are….the son of God..” in all his Charltony, Hestony glory. But, the previews looked really interesting, and I’d done a Bible reading plan in my app based off of/promoting the movie, so I was really getting hyped for this biblical epic to be retold on the big screen.
The movie itself is about Judah Ben Hur (Jack Huston-Boardwalk Empire) who has an adopted brother named Messala (Toby Kebbel-Rock N Rolla) , Messala goes off to join his fellow Romans in the Roman army, and comes back a changed man, who then sells out his adoptive family, and Judah is sent into slavery aboard a ship, where he spends his days for the next five years until his ship crashes, and is saved by Morgan Freeman, a slaver and chariot manager, who gets him back into Jerusalem where he can finally take his revenge against Messala in the chariot race, where he is Rome’s champion. Also throughout the movie Judah meets and interacts with Jesus Christ (Rodrigo Santoro-300) at a few key times as well.
I wanted to like this movie more than I did, though I did like what I saw, for the most part. The cast was great, and I really brought the brotherly rivalry between Jack Huston and Toby Kebbel. Kebbel really seems to be a better actor than the movies he’s often in (Prince of Persia, Fant4Stic) Morgan Freeman pretty much just plays Morgan Freeman, no even attempt to do an accent, but he’s Morgan Freeman so he gets almost a pass by me for it.
What really bogged the movie down for me was the amount of slow scenes, it starts out with the chariot scene, the setup for it at least, and then we go back in time to flesh out the characters to get them back to where they need to be. There seemed to be a lot of padding in this movie, trying to make it a longer story than it needed to be. If you know it’s not going to fill an epic length, then just scale it back, it’s okay, the movie would have likely benefited from some time in the editing room.
The special effects were pretty on point, and the action in the chariot race was good, doesn’t hold up against the original though, and all in all I can really only give this movie a 2.5 stars out of 5 ** 1/2