‘Ben-Hur’ 2016 Is A Classic, So Why Are Reviews And Opinions So Mixed?

The Ben-Hur 2016 remake reviews are very diverse. People either love or hate it. Perhaps it all depends on the expectations of the viewer. The movie, according to the Roger Ebert review isn’t what one might expect. It isn’t some line for line remake of the 1959 movie directed by William Wyler, nor does it stick to the script of the author, Union Army General, Lew Wallace, in his 1880’s classic best seller.

Jack Hudson does not enunciate every line the way Charlton Heston did in the original movie, nor are his words the same words spoken by Heston. Instead, the people in this 2016 remake speak in very much the same way they do in real life and in contemporary films. Still if one is looking for a great speaking voice in this movie, Morgan Freeman’s narrations and speaking parts suffice. There is no effort to recreate dialog from the time of Christ, or from 1880, or from 1959. This is a new movie, and it follows its own format, freely rearranging and adapting the source material.

Ben-Hur is a movie for now, according to Roger Ebert Reviewer Glenn Kenny, even though its setting is about 2000 years ago. Kenny is giving the film a firm thumbs up, saying that it is not only a good film for Christians and suitable for family viewing, it feels very contemporary and suitable for its time.

“This is a “Ben-Hur” of and for its time, but also a little better than its time, it turns out. I’m not qualified to say whether it’s an effective delivery system for its Christian message, but I think I can credibly pronounce it a good popcorn movie.”

Author of Ben Hur Lew Wallace by Hulton Archive c Author of Ben Hur Lew Wallace [Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]The 2016 Ben-Hur film starts with the chariot race, but then flashes back to the beginning, something quite common in today’s films, but flashbacks were not common in 1959, so the film everyone remembers starts at the beginning. Even that is a sticking point for some who loved the original. Also unlike the previous movies, it is very little longer than average, with a run time of about two hours.

The handling of Jesus as a character in the 2016 Ben-Hur movie is far more overt than the 1959 version, and it is fairly plain that one demographic the film targeted was the often neglected Christian audience. CNN Attributes the strong inclusion of Jesus to the producer Mark Burnett, who produced the History Chanel Series, The Bible.

A live performance of Ben Hur by Christof Koepsel c A live performance of Ben-Hur [Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images]Ben-Hur 2016 failed to impress the Rotten Tomatoes reviewers, who gave it a mere 29 percent. The audience score of based on 13,099 moviegoers who have seen the film, is currently at 67 percent. Though not stellar it is a bit better than the critics’ reviews.

Ben-Hur, for those not familiar with the story, is a historical fiction work set during the time of Christ. The theme is one of rebellion and extreme sibling rivalry between Judah Ben-Hur, portrayed by Jack Huston, and Messala, played by Tony Kebbell. Messala is Judah Ben-Hur’s adopted brother who happens to be Roman and joins the Roman army as soon as he is old enough. The Roman army then returns to the family’s homeland to put down Jewish resistance to Roman occupation. Messala turns on his adoptive family and arrests his adoptive brother as a rebel.

It isn’t surprising the Ben-Hur story was originally written in the aftermath of the American civil war, a conflict that was said to have turned brother against brother. Overall though this is a story about emotions and situations that are age old. It depicts a choosing of sides, betrayal, revenge, vendetta and brother against brother conflicts.

While Ben-Hur isn’t for everyone, it has a reasonably wide appeal. There is plenty of action, CGI, and an interesting plot, as well as a spiritual message and a good bit of history. The movie isn’t overly bloody or frightening so it is suitable for children.

Ben-Hur is a timeless classic handled in a contemporary way, starring Jack Hudson and Tony Kebbell.

[Photo by Mauricio Santana/Getty Images]