Watching a documentary on the making of Ben-Hur, I saw an interview with George Lucas. He compared the excitement of the chariot race in Ben-Hur to the race in Episode 1. He talked about wanting to convey the same excitement he first experienced while watching Ben-Hur.
While I don’t think Lucas did a bad job of it, I think it shows the difference between live-action of old, and computer-generated-images of modern cinema. I’ve seen Episode 1 a few times, and the race isn’t bad, but the sense of danger just isn’t there. We rewatched Ben-Hur, and the race was absolutely engaging. You can just tell when it is real people riding real chariots in real danger. For all the advances of cgi, I sometimes long for the days when you saw something on the screen and were in awe because you knew someone really did it.