Much Less Epic than It's Inspiration
Snoogans - wrote on 08/23/16
'Ben Hur' is the remake of the classic epic that no one asked for. Honestly, Charlton Heston's version of this story looks and feels way more epic by comparison. What we have here is a truncated retelling of that film's narrative with minor touches that serve no purpose to plot or character development. It cuts through the core brotherly relationship, and all other relationships, with a scalpel, leaving us without much to invest in. The actors are all trying hard to be compelling, but the compact nature of the film squeezes out some of their effort. They are all giving what appear to be "good" performances. In this case, it seems like a waste. The parallel between the hero and Jesus is just present as background this time. He learns of forgiveness from witnessing the kind acts and sacrifice of Jesus, and it's all summed up in just a few very short scenes. The directing is quite shoddy at times, implementing almost 80% up close hand-held camera work and a very saturated color pallet. I'm sorry, but that's not how you film something to look "epic". The size and scope of the story is severely lost for most of the runtime. Morgan Freeman shows up to be an expository throwaway character who's only purpose, outside of encouraging the hero, is to feed the audience the messages. The one shining spot in this whole mundane ordeal is the chariot race. This individual scene is much better composed than the entire movie that precedes it. It's raw, dangerous, and supremely violent for your typical watered down PG-13 of today. I found it almost border lining on excitement. Got a surprising reaction from me. However, this one really good scene is marred with light touches of plainly noticeable CGI and continuous hand-held up close directing style. If only the rest of the film had been working at this level, then we might actually have something worth comparing to the classic original. As it stands, this update is kind of boring and mostly forgettable.