Ben-Hur – *1/2 OUT OF 4
Russian director Timor Bekmambetov (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer”)working in concert with producer Sean Daniel have tried to improve on the epic Academy-Award winning film, from 1959, by Wiliam Wyler, but have failed in almost every way possible. They even screwed up the spectacular Charlton Heston chariot race scene which is considered one of the most famous in cinema history.
At an estimated cost of over $100 million dollars, this film was a co-production by MGM with Paramount. The script was co-written by Keith Clarke(“The Way Back”)and John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”)from Civil War general Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel titled: “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ”. It’s the story of three men at the crossroads of history. One chooses power and greed, one chooses revenge and the other chooses the path of forgiveness. Only one stays alive.
Wallace’s novel has been made into a movie twice before:once by Wyler and another-time by Fred Niblo, in 1925, as a silent classic. In this latest iteration, a dynamic is attempted between Russian noblemen Messala, played unconvincingly by Tony Kebbell, Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur ( Jack Huston) and carpenter Jesus Christ played with some panache by Rodrigo Santoro.
To attract the biblical audience, producer Daniel working with MGM president Jonathan Glickman brought Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (“The Bible”) into the picture as executive producers. But to no avail, as this film is a mess from head to toe. The proselytizing is offensive, and, whereas previous versions of “Ben-Hur”have been careful to avoid depicting Jesus directly, here no such discretion is observed. This movie is a high-profile flop. The only salvation the studios can hope for is that it has legs outside the United States. Otherwise, it is an abject failure!