Chariots on Fire

Ben-Hur (2016) is what happens when you try to remake a classic. After 4 previous adaptations of the 1880 novel, there’s just no way to improve upon the 1959 Best Picture winner. But the 2010’s saw a beautiful resurgence of Biblical faith based movies. So I was cautiously open to the idea. Then I got nervous the more Hollywood it ended up looking. Just like with Noah, the material isn’t handled with enough care. Ben-Hur (2016) is more concerned with a brotherly relationship between Judah Ben-Hur and Messala. Jack Huston doesn’t have Charlton Heston’s presence. While Messala’s dedication as a Roman is given far too much attention to the point he barely feels like a villain. Or maybe it’s just Toby Kebbell’s sympathetic portrayal.

One of many sloppy changes made to this reimagining. Esther has a bigger role, but her marriage to Judah is hastier. Judah’s enslavement is less of an accident when Jewish “zealots” are involved. His mother & sister are taken away, but he’s barely motivated by seeing them again. The galley battle that follows, feels inconsequential without rescuing a Roman. It’s clear that they care more about building everything around the chariot race. Morgan Freeman distracts with a larger portrayal of chariot trainer Sheik. You can’t really go wrong with the race in any interpretation, but it is talk heavy. The CGI is more distracting in the galley scene.

Ben-Hur (2016) tries to preach forgiveness in the end, but I wish it was supported by their portrayal of Jesus Christ. They make the mistake of showing Jesus in the most casual way possible. No weight is given to the water scene without an unseen presence. By the Crucifixion, I felt like Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus would have worked better in his own movie, instead of this mediocre one. It doesn’t help that Ben-Hur’s mother & sister’s leprosy feels like an afterthought. Ben-Hur could have been a major success like its predecessor if only they stuck to the scripture.

Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur rides his chariot

Remake of: Ben-Hur (1959)

9 thoughts on “Chariots on Fire

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