While some could argue that maybe it was nearing time to resurrect this particular story back into cinema, a remake of Ben-Hur would still have a tough act to follow. Despite the 1959 film's overly long length, it was very well made. There was a reason it won as many Oscars as it did back in its day.
One good thing about the prospect of a new version was that it could trim the length of the nearly four-hour 1959 version. Here we get two hours, and yet somehow it isn't enough; we cover the basics and most of the necessary parts, but there are some minor alterations here and there that make the film perhaps a little more confusing at times for those are who are completely new to the story (namely, Messala's motivations and character, which in general feel far less fleshed out).
Somehow, despite being drastically shorter, this version feels surprisingly slow-paced at times; which might be due in part to quite poor dialogue and hit-or-miss acting. It felt difficult to be interested except during the more important scenes, or just the action pieces; and yet they still kind of screwed one of them up. The other main action piece besides the chariot race is the naval sea battle, but we don't actually get to see much of it because we're stuck inside the boat for most of it instead.
The greatest flaw by far, however, is Jack Huston, who has zero of the charisma and not even half of the acting ability that Charlton Heston had. The character of Judah is actually less interesting under Huston. Rodrigo Santoro doesn't fare well as the Christ either; he has so little of the impact or presence that you might be expecting if you've seen Jesus enough in cinema. (Seriously, the version of Jesus in the 1959 version fared better, and they didn't even show his face!)
It's not necessarily all bad, though. Morgan Freeman is a bright spot amongst the acting, and though it won't be remembered as one of his top performances, he still lifts any scene he's in. The chariot race, even if it doesn't quite top the insane realism of its predecessor, is still pretty doggone entertaining in its own right, as the introduction of CGI allows them to do things they could never have done in the original.
On one hand, it may seem a little unfair to rag hard on this movie, since it did have such a tough act to follow. On the other hand, it still feels like any adaption of this is capable of being better. It doesn't have to be a shot-for-shot remake or anything, but it just has to be better made and better written, and has to have a better lead. If you're not familiar with this story, I would recommend just sticking to the 1959 version, even if it is rather long.