Sunday, January 1, 2017

A great heap of 'Ben Hur' spoilers

Having watched both versions of Ben Hur, I hereby opine.

Spoilers ahead, be warned. Seriously, if you have not watched both versions, go away. You do not qualify to read this article.

For the rest of us, we the elders, we will be both thrilled and also a bit saddened by the remake.

Whereas the first movie was not as much of a visual feast, its strength was in the depth of the characters and their development through the plot. The actors carried the story, and the screenplay had a rustic charm to it.

The latest epic cuts away at the melodrama and emphasises action. It is an easier movie to follow for this generation, but we elders will delight in its brusque pace and varied, vivid drama.

My main grievance with it was an opportunity the remake opted out of in their editing of the plot. Granted the remake vividly portrays the perils of galley slavery and of the circus and of army life and of preaching the gospel. Pretty convincing. But they had the master of the galley die, rather than be saved by Ben Hur (who else) and subsequently adopting him and taking part in a victorious Roman triumph through the streets of Rome. A grand procession. They pulled it off regally in the first movie. But the second does away with that whole arc of the story, that landmark scene, simply striking it off the plot as if it never happened and dunking a key character in the Sea never to resurface. Government please reestablish finishing schools for the public good. Bypassing a Roman triumph, huh. "Nothing to see here, let's go on with the story," huh. Who does that? All the enemies of art, literature, poetry and film could not have conjured up a more sinister design.

Alright that part with Pontius Pilate marching his army into Jerusalem adds a ton of clarity, with the armored Roman ranks chanting and singing rude songs as they went, and the locals angrily staring from the safety of their roofs, none willing to acknowledge the invading foreign occupier with more than a quiet, hateful stare, that was tense. And that hothead Zealot with a bow and arrow (in the second) was a forceful character, possessed with his mission, a bigger threat to Pontius Pilate's life than a few loose roofing tiles simply obeying the laws of gravity (in the first). That procession had an entirely different attitude, however, to a Roman triumph, the emperor's lavish party for the Roman army and people.

A plus, the character of Jesus plays a more prominent role in the second film's events and the Biblical records being woven together poignantly. At the end of the movie, Jesus is the hero. That's a major plus in my opinion.

Also, the character depicted by the wife of Ben Hur portrays the ideal Christian wife.

But who do you know who blatantly ignores a chance to recreate and depict a Roman triumph? Did the film budget really call for such brutality?

But I recommend the movie. Both versions. Try stay awake through the first before you lose your mind chasing the second, and if you succeed in this marathon challenge, lunch will be on me.

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