Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey Talk New 'Ben-Hur'

Paramount Paramount
Felix Bryan | 20 August, 2016, 03:54

It's fondly remembered, and now it's been remade. The new movie, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, does offer a regular feast of eye-popping storybook vistas of ancient Jerusalem and the port of Tyrus, even whisking us inside the colossal coliseum at Antioch - all in 3D, no less (at select theaters).

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Morning, Renee.

"(It was) a time of great civil unrest, and in injustice and heartache and hurt for an enormous amount of people and we are following the journey of these two brothers, Judah and Messala and we literally just kind of bump into Jesus in the market place", Downey added.

TURAN: Plus intermission. This one doesn't have an intermission, and it's shorter. After all, Wyler himself was remaking two different silent films, from 1907 and 1925, on the latter of which he worked as an assistant.

Maybe some viewers will find this third time a charm for the venerated tale of Judah Ben-Hur, a prince "born to station" in a land suffering under Rome's tyranny in the time of Jesus. It will likely land in between Ben-Hur and Kubo, somewhere in the low-to-mid teens.

They gravitated towards the thinking behind the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa which was established to help diminish the hate and anger that arose in the country because of Apartheid. Toby Kebbell (Warcraft) plays Judah's adopted brother and childhood BFF Massala, a brutal Roman officer (Game of Thrones' Pilou Asbæk) who enforces Pontius Pilate's Draconian policies.

This time around, Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) has lots of high tech toys at his disposal. Together, they said they wanted to touch on universal themes and today those themes couldn't be timelier.

MONTAGNE: And does it work?

Paramount
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey Talk New 'Ben-Hur'

And oh yes, if you're thinking of placing a bet on the race, don't put your money on Messala. The drama is weak.

Ben-Hur escapes and, aided by a rad-looking, dreadlock-sporting Morgan Freeman, he becomes a chariot racer to challenge Massala, a famous chariot driver. "I mean, it's fantastic, you can't walk about Cinecitta without feeling the history on every turn".

MONTAGNE: So about the chariot race - the Charlton-Heston version, of course, legendary.

The action of that horse race is just as thrilling and exquisitely choreographed as any present-day movie vehicle chase. Ben-Hur enjoys a more luxurious life, but has his spirits raised by a few chance encounters by a special bloke named Jesus (Rodrigo Santoro, who brings the sexy back to the son of God). Messala (Toby Kebbell) simply gains a scar, but does not seem to age even by a year in the whole story.

"I used to race motorcycles, but nothing compares to chariot racing", Kebbell said.

TURAN: As you can hear, a very dramatic opening. And in this modern version, they have a very elaborate crucifixion scene, but it's not done well.

Then there's the chariot race, an adrenaline rush-fuelled sequence of men trying and mostly succeeding in eliminating the competition.

John Mulderig, CNS' associate director for media reviews, gave "Ben-Hur" a classification of A-3 -adults, citing stylized but harsh violence including combat, and a nongraphic marital bedroom scene.

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