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..
The story of Ben-Hur is back on the big screen this time directed by Timur Bekmambetov starring Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell and Morgan Freeman. The movie is set in Jerusalem and tells the story of a prince who goes by the name of Judah Ben-Hur. Judah's adopted brother Messala Severus is part of the Roman army that occupies the city. Both brothers have a different idea of what is needed to keep the peace in Jerusalem and this eventually causes the brothers to directly oppose one another. Ultimately this causes the enslavement of Judah and his family made possible by the betrayal of Messala himself. What follows is a story about Judah trying to regain his life and his road to revenge.
The movie starts out trying to establish the relationship that Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and Messala Severus (Toby Kebell) have. This is however not done in a very convincing manner due to the very stupid screen writing. It seems as if no thought has gone into the writing of the dialogue as almost every conversation feels fake. The story itself is presented in an incredibly dull fashion with story- arcs that have no real purpose paired with an ending that is completely ridiculous. What also does not help is that the acting is never really anything to write home about. The two main actors at least seem to have tried to bring some depth to their characters, but the same cannot be said about the many supporting actors. This is especially true for Morgan Freeman who seems to bring as much life to the screen as a decapitated sock puppet.
The direction of the film also leaves a lot to be desired. Almost every scene was shot by using hand-held camera and instead of enhancing a certain aspect of the story this achieves the opposite effect. During the many conversations the director puts a heavy emphasis on the characters through excessive use of close-up shots. Once again this achieves the opposite of what it sets out to do as no one is really interested in seeing characters that are as flimsy as possible.
Most of the times the only redeeming factor of these kind of movies is the action itself, but Bekmambetov's incompetent direction also finds a way to ruin this part of the movie. Quite a lot of action sequences only seem to exist to liven up certain parts of the movie, mostly to no avail as the movie still manages to come to a crawling pace halfway through its runtime. The action sequence themselves are filled to the brim with shaky cam and quick cuts. This in turn causes the action to be extremely hard to follow as it is never really clear what is going on. This was of course the intention of the director to be able to hide the poorly choreographed stunt work. In a lot of scenes characters pull of certain moves that they would not have been able to if they did not have control over the power of editing. For these reasons it is very hard to become invested into the action especially since we never really see the actors do certain stunts themselves.
In the end 'Ben-Hur' is a complete and utter trainwreck. Nobody really asked for another retelling of Ben-Hur's story and I am fairly certain that nobody really wanted to create it either as it seems that almost no love and devotion has gone into making this failure of a Hollywood blockbuster.
My Rating: 2/10
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