Remaking a classic can be a tough boogie all by itself. But when you have the added weight of trying to overcome prejudice against Christians in the entertainment world, the obstacles can be formidable.
Indeed, creating Christian art of any sort is both a challenge and a flashpoint every time it is attempted. Christian art has long been relegated to niche marketing aimed at what is broadly termed the “Christian market.”
Christian movie makers have it especially hard, working as they do in an industry that, at least from the outside, seems to shun and limit the opportunities of people who are outspokenly Christian. I am guessing, but I would imagine that it’s a little bit like what I’ve seen in politics. Nobody minds overmuch if your belief in Christ does not interfere with your behavior, or if you are willing to trim your faith to fit their beliefs.
It’s hard not to go along to get along in this world. Following Christ in public life exacts a price. I wonder how many Christian artists who will not bend on matters of faith are simply starved out.
That’s why I do everything I can to support Christian artists. I buy their music, read their books and go to their movies. I absolutely support movie makers who have the courage and faith commitment to try to develop and market films with a faithful message. The few dollars I spend at the box office are the least I can do to help them.
The production values of Christian movies has been low for a long time now, as these people have labored in the Christian ghetto of the entertainment industry. In years past, I’ve paid my money to support Christian movies that were only a step above a high school play.
But these movie makers have kept at it, and the movies they are making are beginning to bear the fruit of their sacrifice and hard work. When I heard that Christian movie-makers, including Roma Downey, had partnered with a big name production company to develop Ben Hur 2016, I felt that they were taking on a big challenge.
First of all, they were up against the formidable 1950s version of Ben Hur starring Charlton Heston and Steven Boyd. I don’t think it’s possible with today’s actors to even get on the same playing field with that movie. Today’s Hollywood is all about special effects and comic book movies, not character development and eternal themes.
However, I did trust, and it turned out that I was right, that Ben Hur 2016 would not go off into whatever bizarreness befouled Noah. I assumed that it would be — as it turned out to be — a movie that would fit the sub-title Lew Wallace originally gave it: A Tale of the Christ.
I was late to see Ben Hur 2016. My husband and I finally got around to it last weekend, long after the early box office labeled it “the bomb of the summer” and the post mortems had all been written.
I bought my popcorn and sat down to watch a movie that I had read did not compete with the 1950s version, and that deserved its fate as a failure. However, I like to think for myself about these things, so that didn’t bother me overmuch. If I like something, I don’t much care who, or if anyone for that matter, agrees with me.
And I did like Ben Hur 2016. The actors who appeared in it did not rise to the gravitas of Charlton Heston and Steven Boyd. But then, who in today’s acting pantheon would? There is a world of difference between a celebrity who is held up by special effects and someone who can dominate the big screen with the force of his or her own stage presence.
The actors in this movie did have what it took to appear alongside Morgan Freeman, who, for my money, has more screen presence than just about any other actor performing today. They were able to go toe to toe with him and hold their own. That’s not exactly a slouchy performance.
Ben Hur 2016 is a good movie that will leave you feeling uplifted instead of degraded. It will entertain you and, if you go out and spend your hard-earned dollars to see it, give you the opportunity to support Christian artists who are using their talents for good.
My advice is to ignore the nay-sayers and, if you haven’t already, go to see Ben Hur 2016. It will be an afternoon well spent.