There are many problems with Timur Bekmambetov’s remake of Ben-Hur, but one of the more emblematic ones, I think, is the way he insists on adding dialogue to the chariot race. Bekmambetov can’t rely on the thrill of movement alone: instead, he has to pump the soundtrack full of exposition and dull action-movie banter.
Ben-Hur is out on DVD and Blu-Ray today. My take on the film hasn’t changed much since I wrote my review — if anything, I was even more struck by the casually anachronistic dialogue this time (“Wow,” “Oh my God,” “opinion-makers,” etc.) — but I did want to jot down a few quick notes about the Blu-Ray’s bonus features.
Synopsis. The sons of Jacob prepare to go to Egypt. Jacob dictates a letter to the Egyptian governor, who unbeknownst to him is his son Joseph. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Akhenaten visits Joseph’s house and decrees that Zuleikha must marry Joseph. Joseph speaks to a crowd — many of whom have become technically enslaved to the Pharaoh in exchange for wheat — and declares that everyone in Egypt is free now, except for those who owned slaves and exploited the poor before the famine. Joseph’s brothers arrive and ask him to let Benjamin go back to Canaan. Joseph produces the bill of sale that they signed when they sold him into slavery, and reads it aloud.
Synopsis. Joseph and Asenath pay a visit to Zuleikha and find that she is still deep in prayer. Asenath says she isn’t jealous that Joseph will be getting a second wife soon, but she says she does covet Zuleikha’s spiritual growth. Meanwhile, Joseph’s brothers split up into groups of two or three and enter Thebes by different gates, to avoid being detected — but they are spotted anyway and taken back to the palace. Joseph reveals his identity to Benjamin but tells him to keep it a secret. Joseph tells Asenath he has to find a way to keep Benjamin in Egypt so that their father, Jacob, can give up his sons and get them back the same way Abraham almost sacrificed one of his sons, only to get him back. The brothers leave Thebes and begin to make their way back to Canaan, but Joseph’s soldiers ride out and accuse the brothers of stealing a golden chalice.
Synopsis. The once-bald priests of Amon, now hairy and bearded after their stint in prison, are summoned to the court of Akhenaten. Joseph speaks to the Egyptians in the building that used to be Amon’s temple, and, seeing Rudamon in the crowd, tells the officer to stay by his side from here on. Joseph’s wife Asenath discovers who Zuleikha is and confronts Joseph with the fact that the woman who once owned him has become a beggar while he ignored her. An angel appears to Joseph and tells him he must marry Zuleikha. Zuleikha is brought before the court and, after Joseph prays to God, both Zuleikha’s sight and her youth are restored to her. The chief priest of Amon, who has experience tricking people into believing that gods have acted, refuses to believe that the miracle is genuine, but at least one priest does believe. Zuleikha goes to another room with the women, and tells them that — surprise! — she doesn’t want to see Joseph right now. Instead, she wants to be alone with God for now.