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Ben-Hur 2016 Film

Updated on August 19, 2016

Official Movie Trailer

What’s the Tie-in?

Now that you’ve watched the Trailer for the new film, I’d like to give you the film synopsis. Running time of 123 min. Aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Available in Sony Cinema 4K, Real 3D, RPX and IMAX formats.

After viewing the movie in 4K and Real 3D formats, I actually preferred the 4K Regular presentation.

Similar themes are present in the retelling of the 1959 version, starring Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd and Hugh Griffith. Previously, Mr. Heston had worked for Mr. Cecile DeMille, in the role of Moses in The Ten Commandments. Interestingly enough, both versions were released by MGM! As you’d come to expect from Epic filmmaking, the 2016 version delivers all of the original story with dynamic cinematography! Don’t try comparing the 2 versions, as you’ll get a bit confused. But, if you must have a basis for comparison, here goes…

Ben-Hur (2016) Movie Poster


Factoids about Ben-Hur (2016)

-Filmed in 3 different locations in Italy (Matera, Basilicata & Cinecitta Studios, Cinecitta, Rome, Lazio, Italy & Gravina di Puglia, Bari, Apulia, Italy) and 1 in California (Painted Canyons, Mecca Hills) for 2nd Unit filming

-5 separate production companies with 9 producers.

-Distribution in many countries (Chile, Hungary, Mexico, USA, Argentina, Singapore, Netherlands, and Germany), including the week of August 10th (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Canada). For the week of August 17th, the film is being rolled on in different countries on a weekly basis in theatres worldwide, with the last country receiving its release on January 13, 2017.

-7 different Special efx companies, plus 14 other companies (Post, Lighting, Data, Cranes, Dollies, Digital equipment, Script, Production counsel, Horse supplier, Soundtrack, Endcrawl)

Based on the novel by General Lew Wallace entitled Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Screenplay written by Keith R. Clarke and John Ridley. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Music by Marco Beltrami. Cinematography by Oliver Wood.

Thank you to all departments who worked on the film, who are numerous to mention in this page (Editing, Casting, Production-design & management, Art-design & department, Set, Costume & Wardrobe, Makeup – regular & prosthetic, Film units, Sound, Sfx-department & Italian buyer, Vfx-compositing & digital & matte, Stunts-riggers & performers, Cameras & Electrical-land & underwater & drones, Animation, Location, Transportation, Music, Backoffice-accouting & security & studio liaison).

Opening sequence

Using Narrative in the voiceover of Ilderim (spoken by Morgan Freeman), the Timeline, Initial character introduction and Key moments are told on-screen, while the Action speaks for itself. The change from the 1959 version, is instead of being childhood friends, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell) are half-Brothers, as demonstrated by showing parts of the Chariot Race dissolving into a Desert scene with the 2 brothers having fun on their horses.

Judah’s father adopted Messala, but died (before the film starts its timeline), so that both boys could find peace in the land. This explains one of my Qs with the 1959 version, when mother Miriam and sister Tirzah were alone in the Hur household. Thank you to the Screenwriters for including this backstory in the 2016 version.

Subtle nuances play out in the new version, such as:

  • Messala leaving in Act I, to go “experience Rome” because he has felt like the adopted son all along, being ridiculed from his grandfather’s heritage.
  • Messala having feelings for his half-sister, Tirzah Ben-Hur. A forgotten love being returned sometime in the future, but NFN (Not For Now).
  • Judah’s mother’s name is not Miriam, but Naomi Ben-Hur.
  • Judah allowing Esther to marry another wealthy Roman businessman (whom we never see because…) he follows her departure, and ends up marrying her to be “his wife.” Which later on, becomes a crucial tie-in to the Brother’s conflict.
  • Pontius Pilate giving Messala “a chance” in the field to lead the Roman Army (symbolically, raining heavily while they fight on in the night), so he can earn his soldier’s pay and prove himself worthy to Tirzah and the Hur family.
  • The Rooftop scene still occurs, after Messala returns from fighting the wars in other lands, but instead of Tirzah accidentally upsetting the loose tiles, it is a teenage boy named Dismus, who shoots an arrow, wounding the new Governor. This starts the Loyalty theme, removal of Naomi and Tirzah into their prison-leprosy; they are both healed in the End, by the Rain, when Jesus dies.
  • There is a direct tie-in to Jesus, whom the Movie Viewer sees as fellow Nazarean, who helps Judah with his water need. Roles are reversed, where Judah helps Jesus when the Bible story is woven into the Ben-Hur story. Great visual plotline ending!
  • The Story continues with the Family reunited after the Battle has occurred. Would this be called a “New Society Formed” element? And everyone lives HFN.

