by Stephanie Soto
The classic story of Ben Hur has been reimagined in the 2016 remake Ben-Hur.
The story of Ben Hur is a story of revenge, forgiveness, and one man’s mission to return home.
Narrator Morgan Freeman, playing Sheik Ilderim, helps Ben Hur on his journey. We are introduced to Judah Ben-Hur played by Jack Huston as he races his adopted brother on horseback. This creates competition between the two brothers, an underlying theme.
Ben-Hur is a Jewish prince sent to the gallows by his brother Messala played by Toby Kebbell , a Roman officer. This fuels Ben-Hur’s revenge stemming from wrongful torture
of himself and family. The brothers’ differences are emphasized by their different beliefs, ranks, and birthrights. Their jealousy and rage against each other manifest the destruction of these emotions. In Mormonism forgiveness is taught as well as letting go of the past. This, the brothers learn at the end, but not until each has endured suffering and loss.
Forgiveness is a key message. Jesus discusses it first. Yes, you read that right: Jesus is in the movie, and he shows mercy and compassion towards Ben-Hur which lights the spark that becomes a flame of forgiveness against his greatest enemy. This is done differently then in the original; the audience sees Jesus’s face. In the first film only reactions to the Savior’s face are revealed.
In my view, leaving Jesus to personal interpretation gives the original more weight; it’s the story of an ordinary man, but in this version making it obvious takes away from the story. IIderim, the sheik played by Morgan Freeman, also shows compassion towards Ben-Hur after Ben-Hur escapes the galley. But, not without paying a price first. Ilderim sees that Ben-Hur needs to clear his mind or else he’ll be killed.
Ben-Hur finally displays forgiveness confronting Messala. Messala asks for forgiveness as well, but his story arc goes too fast for my taste; since there are only 30 minutes left it had a nice ending.
Although the movie has great effects and heart, it lacks scenes from the original. For example, when Ben-Hur was in the ship’s galleys, he has a glare off with a visitor testing endurance, and which is expendable. I like this scene in the original because it shows that Ben-Her is driven only by rage; no matter what they put him through he didn’t care. In the remake, this scene is ommitted. A key character from the original is also missing in the remake, making the latter harder to understand. The remake depicted the Battle at sea and chariot race exceptionally well, however. These are phenomenal works of CGI and point-of-view shots. You’re part of the action; it’s right in your face as the devastation, surrounds them. The remake also explains the wedge between Ben-Hur and his brother, developing the characters. The characters are multi-dimensional. Most importantly, the reason Ben-Hur was banished is more believable in this version than in the original.
I give it 3.5/5 stars. It’s worth seeing in theaters just for the action scenes I mentioned, but just not enough to buy.