Ben-Hur (1959) movie review
What can I say about Ben-Hur? It’s one of those big “a cast of thousands” movies in the sense that there are lots of big, epic shots with hundreds of extras. How does it hold up 55 years later? Well, it’s easy to toss out a cliche like “they don’t make ’em like this anymore” for both good and ill.
I generally like the old fashioned movie making stuff you get in Ben-Hur; the reaction shots and visuals, real extras and sets (obviously, this movie predates visuals), but really, there’s no reason for this movie to be three hours and forty four minutes. I could cut twenty minutes out of Ben-Hur in my sleep! Things get kinda redundant, sometimes those long pauses go for too long, people use ten words when five will do… that sort of thing. But then, without all that stuff, it just wouldn’t be Ben-Hur.
So, the Jesus subplot… I’ve never read the book, but the whole Jesus stuff doesn’t really have much bearing on Judah’s story until maybe two and a half hours into the movie. Until then, it’s very “These events are happening parallel to the life of Jesus Christ. It’ll pay off at the end of the flick, we promise.” It does, but its relation to Judah letting go of his anger is kinda weak – which the filmmakers knew since they have Judah spell it out with clunky expositional dialogue.
Anyway, the chariot race: I never thought about it until this last time I watched the movie, but holy hell did George Lucas rip the chariot race from Ben-Hur and drop it into the Phantom Menace. It’s shameless; the opening’s the same (they even have the same ending – the rivals get stuck together and then the bad guy’s chariot rips apart and the hero wins.
You don’t need me to tell you Ben-Hur is a classic worth watching again and again. It’s a part of film history that’ll never be duplicated – even when (especially when) the remake comes out next year.