Faith Driven Consumer, an organization connecting Christian consumers with faith-compatible companies, opportunities, and entertainment, has given the 2016 epic film "Ben-Hur" its first ever favorable review for a tent pole Hollywood film with an impressive 4 stars, meaning it will likely resonate with Christian viewers.
"'Ben-Hur' is an example of Hollywood getting it right," FDC founder Chris Stone told The Gospel Herald of the Paramount film, which hits theaters Friday. "Faith driven consumers can watch this movie and enjoy it from a spiritual perspective - it has meaning. It it will also resonate with those who have no faith interest, and they're just looking for history and action - it has that as well."
Faith Driven Consumer's Faith-Friendly Film Reviews are based on five core criteria: Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance; Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships; Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations, Family Viewing Suitability; and Entertainment Value.
Written by Keith Clarke and John Ridley and produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the film tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a Jewish prince in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, who is betrayed by his childhood friend and adoptive brother Messala (Toby Kebbell). After years of suffering as a slave, Judah is eventually rescued by a wealthy Sheik Illderim (Morgan Freeman), who trains him to be a charioteer to get revenge on his brother. Together, they plot to defeat the Romans in a game of chariot racing.
Throughout the film, Judah struggles with anger and resentment, determined to make his brother pay for his crimes. However, the story of Jesus is woven throughout "Ben-Hur," and his blameless life and crucifixion ultimately redeems Judah and prompts him to extend forgiveness to those who once persecuted him.
Unlike William Wyler's 1959 classic, the 2016 "Ben Hur" puts Jesus front and center, a move Stone believes will make the film resonate with the faith-based audience.
"You see Jesus' love as the predominant theme and you see Judah return the favor - both men interact several times throughout the film," Stone told GH. "You see a true change in Judah's wife when she's talking about Jesus and she's telling her husband who this man Jesus is. At the crucifixion, you see some other aspects where engagement with Jesus really transforms Judah's life. I think a faith audience will really find these things powerful, that redemptive story of 'I was consumed by hate and I discovered and was healed from that and experienced redemption.' I can look at this as a Christian and say, 'Ok, this is my story.'"
Stone also praised the film's historical accuracy, comparing it to "Noah" and "Exodus" - both of which received low FDC scores in that category.
"The story is not directly historical, but it has a historical setting, so the movie is contextually appropriate. It hits the mark," said Stone. "This is the movie that Hollywood really needed to make, it needed to make it for itself, and for the faith-driven audience. There's not a lot here that should cause anybody grief, and there's a whole lot there that will resonate."
Faith-driven consumers comprise 17 percent of the population - 41 million Americans - and spend $2 trillion annually. Stone believes that "Ben-Hur" is a sign that Hollywood is finally waking up to this severely under-served audience.
"You cannot be in a major endeavor like the entertainment industry and just turn a blind eye to that many people who spend that much money," Stone said. "Hollywood has realized that this is a viable market, they've realized there's a great craving for this market. You can't find anybody - any other market with that much pent up demand. So, yes, they get it. Not all of them are fans of the market, but that doesn't really matter because the studios are taking it seriously."
Stone encourages believers to not only go see "Ben-Hur," but to give Hollywood credit for making a "real, sincere effort" to reach the faith-based community.
"I would encourage people - anytime Hollywood makes an effort and they're sincere, we should support that, because how else are we going to get what we need if we don't give a reward when somebody delivers? Faith driven consumers need to make an effort to say, 'Hey, this is what I want.' they need to advocate for themselves and join with us in advocating for the faith-based community."