Ben-Hur 1959 and 2016

Hi friends! I just wanted to quickly share with you my videos on the 1959 classic and current version of Ben-Hur. The video above has both reviews in it, but let me summarize my thoughts.

ben hur33Ben-Hur (1959)

Based on the popular novel, Ben-Hur tells the story of Jewish Judah Ben-Hur and his Roman friend Messala. The two friends become estranged when an accident occurs and Messala fails to come to the defense of his friend. Judah becomes vengeful towards Messala and his family suffers greatly under Roman rule. Eventually Judah escapes from a prisoner’s ship and races Messala in the famous chariot race. The death of Christ on the cross comes and Judah experiences the miracle of redemption and is able to let go of his hatred.

This is certainly an epic movie, perhaps the most epic ever made. It took me two days to watch it but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. Charlton Heston is great as Judah as is the rest of the cast and I found the characters compelling enough to sustain the narrative. Each part of Judah’s journey feels important to the story. It’s in some way’s more like a miniseries more than a movie.

Because we have spent time with these characters and know them so well the more melodramatic moments work and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film. It’s definitely a classic for a reason.  Oh and the chariot race still holds up. Amazing!

Overall Grade- A

ben hur 2016

Ben-Hur (2016)

Despite what some may say this is not a total train wreck. If I was an average movie-goer who didn’t analyze films so much I would probably be entertained by the film. It’s well made and the acting is good all around.

The problem is I’m not an average moviegoer so the problems are more apparent to me especially when comparing it to the 1959 classic. My main problem is story changes they make which lessen the power of the narrative.  For example, they make Judah marry Esther, which makes her role in covering up the leprosy of his Mother and Sister non-existent. The entire plot point of the leprosy is an after-thought here when it is so moving in the original.

Also they lessen Messala’s ruthless choices. It’s complicated but in the original Messala has a choice to betray his friend and he does it because he knows betraying a friend will strike fear in hearts of the Jewish people. In here he does it because  Judah disobeys a technicality. It’s not as strong; therefore, making Judah’s desire for revenge not as strong.

Also they use a ton of shaky cam which I hated. Still, the chariot scene isn’t half bad and like I said the performances are pretty good.

Because of the weakened story elements the ending is a big problem. They have the cleansing rain like in the original but that’s enough for them. They have to make everything hunky dory and that annoyed me. It’s too bad really because it actually had potential to be a good remake.

Overall Grade- C-

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