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That One Chariot Scene: Ben-Hur Review

26 August 2016

Ken Lim

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For those new to the story of Ben-Hur, the film was first directed by William Wyler in 1959, renowned for its four-hour length, lavish production value and subsequently setting an 11 out of 12 category Oscars record the year after. For a generous dollop of foreshadowing, the remake ran just over two hours.

Ben-Hur (2016) is brought to us by Timur Bekmambetov, the household name that also graced us with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012), and Wanted (2008); the film that curved the trajectory of bullets and my expectations of thrillers.

Needless to say, no one walked in expecting the remake to match that of its predecessor in length or quality. However, when the film opened with “you should’ve stayed away”, I didn’t expect it to be directed at the audience. With countless time leaps and terse but numerous flashbacks, I left the theatre wondering one thing: Was all of this just a set up for that one chariot scene? You know, that one scene where Ben-Hur faces childhood friend Messala in a high-stakes chariot race along with numerous other extras and a 100 per cent fatality rate for non-protagonists? To answer that question, yes. It was all a build up very much akin to the “bass drop” of brostep.

In a blatant move to satisfy the appetite of the faithful, Portugese actor Rodrigo Santoro (Paulo from Lost) also makes a brief but significant appearance as Jesus in the film. Before you rush to condemn, Santoro allegedly received personal blessings from Pope Francis for his role as Jesus. I kid you not; it was part of the press release.

It’s terrible, but maybe still watch it. Why? Absolute mind-fuckery:

Try watching a film that stars both Morgan Freeman and Jesus, but wait, he ISN’T GOD? In fact, he is addressed by the Romans as ‘African’, and is definitely more of a pimp in the chariot-racing world. He essentially drops 200 gold pieces, forces the Romans into a gamble and mic drops on the way out. Just try adjusting for inflation considering the film took place circa 33 A.D. Even with that amount of money, you probably still shouldn’t be paying to watch this film.

With that said, if you’re pretty short in the attention department and find yourself suddenly craving some juicy biblical cinema that doesn’t require toilet breaks, this might be for you. Otherwise, jump straight to the chariot scene as the contemporary update features some genuinely impressive on-location camera action. I’m talking 10 minutes of shots so gnarly that I almost walked away thinking I enjoyed the film.

In conclusion: perhaps more worthy of your time than your money.