A Jewish nobleman, Judah Ben-Hur, and his adopted Roman brother Messala are best friends despite their different origins. Messala enlists in the Roman army and fights in the Roman Empire's wars in Germany. Ben-Hur also develops feelings for the family slave Esther although their different station in life compels him not to pursue her. But when her father Simonides seeks to marry her off to a Roman, Ben-Hur declares his love for her and takes her as his wife. Three years later, Messala returns as a decorated Roman officer. His return coincides with a rising insurrection by the Zealots, Jews who are opposed to the oppressive nature of Roman rule..
Bland and misjudged. Furthers the bad reputation of remakes.
Remakes, reboots, re-imaginings, revamps – whatever you may call them, they're predominantly regarded as unoriginal and/or unnecessary cash-ins. They're not all a waste of time (think The Departed or Let Me In), but it's vapid movies like this that ensure their bad name stays in tact. Lets start with the positives though. With Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Day Watch, Wanted) behind the camera stylish action sequences are all but guaranteed, and an incredible battle at sea witnessed from below the decks undeniably delivers on this front. He's also lucky his two leading men, Jack Huston as the eponymous persecuted Jew and Toby Kebbell as his vengeful Roman (adopted) brother, are both extremely strong actors who manage to turn even the worst dialogue into semi-watchable melodrama. That's where the praise stops unfortunately, for the rest of the film shouts disaster. The most notable flaw is the casting of Morgan "paycheque" Freeman, who plummets to new depths of awfulness thanks to his phoned-in performance, a lazy and clichéd narration, and a wig that'll enter the hairpiece hall of shame alongside Travolta's hairdo from Battlefield Earth. There are also a plethora of bizarre choices made by the filmmakers, including an embarrassingly out-of-place epilogue featuring Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro) that should've been either fleshed out more throughout the runtime or cut away entirely. As is increasingly common in modern blockbusters there's also a heavy use of CGI – which in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing – except here it is woefully underdone and sticks out like a sore thumb, especially in the numerous wide shots attempting to establish scale and grandeur. Perhaps most disappointing is the underwhelming chariot-race finale that, for all its hand-held camera-work and gritty intentions, is stunted by messy editing, weirdly absent violence and poor choreography that fails to hide the dumb conveniences within the race. Capped off with an atrocious song played over the final moments, Ben-Hur 2.0 is a bland and misjudged rehash of a swords-and-sandals classic.
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