Since April 6th is the day I believe Jesus was Crucified on our Gregorian Calendar.
As an amateur historian and Bible Scholar, I could nitpick the heck out of this movie, and the book it's based on, starting with all the White Israelites, but I don't really wanna do that.
I have sometimes complained about how a lot of these old Biblical movies seem to kind of just make Jesus into Gahndi, and this has elements of that at times. But when Jesus was on The Cross, Balthazar talked about him dying for the sins of the world, so there is some at least vague knowledge of the actual Gospel there.
Today it's sometimes popular to mock the idea of never showing Jesus's Face or hearing Him talk directly. And I certainly understand the concern that that takes away his humanity. But I've always been a fan of when films try to get as much as they can out of what you don't see.
One moment that really strikes me is after Jesus gives Judah the water and that Roman commander is about to stop him and Jesus just looks at him. The Roman doesn't seem to back down out of fear, he doesn't himself understand why he's stopping. That brief performance says a lot.
As someone who still supports Ron Paul on his foreign policy. Judah saying "Withdraw your legions" really speaks to me as a timelessly relevant line.
The film also depicts depicts it's Arab characters very sympathetically, calling out Anti-Arab Racism. It's amazing how often old films pleasantly surprise me.
Though I can't say I'm too impressed with the handling of female characters.
On a shipping level, I think there is definitely more then meets the eye to the history between Judah and Messala.
Ben-Hur has always made me think of the Star Wars Prequels.
The most obvious and iconic example is the connection between the Chariot Race and the Pod Race.
But I also connect when Messala says "You're either with me, or your against me" to Anakin saying "you're either with me, or you're my enemy". I know that's a common expression, and the people politicizing the Prequels like to draw the analogy mainly to George W Bush. But these two scenes also have in common two friends becoming enemies in this moment, so I don't think it's a coincidence.
Also Arius saying "Your eyes are filled with Hate, good, Hate keeps a man alive, it gives him strength" sounds like a good Sith motto.
Let's also talk about what was an influence on Ben-Hur.
Ben-Hur is also related to a genre largely codified by The Cont of Monte-Cristo, Revenge Fantasy. This was I think my first time watching the film since my obsession with French Pulp Fiction started. And the potential parallels between Judah and Edmund Dantes really jumped out at me.
There are two fictional stories that have iconic Galley Slave sequences associated with them, Ben-Hur and Les Miserables. I'd be curious to know which story it was associated with first, because Les Msierables came first but I'm pretty sure the specific Galley Slave part wasn't necessarily in the original Novel.
It's another old classic that still holds up. They don't make historical films like that anymore, that today we can do gritty and realistic historical films is great. But ya know with Comic Book movies (some) people people have figured out that the grim and gritty appeal is limited. Why not bring back Historical films that are fun, theatrical, operatic, colorful and sometimes cheesy?