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.
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.
Last week, the studio behind the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur released five clips from the film, all of which touched on the movie’s religious themes. Today we get our first “mainstream” clip from the film, in which Judah Ben-Hur and his nemesis Messala have one last exchange before the iconic chariot race begins — but you can still get a hint of the movie’s themes thanks to a speech by one Pontius Pilate.