What language are you experiencing the film?

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What’s my Take?

The movie is done really well, that I really didn’t notice the traditional Act structure, as I was more involved in following along in the new story version. With the newer film technologies, a lot of the character’s timeline (8 years earlier, 3 years later, 5 years later) could be condensed with the use of Flashbacks and Titling.

  • The character of Ilderim remains the same, but only more significant in Judah’s rescue from the Sea Battle, and his salvation/personal quest for Revenge. The Romans refer to him as “The African,” instead of “The Arab.”
  • The beach scenes between Mr. Freeman and Mr. Huston are good filmmaking.
  • The Chariot Race dialogue between all players was an Epic event!
  • As was the Man Brawling at the Hur household, creating tension for the Race. And the Audience felt the punch too!
  • The use of Water throughout, as a means of healing.
  • The use of Swords and their representation (“Those who Live by the sword, Die by the sword.”), unlike the 1959 version with the symbolic use of the Ring (exchange, seal, vow).

and Why did I feel this way?

Some of the Visual imagery is new, as far as American films go. Thank you to the International Film Cast & Crew for creating a different type of cinematic experience.

  • Absolutely loved the costumes! Great backshot of Mr. Huston inside the Arena, showing the leather straps wrapped around his upper back and looping into the front. Loved the use of the Blue robe he wore in several scenes, as well as his Horse Chaps. Esther’s white outfits are great, as well as her veiled cloak.
  • Hair and makeup are also done really well. Yes, ensuring the hair attachments stay on is quite a challenge. Mr. Freeman’s long dreadlocks looked great.
  • The Procurement of the fine Horses for the film, as well as the Animal Wrangling.
  • I felt the Chariot Scene was more visceral and real, than the 1959 version. But, I don’t know how much of the scene ended up on the Cutting Room Floor…

Jack Huston as Judah Ben-Hur


& Why should a Movie Viewer see it?

Key themes woven throughout the film include:

  • Man vs Society (Politics, Religion of the time, 33 A.D.)
  • Man vs Brother (Judah vs Messala) - only in this film, could I see 2 Alpha males hug and be okay with it!
  • Man vs Himself (shown by Judah’s interactions with Esther and Ilderim)
  • 2 Big Screen Battles (Battle at Sea, Chariot Race)
  • Themes of Treason, Betrayal, Revenge, Redemption (Family Torn apart & Reunited).

If you have not viewed Risen or The Young Messiah, please view these films in addition to viewing this one. Being released only a few months apart from one another, your understanding of the ideology will click, with the key scene following Battle #2 (Jesus and the Betrayal, Crucifixion, Healing for everyone). Historically, some of these Bible stories are being told, due to their Timeless nature.

Morgan Freeman as Ilderim


Actors and Character Roles

Toby Kebbell as Messala Severus
Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus
Nazanin Boniadi as Esther
Ayelet Zurer as Naomi Ben Hur
Pilou Asbaek as Pontius Pilate
Sofia Black-D’Elia as Tirzah Ben-Hur
Marwan Kenzari as Druses
Moises Arias as Dismas
James Cosmo as Quintus
Haluk Bilginer as Simonides
David Walmsley as Marcus Decimus
Yasen Atour as Jacob
Francesco Scianna as Kadeem
Gabriel Farnese (Gabriel Lo Giudice) as Elijah
Denise Tantucci as Avigail
Jarreth Merz (Jarreth J. Merz) as Flores
Iaon Gunn as Gestas
Dato Bakhtadze as Hortator
Yorgos Karamihos as Sick Oarsman
Christopher Jones as Merchant
Craig Peritz as Market Centurion
Simone Spinazze as Garrison Captain
Allan Cappelli (Alan Cappelli Goetz) as Burley Centurion
Jay Natelle as Gesius
Julian Kostov as Wounded Soldier
Maurice Lee as Simon Cyrene
Stefano Scherini as Peter
Alessandro Giuggioli as Judas

With this much talent, this is Epic filmmaking folks! I loved it. Until next time, Pam

“Would you have ended this film differently?”

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