Timur Bekmambetov’s Ben-Hur is a sword and sandals movie that strives for epic status. The film does not reach it, in spite of trying.
Judah Ben-Hur is a wealthy prince living in Jerusalem with his family and adopted brother Messela Severus. When Severus joins the Roman army in an attempt to elevate his position, Judah and his family face unintended consequences…
Ben-Hur is based on Lew Wallace’s religious novel of the nineteenth century. Viewers familiar with the 1959 film adaptation will notice a few changes. It is clear that the filmmakers have realised how pivotal the chariot race scene is, foreshadowing it in the opening sequence. In this version of Ben-Hur, this important scene is moved to a later sequence, to give a climactic feel. However, this gives less time for the staid reconciliation scenes. This final scenes jar with the sense of feeling immediately before.
The Christian message is pushed throughout the film, as expected. However, the overt nature of this feels forced rather than natural. In straddling the line between Christian entertainment and Hollywood blockbuster, Ben-Hur does not really satisfy either of the camps. Jesus is a more prominent figure in this adaptation. Unfortunately, some of the sequences are more laughable than spiritual.
There are some redeeming qualities in the film, even if the redemption in the narrative is unconvincing. The rowing sequences works very well to depict chaos. The frequent cuts, close-ups, and sound design combine well to convey a confusing and dangerous situation. Early scenes do a decent job of portraying the friendship between Judah and Messela. The chariot sequence is one of the film’s more exciting moments. It is marred by some abysmal dialogue and the overuse of CGI.
Jack Huston is a good actor, yet is constrained by a lacklustre screenplay here. Toby Kebbell is well cast as Messela. Morgan Freeman takes everything in his stride, whilst Nazanin Boniadi comes across a bit stiff in some scenes.
Ben-Hur may appeal as a curiosity watch; viewers may wonder why and how the story has been remade. Beyond this, it holds little appeal.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a passably enjoyable action fantasy romp. Not quite an fun as viewers may hope, the film is entertaining nevertheless.
As a young boy in the nineteenth century, Abraham Lincoln watches his mother die. Vowing to avenge her death as an adult, Lincoln is unaware of what he is up against. As Abraham Lincoln rises in the political sphere, by night he hunts vampires…
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter features an enticing premise. Painting one of the most famous American presidents as a Van Helsing-type sounds amusing and an interesting idea for a film. It is a shame that Timur Bekmambetov’s movie does not quite capitalise on the ridiculousness of the premise. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter should have been all out outlandish.
Instead, the film maintains a more serious tone. Abraham Lincoln moonlighting as a vampire hunter is played straight, rather than for laughs. Viewers are required to suspend their disbelief; unsurprising for a film with a strong fantasy vein. Nevertheless, some of the plotting is a bit problematic, including the motivations of some of the characters. The ambiguity over the intentions of one of Lincoln’s sidekicks, however, is a nice touch.
Bekmambetov has given Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a highly stylised look. This is only partially successful. The CGI-heavy appearance gives the film a synthetic air. The action sequences owe a lot to the films of Zack Snyder, with the speeding up and slowing down of action.
Benjamin Walker is well cast as the young Abraham Lincoln. Anthony Mackie plays Lincoln’s companion Will with well-suited selflessness. Dominic Cooper is good as Henry Sturgess, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a believable Mary Todd.
Although there are some issues around motivations and the action sequences do not quite engross the way they should, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is entertaining throughout. Those seeking something totally outlandish may be better off looking elsewhere.
I have four trailers from the past week to share. As well as the full Prometheus trailer which debuted last Sunday, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, The Lucky One and Casa di mi Padre are all due for release in the next few months.
I was lucky enough to see this trailer in 3D this week, and it looks great. Prometheus is a prequel to Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. Scott’s last few films have not been overly memorable, so perhaps returning to one of his most successful films is a good thing. Prometheus stars Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace, and is out on 1st June 2012.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and produced by Tim Burton, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a rather interesting prospect. Pitting the infamous US president as a Van Helsing-type vampire hunter sounds like a great idea for an action thriller. The film stars Dominic Cooper, Benjamin Walker, and Anthony Mackie, who does not get enough decent roles. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is out 3rd August 2012.
The Lucky One
From the first few moments of the trailer, it becomes immediately apparent that The Lucky One is based on a Nicholas Sparks’ novel. It just has that look. Zac Efron stars as a US marine who tries to track down a woman who’s photograph he credits with keeping him alive. The Lucky One is out on 2nd May 2012.
Casa di mi Padre
Will Ferrell Armando Alvarez in the Spanish-language Casa di mi Padre. According to the trailer, the comedy is from the same team behind Anchorman, which bodes well. The film looks to be a satire of Spanish-language soap operas; the trailer certainly plays on this. Casa di mi Padre is due for release in June 2012.