This review is primarily for the people who have watched the famous 1959 version of Ben-Hur. and are wondering if it is worth viewing the 2016 remake. How did it compare to the 1959 film? I would say the '59 film is better because it draws out the story more and so it flows nicely. It makes Judah Ben-Hur's history more easily understood, from his relationship to childhood friend and adult villain "Messala, " to his being sent to the galleys and how he finally escapes from there, to how he became friends with a man who had four magnificent white horses and how Ben-Hur taught them how to work together, to the famous chariot race in Rome, and then witnessing Christ carrying his cross and being crucified and his mother and sister are healed from leprosy.
In the new two-hour movie, things move faster because it is almost an hour-and-a-half shorter than the William Wyler-directed '59 film. There is less time to tell the story. Also there are changes in the new modern version and some might be a little confusing if you didn't know the story. I didn't mind most of the changes but I just thought the '59 film told the story better. Also. Charleton Heston was better as the lead character, slightly more convincing because he looked bigger and stronger and more able to endure five long years rowing in the bottom of a battleship. I also feel the famous chariot race was actually better in the old film and the leprosy angle involving Hur's family was much more dramatic in the '59 movie.
Having said all that, this 2016 movie was still very good. I enjoyed the updated camera-work on the sea battle and on the chariot race, the two dramatic action scenes in the film. I really appreciated Jesus being shown more often with the final scene of him on the cross done better than the earlier film. It was well done and true to the biblical account of Jesus last words on the cross.
Morgan Freeman is the only actor I was familiar with here and he plays his normal likable character role. The women in Judah's family, his mother and sisters, were more beautiful than the actresses in the prior movie but not more memorable. Haya Harareet, Martha Scott and Cathy O'Donnell all came across as more vulnerable and more believable as "Esther, "Miriam" and Tirzah," respectively. Finally, Jesus message of forgiveness is brought out more here in this movie and he is shown more often than in the previous movie. He should be, as the title of Lew Wallace's book these films came from is "Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ."
In summary, I'd say both movies are "keepers" but I give the advantage to Wyler's movie (which also had a far superior musical score; one of the best ever). I could go on and on but I think I've said enough. If you are a big fan of the Heston flick, check this one out, too. It's interesting to compare the differences.
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