In 171 A.D., young gladiator, Ben-Hur (Adrian Bouchet), is mercilessly enslaved to Rome. After years of torture, he escapes the evil clutches of his captors. Now on the run, he finds his escape could be short-lived as mercenaries are sent in pursuit. In his attempt to remain hidden, he finds himself caught in a fight between a local village and the mighty powers of Rome. No longer able to walk away, he helps train the villagers for the ultimate battle of survival.
What’s the point of remaking Wyler’s 1958 classic if you’ve nothing new to offer? This is lightweight fodder for the Twilight crowd. What’s even more surprising is how dull it is, like a sword and sandals TV melodrama. It takes 40 minutes for Messala to squabble with Judah and send him to the galleys. Wyler’s brilliantly intense galley sequence is then reduced to a few brief cgi shots. The whole sequence of Judah in Rome is omitted, leaving a gaping hole in the story. And the ridiculous new twist ending makes a mockery of the whole narrative arc.
Jack Huston and Tony Kebbell play Judah and Messala as though auditioning for Hollyoaks. Let’s be kind and say they’re miscast. But the real culprit is director Timur Bekmambetov. He directs with an in-your-face vibe, using a hand-held camera to further diminish the film’s epic quality. The dialogue is fatuous, the score is Movie-of-the-Week abysmal, the list goes on. The costumes are okay.
Once you’ve had your fill of the melodrama, skip forward to the chariot race to see what a mess they’ve made of that too. It’s shot so disjointedly with chopped-up edits that it makes you ache for Yakima Canutt to return and show them how to do it properly. The obvious cgi-generated falling horses and crashing chariots further diminish what should have been a thrill ride. You’ll probably just laugh.
The best thing about the DVD is the Extras piece on how the cgi enhancements were made. The film itself is a masterclass in how not to make an epic.
I was expecting chariot races in Rome, epic galley battles, actual real acting. what I actually got was rejects from a boy band prancing around in the woods dressed in the left over costumes from the 80s version of robin hood.
The plot, if you can call it that, seems to involve the local Roman commander having a plan to get Nero to send him some real solders to replace the weedy specimens he has, (who can blame him)! to get in Nero's good books he rounds up a few local maidens to send to Nero as concubines, a plan unlikely to work unless Nero has a fondness for chunky girls. the plan is foiled by Ben Hur and the boy band who battles the dregs of the Roman army by punching them in the face before upgrading the weaponry to bits of stick.
A bit peeved by this the Romans call in an assortment of elite mercenaries who include a Japanese female kung foo warrior (don't ask) and a old bloke that 'never speak' until they forget this was in the script 15 minutes later and give him a few lines. it goes downhill from there and hits a low point with a 15mph chariot chase on a beach which would have been more exciting if it was on bicycles.
After watching way too much of it I realized it wasn't even Ben Hur. it is in fact the abominable 'in the name of Ben Hur' . I'm guessing the film makers slipped a few quid to someone in the DVD factory to stick the labels from the real Ben Hur onto the DVDs containing their own film. after all it, is the only way anyone in their right mind is going to watch this appalling bit of junk. If i'm making this film sound like it's so awful its worth a watch, i'm sorry. it isn't.