We have the latest “Why Hollywood, Why?” situation as we see the unnecessarily needed remake of one of the greatest classics of all-time.
Ben-Hur has been remade multiple times over the years, though the 1959 Ben-Hur version starring Charlton Heston is considered an epic classic. This version will not be considered in the same vein at any point in the future.
Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) is a prince in Jerusalem. His family adopted a young orphaned Roman boy Messala (Toby Kebbell) and the two become as close as brothers. However, when Messala felt the need to leave the home to find his own way in the world, he joined up with the Roman Army. Messala became a leader within the Army and one of the most important figures.
So when Pontius Pilate (Pilou Asbæk) is planning on moving through Jerusalem, Messala returned to his brother to see if he could make sure that none of the insurgents would attack Pilate. Unfortunately, Judah cannot prevent an assassination attempt and winds up being blamed for it. He is convicted and sent to spend years as a slave on a slave ship.
After escaping the slave ship. Judah returned to Jerusalem to search for revenge against his brother.
Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell are decent in their roles. Clearly there is no Charlton Heston in this pair, but they did not embarrass themselves either. I could see a connection between the brothers and I could understand why these characters felt what they felt. That is a very important detail if you are hoping to base the story of a betrayal between the brothers as you main drive behind the conflict.
The first two thirds of the film was not bad. It was a little plodding at times with some of its pacing, but I was reasonably engaged at the start. The arrival of Morgan Freeman as Ilderim started to pull me out of the movie, mainly because it was Morgan Freeman. Still, I could even ignore that aspect of the film.
The ending was just horrible. It was so over-the-top, message-laden, clap trap that it waste any goodwill that the film might have had up until that point. Everything turned out so perfect that it felt like I was watching a sitcom that had to wrap up in 22 minutes.
Rodrigo Santoro played Jesus in this version, and he was solid, but I have to say that I, once again, realized who he was and could not get past the fact that he was Paulo from LOST. I know that was not fair, but all I could think was how weird it was that Paulo was now Jesus.
I was not overly impressed with the chariot race at the end either. I thought the CGI in this scene left a lot to be desired, and there was little tension in the scene because it was apparent what was going to happen. Ilderim basically told Judah what to expect and the script hit it exactly step by step.
I will admit that I really was not anticipating this film, but I found it better than I thought. It just was not good. However, it was not the steaming pile that I thought it was going to be after seeing the trailers. There were parts of the film that were very entertaining and worthwhile. There just is no real reason to have this be in existence. Ben-Hur is a very average film.