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Ben-Hur Movie Review

It’s time for another movie review presented by our friends over at FatCats Gilbert located on the southwest corner of Greenfield and Baseline! With Recline-N-Dine seats, you can eat delicious food right in your movie theater seat. They will even bring it to you!


For the final movie review of the week, it’s time to talk about the newest iteration of Ben-Hur. I wasn’t super excited for this movie, but I still kind of wanted to check it out mostly because I really like the original Ben-Hur. Well, when I say the original I’ll be referencing the 1959 film starring Charlton Heston. I think that 1959’s Ben-Hur is one of the most epic movies I have ever seen, so I was hoping to get a little bit of that out of this movie. I don’t know a ton about the director other than that he directed Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and I didn’t know much about anyone past Morgan Freeman. I mostly know Jack Huston from his really recent work, Rodrigo Santoro from 300, and Toby Kebbel from recent movies I have either really loved or really hated. Let’s go ahead and talk about Ben-Hur!


Ben-Hur is directed by Timur Bekmambetov and stars Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, and Morgan Freeman. The story of Ben-Hur is a very famous story, and it has been told almost one million times, but I’ll give you the rundown anyways. Judah Ben-Hur and his adopted brother, Messala used to be the best of friends, but when Messala leaves Jerusalem to join the Roman army, he changes a bit. He returns to Jerusalem and takes Judah as a slave to Rome while sentencing Judah’s mother and sister to death. After years of determination bring Judah back into contact with Messala, he must take revenge on his brother for himself and his family.


I’m going to have to admit that this movie is not that bad. It’s not great by any stretch of the word, but it’s also not a bad movie, which I was kind of expecting. I actually enjoyed watching this movie. I still liked watching the two brothers go at it and I loved the dynamic and watching how their relationship goes from blood brothers to bitter rivals. It’s always entertaining to watch someone who just will not quit, and oddly enough I think that audience members enjoy watching people struggle for a large payoff. I still liked the story. I think that it’s pretty straightforward, but it was still entertaining to watch. It’s not like it’s anything you can’t get from the 1959 version of Ben-Hur, which, almost without question, I can say is a far superior film, but it’s still mostly entertaining, and isn’t that one of the best reasons to watch a movie? I thought that Jack Huston was fantastic in his role, and since I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about him as an actor, I am very impressed by him, and this is probably what will stick in my head. He is phenomenal in the role, and he perfectly embodies both the characters physical and mental transitions. I also liked Morgan Freeman. He isn’t doing anything that can’t be done by another average actor, but come on. Morgan Freeman is one of the most likable guys in the world. In fact, this movie begins with voice over from Freeman, and I would bet a million dollars that it wouldn’t have started that way if he wasn’t in the movie. I guess I found a reason for him to be in the movie instead of someone else. Another thing I liked about this movie is that it looks good most of the time. It’s mostly well shot and well directed, and that adds to this movie when it comes to taking the audience back in time and putting us in this world.


This wasn’t exactly a great movie, so I had my share of flaws with it. First of all, I feel like it kind of glosses over a lot of important plot points. It’s almost as if someone flicks an on/off switch and now we have a different movie. This happens mostly in moments when the characters change or when characters make decisions, and even though this movie doesn’t take four hours to tell the story the way the 1959 version does, I still want a complete story. Next, I think it has a lot of technical flaws. It’s funny because I think that there are points in this movie that are great from a technical standpoint, but there are so many problems and editing miscues. Maybe the editing flaw I remember the best is a scene where Judah turns around, and you can clearly see someone walking right behind him. Before the next cut I remember thinking to myself that he was going to run into the guy behind him. I know that feeling because I spend enough time in packed places to know when I’m about to turn around and run into someone. Then, there is a cut to an overhead shot, and the man is just gone. There is no doubt in my mind that when this movie was shooting, Jack Huston definitely ran into the extra behind him, but they just decided to work around it in an extremely blatant and obvious way. Finally, a lot of the handheld camera doesn’t work for me. The chariot race scene is great, and really it was what I was waiting the entire movie for, but there are a lot of very shaky and unstable shots. Sometimes we’ll get a shot of what’s going on underneath the horses, and it just doesn’t make sense. Whoever is manning the chariot is definitely more interesting than this shot of the ground under the horses with dirt flying everywhere.


Overall, I was entertained by Ben-Hur, and I think there is a decent amount to like about it. I also think that there is a lot to dislike about it, but in a movie I wasn’t expecting to be very good, I’m going to be grateful I was entertained by it. If you like the story of Ben-Hur, I would suggest checking it out, but don’t expect it to improve upon anything that 1959’s Ben-Hur gave you because it doesn’t. It’s just an entertaining time with a great performance from Jack Huston and some awesome pre-biblical time action. I’m going to give Ben-Hur a 5.2/10.


Will you be seeing Ben-Hur this weekend? If you are, comment down in the comment section and let me know! Also, I have reviews for War Dogs and Kubo and the Two Strings posted, so be sure to check those out! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at movies@pulseradio.fm