Ben-Hur [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Judah Ben-Hur was a prince of the Jews, and he was close with Messala, his adopted brother.  However, after Messala leaves to make a name for himself in the Roman army, their friendship was strained.  But disaster struck the Ben-Hur family when they were falsely accused of an assassination attempt against a Roman leader.  Messala refuses to acquit them and thus allows Judah Ben-Hur and his family to be taken captive by cruel Rome.  Years later, when given a second chance a life, Judah must decide how he is going to respond.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

The one thing you can say for Mark Burnett and Roma Downey is that they know what it takes to fund and create a top-notch production.  In this controversial remake, there are at least good on-set locations and realistic props.  Camera work is usually good in action and non-action scenes, but sometimes there is some dizzying and wild camera work.  Video quality is obviously clear and lighting is professional.  There are no audio errors, but the soundtrack sometimes does not fit the historical period.  Finally, the editing is quite poor as this previously three-and-a-half-hour film is shoved into a two-hour runtime.  But otherwise, this is the sort of production we need more of in Christian film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

When an original film is so iconic, there is little point in trying to remake it except to make money off of the name.  The original Ben-Hur was a ground-breaking classic for its time, which makes even more ridiculous the fact that this modern take on the story completely alters the original plot for no reason.  As Morgan Freeman tells you everything you need to know through narration, time rushes by at breakneck pace in an attempt to hit all the carbon-copy high point scenes of the original film.  Thus, as the film speeds along, there is no time to get to know the characters or connect with their struggles.  One minute they’re here, and the next minute they are there.  The presentation is so lazy and pandering that it’s laughable.  The writers do just enough to remind you of the old movie while at the same time turning the plot inside out for little reason.  The whole experience is overly dramatic and off-putting, thus making for a disappointing film.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As if changing the story wasn’t enough, Burnett and Downey had to drag a whole slew of BRITISH people to play Jewish and Roman characters again.  What would people have said if Morgan Freeman’s African character had been cast as a white British dude?  Besides cultural inconsistencies, the acting is simply too dramatic.  Though the costuming is historically realistic, it’s not enough to make up for the mistakes of this section.  This is another bust.

Conclusion

Burnett and Downey have perfected the model of lazily ripping off and ruining Biblical and historical plots in order to make money.  What they have not perfected is actually using the rare money and resources they are able to somehow acquire for their films for something good and effective.  They are one of the rare production teams that have the ability to actually make a respectable, well-marketed, and recognizable Christian movie, but they fail at it every time, even drawing criticism from mainstream outlets.  The question is, where do they go from here?

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Badge of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Bryan Lawrence was a well-respected police officer who was caught in an unfortunately violent situation that ended with him becoming paralyzed.  However, through this very difficult situation, he fought to keep his optimism up as his family came around him and supported him.  Though it was deemed impossible, Bryan sought to walk again with the goal of walking his future daughter-in-law down the aisle.  Times were hard and sometimes he and his family felt like giving up, but his faith in God always kept him grounded.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Badge of Faith is clearly a well-funded production with professional caliber video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic but is respectable.  Sets, locations, and props are highly realistic and appropriate.  There is little negative to speak about here, except for the fact that the editing seems unfinished in that some scenes seem abruptly cut off before they’re done.  However, despite this issue, this is a nearly perfect production that the creators should be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This story is a very inspiring real-life story, but one has to question how it is presented in this film.  As it is, the storyline is fairly boring and somewhat flat, even though there is a lot of potentially interesting content here.  For instance, there are too many montages that stunt character development.  Even though there are some good attempts at developing the characters through realistic dialogue, since there are not many characters and since this is a character-driven plot, we would have liked to see further development.  Though there are many pertinent and accessible issues explored in this film, the storyline overall lacks the necessary continuity and driving purpose that would make this movie dynamic.  Though the struggles of the characters can be appreciated, it feels like this is just a string of random sequences.  In the end, Stone Table Films knows how to find a realistic story and make a movie out of, but like Touched by Grace, the plot of Badge of Faith leaves something to be desired.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The acting is definitely the strongest point of this film.  The cast is highly professional and well-coached.  Each member is case highly appropriately.  Emotions are very realistic and line delivery is on point.  There are no errors to point out here.

Conclusion

It is certainly enjoyable and refreshing to watch the movies produced by the Stone Table team, but it is also frustrating to see the potential they left behind.  If Touched by Grace and Badge of Faith had slightly better plot improvement, each of these films would be on the Hall of Fame.  Yet the Stone Table team is continually improving, so there is great hope for their future.  We firmly believe they will keep trying until they finally get that blockbuster release.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points