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.
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.
One of the promotional hurdles faced by the new Ben-Hur is its relative lack of star power. Nearly everyone in its cast is best known for working on television or for minor roles in other films. The main exception is Morgan Freeman, who plays Ilderim, the sheikh who sponsors Judah Ben-Hur in the film’s climactic chariot race.