If you want a quick answer to the question, 'Is the 2016 remake of the 1959 classic any good?' then look no further than the posters. Here's a poster released after the 1959 Ben Hur won 11 Oscars, including Best Feature and the British Academy Award too!
And for a comparison, here's the 2016 version.
Even the 1959 poster is better than the 2016, piece of shit, Photo-shopped poster.
Starring Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer and Morgan Freeman. Written by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Budget $100 million. Running time 123 minutes long.
When the classic Charlton Heston Ben Hur came out in 1959 some sarcy critic was alleged to have said, 'loved Ben, hated Hur.' I can't tell you how much I was hoping to be able to update that by saying of this new remake of that glorious classic, Hated Ben, Hated Hur. I mean FUCKING HATED HUR! Really, really fucking hated this pointless, toothless, spineless and gutless remake. But I'm afraid, in all honesty, I just can't. But i can say this: Ben Meh. Yes, it's another 100 million dollar dollop of Meh from the mighty Hollywood hit machine. Hopefully this is the final nail in the coffin of the Summer of 2016, as far as blockbusters go at least, and what a staggering disappointing year it's been for movies. In my report to Hollywood's parents I'm going to write: 'C- could do better'.
Now, in the interests of full disclosure I have to say that I LOVE the 1959 Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd and William Wylder movie version of Ben Hur, with which this utterly unnecessary remake shares the same title and some of the same characters, in name alone. The 1959 version is a film of true scale and is more than worthy of the phrase it helped coin, EPIC. The only thing epic about the 2016 version is just how epically Meh it really is, perhaps the most meh film of all times.
I was also determined to review this remake on its own merits and not compare it with the infinitely superior 1959 version, but I'm afraid it's just not possible. It's so clear that the film makers of this lazy dirge fast fowarded through the classic version, cos they didn't have time, to watch it, you know all the way through and just stopped when they came across something they thought they could do better with cgi, which is why we get the sea battle and of course the chariot race. But before we get there we have to sit through the 'modern, relevant' stuff. You know, the strong, sassy women folks shoe-horned into the proceedings, the peace-loving, super-rich hero, the cringely chemistry free love story between Ben Meh (Jack Huston) and Ester (Nazanin Boniadi) or indeed the central relationship between Ben Meh and Masalla (Toby Kebbell). Then there's the discussions Ben Meh has with various members of the Popular Peoples Front of Judea and the People's Popular Front of Judea. And not forgetting the badly miss-used Morgan Freeman.
Everything about this film is just so middling, it lacks bite, it lacks scope and it lacks scale. The best bit in this film is the sea battle, but even then we never see anything of the ship except of the rowing bit.
The whole thing plods along, getting Ben Meh to the chariot race, but doing away with all the amazing stuff from the 59 version, you know saving the life of the Roman General, becoming a citizen of Rome, becoming a chariot racer and finally returning home restored to greatness. This time round he takes the Gladiator route and ends up near the end of the film for the big showdown with Masalla for, you know, revenge. But not before he's taken a few chariot racing lessons from Morgan Freeman.
So, oh boy here we go! It's the chariot race, surely this will be good! Well, I'm thrilled to say the chariot race is amazing, the true beating heart of this film. It's simply an amazing, dialogue-free 10 minutes of taut, CGI-free, stunts and amazing editing, plus it's looks and feels genuinely bone crushing! God, the way, Charlton Heston claws his way up through the field to finally confront Stephen Boyd's Masalla is astonishing, heart in the mouth type of astonishing, just amazing! And when Masalla is mortally crippled by his own horses at the race's end, it's truly horrific. As is his agnosing death. Yes, I'm pleased to say that the chariot race from the original 1959 version of Ben Hur starring Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd and directed by William Wyler is still peerless and yet to be bettered, particularly by this thrill free dressage trot around the arena.
Plus, without wishing to spoil the film, this version has a happy ending with everybody who might once have been friends, but then became ideological enemies, before discovering forgiveness through the power of love can finaly bond and literally ride off into the mother fucking sunset together.
Seriously, what was the fucking point of this remake? Why waste 100 million dollars remaking a true classic, what did MGM hope to achieve from it? Why couldn't they spend the money doing something new?
Listen, I can't lie to you, if you've never seen the original and feel the urge to go and see this, don't. Watch the original instead, sure it's longer but it's so massive in scale and scope that you won't mind and you'll end up watching something that will never be bettered.
This gets a middling 3/10.