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Ben-Hur by Marco Beltrami (Review)

posted Sep 2, 2016, 1:29 PM by Kaya Savas

Ben-Hur gets a modern adaptation from director Timur Bekmambetov as the movie seems late to the party in an era where swords and sandals epics are not doing big box office business anymore. It also doesn't help that the movie is just a mismanaged approach all around. Generic actors spouting out generic lines with generic CGI, oh and Morgan Freeman in dreadlocks. If there is any saving grace from this movie it’s the overall entertaining score from Marco Beltrami which is still a flawed experience.

Bertrami’s Ben-Hur is a safe and expected score, but it’s an entertaining one. If you look back at how these types of films were scored, they always boasted immense orchestral grandeur. That’s how Miklós Rózsa approached the 1959 classic. Then again that’s how the original movie was approached too. And don’t worry, the aim of this review is not to compare this score or film to the Oscar-winning one. There’s no point in doing comparisons since the approach is vastly different. This film is more focused on smaller scale stuff. The score is surprisingly subdued for the most part. Lots of somber strings, while beautiful to listen to do start to wear out their welcome about half way through. The score gives you a slight sense of a hero’s journey, but in the end mostly everything feels like filler. Some more graspable structure or better arcs would have helped build momentum. We don’t get anything exciting or energetic really until the big chariot race, and it never felt like we built up to that moment. In the end, it’s a flawed but still enjoyable score that mirrors the film’s poor pacing and structure.

Ben-Hur showcases Marco Beltrami doing his best to service a film that just doesn’t understand what it wants to be. It seems like this movie was only greenlit just so they could do the chariot race with modern technology. The film never does a good job at presenting a hero’s journey, and the score suffers to find character arcs to latch onto. Instead, Beltrami is forced to fill the space with somber strings with the occasional burst of action and grandeur. This won’t go down as anything memorable, but it’s still worth exploring for some of Beltrami’s great stylings.