Ben-Hur is an epic film based off of historical Roman Empire taking over the world and is also Biblical with the story of Jesus Christ being born and providing miracles. I have watched this movie before, but this time it was to really look at how big a production of an epic film can be. I can’t begin to imagine how much time it took to design and make all of the costumes, let alone make so many, due to the number of extras and people in the films big scenes. This film opens with a biblical depiction of the birth of Jesus Christ, most Christians refer to this as the Nativity Scene. They were trying to help us see just what time period this film was to portray. Then it pretty much jumps into the story of Judah Ben-Hur, who is a very wealthy Jew and is excited that the Roman boy he grew up with is coming back to town. Messala comes back to play a role in the Roman Empire taking over the middle east. Messala shows just how difficult it is to not conform and do what the Romans want when Judah is sentenced to the galleys because of some loose tile that falls off of his roof when the new Roman governor arrives in town. It doesn’t matter that it was an accident and he is a friend of Messala. The whole family is imprisoned.
As he marches along all chained up across the desert, Judah is refused water when they stop along the way. A man (who we find out is Jesus) gives him water anyway and this is his turning point of not letting this false imprisonment be his defeat. I think that making the props for the galleys of the ships would have been hard. This was the believable piece showing them rowing in the belly of the ship to the beat of the drum. When I watched the ships on top of the water as they fought it was less believable to me because they really looked fake to me. They used wider shots to help them look more real, but I just wasn’t buying it. The wide panoramic shots of the Roman soldiers marching into the towns did however help me to picture the span of the Roman Empire’s arm.
You can’t write about Ben-Hur, without mentioning the memorable chariot race scene. This was my favorite part of the film, with the protagonist Judah being able to face his betrayer, Messala. The enormity of the whole scene is just mind blowing. Making big statues, shooting in a large colosseum, with thousands of people. Watching them go around the track seems like it would be boring, but seeing all of the mishaps with chariots and people getting run over and dragged behind horses was very real for me. This film takes a long time telling its story and the chariot race added the much needed action for me, when I was starting to lose interest. The filmmakers did a good job with the colors in this film. When I think of the Middle East, I picture deserts and dusty clothes. When we talk about the Romans, we think of their flowing white robes with sashes of red with the Emperor wearing the royal color of purple. This is how they are depicted in history, so they continued with this in the film. For the most part I liked this film, it was really long and the story kind of dragged in some spots with the dialogue for me. I’m glad I didn’t sit down and watch this all in one sitting.