My hope is that anyone who is reading this saw my previous post which linked the First Ben-Hur trailer or at least saw the trailer some other way. This is a movie I have been looking forward too for a very long time and have been very nervous about seeing the first trailer because it would tell me a lot about the style of the film they are going for. Will it be more like Gladiator? 300? Pompeii? Hercules? What where they going for? Well now we have our first look.. and I would like to give you my thoughts on it!
The trailer opens up with the famous Galley scene. You see a bearded Ben-Hur in the belly of the Galley with the other slaves when suddenly he looks out his small window and sees a body tied to the ramming portion of a ship heading right for him. The ship breaks apart and we as the viewer are looking through the eyes of Ben-Hur has he is thrown out of the Galley and into the air. We catch a glimpse of the vastness of the battle and I must admit. I was in awe. Yes, did the effects look under done? yep. However, how many times have we said that about a first trailer only to get to the theater and see that they have been fixed… this film is still 5 months away!
The look of the film is very nice and the feel of the trailer I feel adequately captures the more action oriented aspects of the story. Camera angles where different in an attempt to give us the same story many are familiar with while still trying to give us something new.
The performance we see from Jack Huston and from Toby Kebbell look fantastic. Will they be Oscar worthy? Probably not… but might I point out that the performances in Ben-Hur, if competing today, would not have even been considered. It is a different time.
Over all I was very pleased with what I saw… Who knows, a few weeks from now, after I viewed this thing 100 more times I might realize that I am only pleased because I am relieved. It doesn’t look like 300, it doesn’t look like Pompeii, it doesn’t look like Hercules. As the big fan of Ridley Scott that I am I would have liked it to look more like Gladiator but that is just me and I am equally pleased that this film has a very original look to it.
Now, as a fan of the novel, what was I displeased with? Well, I can already see that changes have been made that I do not believe where necessary. It looks as though Ben-Hur is found, washed assure by Sheik Ilderim. This bothers me for two reasons, and that is that it looks like it eliminates two characters from the story. Or at least diminishes them. Quintus Arrius was in the trailer as the War Ship Commander but it looks like Ben-Hur does not rescue him which eliminates the part of the story where Quintus adopts him as a son. A portion I am very fond of…. but… I can live without if they tell me a good alternate story. The second Character that looks to be removed is Balthasar. Now, this is only examining a trailer from a few clips but judging from that it looks as though Balthasar is not in the film. This bothers me because it means they probably will not begin the movie the way I would like them to. With the three wise man… one of those being Balthasar.
This would also eliminate a third character I just thought of… which I already figured was eliminated being that she was eliminated from the 1959 version and they announced no actress to play her, but Iras is one of the more complex Characters in the original story as we watch her go from a beautiful girl who Ben-Hur falls in love with and originally marries (That’s right… he picked the wrong woman) to a villainous puppet master who actually ends up killing her second lover after Ben-Hur… Messala. Yep, Ben-Hur doesn’t kill him… she does… what evil!
Another change from the original novel is also a big deal to me. I was hoping they wouldn’t change this but they did. Pontius Pilate is shown in the trailer as the runner of the Chariot race. This goes against the very character of Pilate in the novel. A man who enters Jerusalem after a governor who has really made a mess of things. He is level headed and tries to make things right by the people. Freeing prisoners who where arrested under sketchy circumstances. This Pilate would also fit very well with the Pilate we see in scripture who tried everything he could to prevent the Crucifixion of Jesus. Also, by having Pilate rule these games means that they are being held in Jerusalem which is not Antioch where they are supposed to be, unintentionally shrinking Ben-Hurs world and making it, to me, seem less epic than the original story actually was.
Now, to spite these changes, all I ask is that this film be a well told story that has the same skeleton of a story as the original novel. To that end, I like what I see so far! What do you think?