The new version of “Ben-Hur,” which is as fun to watch as the old one, has been digitally remastered from its original 65 mm film and is of excellent quality.  However, while the film is rated G, it probably won’t be of much interest to kids, who will tire out long before the end of the long run time – even if they manage to remain interested in a film that clearly comes from yesteryear.

It’s dramatic, even melodramatic at times.  But it still manages to eschew the overarching melodrama so common in many of the Bible epics made during that era, including Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments,” in which Heston also starred.  It’s also unique in the way that it deals with Jesus.  We never see his face, but we experience the profound changes that Jesus brings to those who encounter him.  The film’s central theme, of course, is forgiveness – and as such, it makes a great discussion piece for Christians and non-Christians alike.  At the time it was released, it actually bridged the gap between people of all faiths.  Given “Ben-Hur’s” strong Christian theme, this is a rare feat indeed.

More than 10 hours of bonus features include a new documentary about the film’s influence with leading filmmakers like Ridley Scott (“Kingdom of Heaven,” “Gladiator”) and George Lucas (“Star Wars”), as well as a 1994 documentary hosted by Christopher Plummer.  Those with an interest in filmmaking will particularly appreciate the conversations throughout the two documentaries, which describe the unparalleled filmmaking techniques used as well as the way that “Ben-Hur” influenced other filmmakers.  For example, as George Lucas describes how the film’s chariot race influenced him in some of the chase scenes he made in “Star Wars,” we are treated to a back-and-forth between the two.  It’s astonishing to observe just how much Lucas did, indeed, learn from “Ben-Hur.”

Viewers will also enjoy scene-specific commentary by Heston, the original theatrical trailer, rarely-scene screen tests for several of the actors in the film, an on-the-set photo gallery featuring director William Wyler, producer Sam Zimbalist and cameraman Robert Surtees, a reproduction of the original theatrical souvenir program and the 1925 silent version of the film. 

Additionally, Dr. Robert H. Schuller and his son, Dr. Robert A. Schuller, co-chairmen of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, have authored a Bible study guide that is included in the DVD set.  With a total of seven lessons to be shared between a leader and discussion group, topics of discussion include “God Humbles the Proud;” “God Cares for the Weak;” “God Works with the Imperfect” and “God Exalts the Humble,” among others.  Each focuses on a specific Bible verse and traces the plot of the film.  A participant’s guide is included at the end.

Overall, this collector’s edition is most definitely collection worthy.