Jesus Wept – ★½
Who is this film for? Most remakes or reboots or re-imaginings are for the benefit of younger cinema-goers who don’t do old films. When was the last time you heard a teenager say they could really do with a film set in ancient Rome about waring brothers, but really being the story of Jesus? Never that’s when. So it comes as no surprise the film has been a flop since its release stateside and it doesn’t help when the film is pants.
Timur Bekmambetov is tasked with directing this carbon copy of the 1959 version which starred Charlton “cold dead hands” Heston. The selling point of the original was the chariot race and that if films in the 60’s called for scenes with six hundred people then you better go find six hundred people. In our modern age the chance of death during a scene has generally been removed due to the magic of CGI. Thus you lose much of the drama from an already flat story.
It’s good to see certain things haven’t changed though and we still have handsome men flouncing around in robes namely Jack Huston as Ben-Hur and Toby Kebbell as Messala. Throw in Morgan Freeman walking around the place like Jar Jar Binks and Aryan Jesus and you’ve got yourself a movie. Ben-Hur and Messala are brothers of sorts but when Messala joins the Roman Empire in search of nobility he ends up stitching up Ben-Hur and gets him work on a galley ship. Ben-Hur vows revenge and just might get it in the form of a chariot race.
The real story of Ben-Hur is the teachings of Jesus Christ our lord and saviour (other lords and saviours are available). It is the passing of views from the Old Testament with its eye for an eye mentality to those of Jesus and love thy neighbour, turn the other cheek philosophy. There has probably never been a more apt time than now for such a message, where black people are shot in broad daylight on camera with no repercussions, refugees are kicked from country to country like unwanted garbage and Europe and the USA are gearing up to tear themselves apart. Too bad that it comes across as a lifelessly saccharine view on quite a profound thought.
Opens Wednesday the 7th of September