The movie industry have changed a lot over the years. People don´t need to see every film in theatres anymore, they can just choose to watch some releases on Netflix, or Amazon instead. I think this is a good thing, because the theatre system have changed, and the ticket prizes have increased a lot ( especially here in Sweden, where one ticket cost more than a lap dance in Thailand ). Mostly we see big budget films coming out, while smaller films are most likely to be avaible on VOD, or straight to dvd releases. But in the old days of cinema, people rushed to the cinema to see Hollywood stars. As an example, Kirk Douglas, who made so many classics, did you know that the film The Vikings from 1958, was the 3rd most popular film at the british box office ? Clearly, british people love vikings. One of his biggest classics is of course Stanley Kubrick´s version of Spartacus, that became a box office success as well. Let´s stay withing the historical stories, and talk about a film that have been considered a masterpiece, and a true classic by many film critics. The 1959 film Ben-Hur, with legendary actor Charlton Heston, was a massive box office hit worldwide, and a film that managed to stay strong in cinemas for years. This film is considered to be one of the greatest motion pictures of the 50´s, and there is a good reason for that. It is majestic and deliver very solid acting performances. This was also at a time when Chartlon Heston was a huge Hollywood star, especially after his Golden Globe nomination for The Ten Commandments. Ben-Hur have had a remake done after the epic 1959 film, but from what i remember, the 2003 film delivered nothing out of the ordinary. There was also a mini series on tv based on Ben-Hur, i did not even see this one at all. I suppose because i knew it was not going to be any good. In early 2016, i read an article online, about Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov. He was going to release a remake of Ben-Hur, and i honestly did not know if i was looking forward to see this. I had fun with director Timur Bekmambetov´s films Wanted, and Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter, but a remake of such a classic as Ben-Hur ?`Skeptical as i was, i decided to take a look after all, just to see if i might be surprised. Do we finally have a worthy remake of Ben-Hur in our hands, or is this just another dull release, just made to get peoples cash ?
Jewish nobleman Judah Ben-Hur ( Jack Huston ) and his adoptive Roman brother Messala ( Toby Kebbell ) are best friends. While racing horses, Ben-Hur is badly injured, and Messala carry him back to Jerusalem, where he is taken care of. Despite the hospitality of Ben-Hur´s mother Naomi ( Ayelet Zurer ) and his sister Tirzah ( Sofia Black D´Elia ), Messala feels alienated in his adopted family. Messala leaves Jerusalem, and joins the Roman army instead. This is his chance to show his skills in the Roman Empire´s war in Germany. 3 years passes by, and Messala returns to Jerusalem as a decorated Roman officer. Messala reunite with Judah to convince him to serve as an informant. Messala inform everyone present, that a new Roman governor Pontius Pilate ( Pilou Asbaek ) will be taking residence in Jerusalem. A young youth named Dismas ( Moisés Arias ), have been taken care of by Judah, as he was found injured. Days later, Pontius Pilates marches into the city of Jerusalem, with his army. Ben-Hur and his family is watching the march from the balcony. Suddenly, Dismas tries to assassinate Pontious Pilates with a bow and arrow, but fails. The soldiers breaks into Ben-Hur´s home, wjere the family is arrested. Judah takes responsibility for the assassination, and is sentenced to enslavement on board a gallery. His mother and sister are sentenced to be crucified. After 5 years, Judah is finally free, after surviving a battle at sea, and manage to get to land. Can Judah return to Jerusalem, and make his life back to normal ?
I was supposed to see Ben-Hur in cinemas during august of 2016, but the film only screened for a week here in Sundsvall, Sweden, so this review is made through the blu ray release. If you have seen the 1959 version of Ben-Hur, you don´t have to guess what this updated film version will deliver. You have pretty much the same concept, and even the horse race included. Now, there are some issues with this remake. While some scenes looks pretty good, like the battle scenes in the ocean, and the horse race, we get a pretty basic story served. This means no big surprises, or something different, and a film like this could have needed some different ideas brought together. Not to change the concept of the film too much, but more solid action scenes, and less dialogue. This is one of the issues i have with Ben-Hur, you don´t really care about the characters as they talk, and have discussions about how to solve problems. If you want to make interesting conversations, make sure it sounds deep, or at least interesting to listen to. Here it just becomes conversations, and not much more. The acting in general is pretty basic, i would say that Jack Huston, is one of the few actors who deliver some good scenes. Toby Kebbel also manage to deliver some scenes, but i have no idea why Morgan Freeman is here. A legendary actor like him, should have had a strong character. Here, he does not seem to care much at all. And that is too bad, because with the potential that Morgan Freeman have delivered in many films, he should have tried harder with his character. The CGI scenes looks ok, for the most part. Not anything special, but functional. But once the ocean scenes are over, and the horse race is also finished, we get an ending so terrible, i have no idea what director Timur Bekmambetov was thinking with this. If you want to make Ben-Hur feel majestic, make sure you end the film really powerful. Instead, we get a cheesy ass ending, almost on the same level as Jennifer Aniston´s Mother´s Day performance. Ben-Hur have some good parts, and this could have been a fun action film, but with all this dialogue that don´t wake any emotions, you really don´t care. Director Timur Bekmambetov do have some good ideas, but he don´t use them as much as he should have done. If you love the 1959 film, stick with that one, i have a feeling it will be hard to make a remake as good as that film.