11 November 2018 | CubsandCulture
A grittier realpolitik Ben-Hur
I am a huge fan of the 1959 film so I thought I would give a the miniseries a go. Throughout most of its run time it is a engaging retelling of the tale that focuses more on the political machinations that Ben-Hur (could have) does (done) especially in terms of the Roman court. Add in a lot more sexuality and less grand more earthly production values and the resulting adaptation plays like an engaging Game of Thrones episode while Christ story, more human and less religious, plays in the background. It is all very good fun. I especially like how Judah's time in Rome is flesh-out more and how the Great Sea Battle was more tactical. The lower budget forced a lot of the choices to make the story more psychological and grittier but it's nice counterpoint to the 1959 classic.
There is, however, two areas of concern. First because the film greatly down plays the religious (divine) elements a huge part of the ending does not make much sense; I think it would be incomprehensible how a certain "cure" happens without seeing the 59' version first. It also annoyed me that Christ's "forgive them they know not what they do" is ripped from its context completely and it is thematically problematic to have Judah the recipient of that utterance. Second, Morgan is miscast; his sandy blond hair and blue eyes reminder you too much of Heston and make Judah seem even less Jewish than in the 59' version. After about 30 minutes you get use to it and Morgan becomes an engaging hero but it is initially very distracting.
The chariot race in this version is no where near as grand, but it is still very exciting and the stripped down more documentary feel to it gives it a neat visceral edge. I'm not sure why they didn't cut the number of horses down to 2 per chariot through. I think that would have fit the paired down more earthly tone of this version.
The 59' is the gold standard of this story. The 25' is more religious version. But 2010 is the political intrigue version. Good stuff