Review: Ben-Hur (dir. Timur Bekmambetov, 2016)

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In theory, there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t make a new version of Ben-Hur. Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel has been dramatized several times already, and the most famous film of them all — the 1959 adaptation with Charlton Heston — deviated from the book in ways that arguably made it a less-than-definitive adaptation of the source material. (Among other things, the Heston film is less overt about its Christianity than the silent 1925 version.) So I was prepared to give the new movie a chance.

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Watch: The second (spoiler-ish!) music video for Ben-Hur

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If there’s one thing all versions of Ben-Hur have had in common, it’s the chariot race, which Judah Ben-Hur wins while his old nemesis Messala gets trampled by some horses. But what happens after the chariot race has varied from film to film.

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The shortest Ben-Hur ever? Timur Bekmambetov says his version will be “two hours”, “not a four-hour story”

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Admittedly, the headline on this post may be a tad misleading. The shortest version of Ben-Hur to date is a 16-minute one-reeler produced in 1907, before feature-length films had really become a thing. And there are also at least two animated versions of this story (made in 1988 and 2003) that are an hour in length, give or take.1

But as far as feature-length live-action adaptations go, the shortest version of Ben-Hur to date is the silent film produced in 1925, which has a running time of 143 minutes. The 1959 version with Charlton Heston runs 222 minutes (including eight minutes of overture and entr’acte music). And the 2010 miniseries runs about 180 minutes.

And it sounds like this year’s version might be shorter than all three of them.

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Watch: Jesus gives Judah Ben-Hur a drink of water in a new “epic faith” trailer for the upcoming Ben-Hur remake

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The first trailer for the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur came out last week, and it gave us only a very brief glimpse of Jesus. A new trailer — which first surfaced today on the Facebook page for Son of God, the other big-screen Jesus movie produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey — gives us a little more. Check it out below the jump.

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Sex, violence, and a clear look at the face of Jesus, all in 3D: a new trailer shows this isn’t your grandfather’s Ben-Hur

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The new version of Ben-Hur has always seemed like a bit of an odd beast. On the one hand, it is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, an action-movie stylist and horror-film producer best-known for Wanted and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. On the other hand, it counts “faith-based” power couple Mark Burnett and Roma Downey — creators of The Bible and A.D. The Bible Continues — among its producers.

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Will the new Ben-Hur flesh out the back-story of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus?

moisesariasMost of the casting announcements for the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur have dealt so far with some fairly familiar characters: Judah Ben-Hur, his sister, his mother, his nemesis Messala and a few others like Jesus and Pontius Pilate. Nothing so far has indicated how this new film might be different from previous adaptations. Nothing, that is, until now.

Deadline reports that the filmmakers have cast 20-year-old Kings of Summer co-star Moisés Arias as Gestas, “a teenage Jewish zealot” who is “desperate to fight for his people’s freedom” because his family “has been murdered by the Romans”.

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