- Starring: Christian Bale (The Fighter), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Aaron Paul (Need for Speed) and more.
- Directed by: Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Prometheus)
- Synopsis: “Epic adventure Exodus: Gods and Kings is the story of one man’s daring courage to take on the might of an empire. Using state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion, Scott brings new life to the story of the defiant leader Moses as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.”
- Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of battle.
- Must-Watch Trailer:
Let me begin this review by telling you…this is not The Ten Commandments.
Director Ridley Scott boldly brings another retelling of a well-known tale and…(*sigh*)…takes several liberties and leaves much more to be desired. (I felt the same about his retelling of Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe.) Amid the controversial casting and the comments of Christian Bale, this Biblical tale retold is far from epic. In a time in which the Bible appears to be a growing source for content of cinematic storytelling, it is perplexing to me that the stories told deviate so far from the Source. Much like in my review for Aronofsky’s Noah, I remind readers and viewers that Exodus: Gods and Kings is a movie, and adaptation, and not a source of doctrine. For that, read your Bible. Albeit, I personally was disappointed with the inclusions and exclusions of Ridley Scott. That aside, as a film, Exodus: Gods and Kings had plenty of misfires all on its own.
(Hit the jump to read the full review below)
The Casting: I personally could care less about the supposed “whitewashing” of history in movies as white actors are chosen to play the roles of characters understood to not be. (No one seemed to complain about Charlton Heston as Moses, John Wayne as Genghis Khan, Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Ben Affleck playing Tony Mendez in Argo -mainly after he won Best Picture, or Irish/Swiss/Slovak-Romansh actor Jim Caviezel as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. I will argue that more people needed to complain about Genghis John Wayne, though! haha)
I am a fan of the right person for the job and these petty complaints have merit in certain situations, but let’s leave it alone, shall we? The casting issue here is that the people who were chosen just weren’t the right fit and all seem stiff as if they are in a production of a school play and appear to never embody their characters wholly. Bale never exudes “Moses”, John Turturro as Seti just is odd, Aaron Paul seems very out of place as Joshua, Sigourney Weaver is uncomfortable in her garb and makeup, but Ben Kingsley did well in his role. Surprisingly, I did like Joel Edgerton as Ramses. While he is no Yul Brynner, he brought out the multiple sides of his character and was the most rounded. The casting, overall, had more misfires than bullseyes.
The Charisma: Not of just the characters -all of whom look as if they do not want to be there and who all build very little to no connection to one another to speak of- but of the film as a whole. The movie in and of itself is rather anti-climatic as the parts that are most familiar are led up to but are ultimately empty. Fans hoping to hear Moses say “Let my people go!” or waiting to see the parting of the Red Sea or hoping for other such memorable moments remembered from either Prince of Egypt, The Ten Commandments, or the book of Exodus in the Bible are in for disappointment. While some of those events may exist or be alluded to, the build up and delivery of this is far from satisfying and remain lacking. (The burning bush scene, for example, is far from memorable).
Which leads to the next point…
The Content: This film is an adaptation, however, it left out a lot that (1) would have made the film much more interesting, and (2) definitely made The Ten Commandments so as one of the best movies of all time. Ridley Scott has an affinity for making gladiators and warriors out of his characters, which is fine, but if it doesn’t gel with the story told, you have to go in a different direction or stick with the original. (“If it ain’t broke…”) Scott spends little time showing the many sides of Moses the Prince, the “brother,” the General, the Loner, the Lover, the Father, the Rebel and the Leader and yet, in the end, all those parts seemed individually separate and never inclusively summing up what made the man. The inclusion/exclusion of God and/or the argumentative representation of Him or His messenger, was, at times, overbearing and frustrating. Some portions of the Biblical account of Moses were completely ignored…and unnecessarily so. You can’t tell me that it wouldn’t have been pretty easy and amazing to represent what you see in the excerpt below in the film during the scene of the crossing of the Red Sea:
19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: 20 and it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. 21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to goback by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
The inclusion of big details such as those really would have made the scenes stand out and made them climatic and better overall. Yet Scott seemingly went out of his way to avoid/ignore them and the film is not the better for it.
Hear me out. My beliefs as a Christian notwithstanding, if Peter Jackson filmed The Lord of the Rings without the battle at Minas Tirith, or if the Harry Potter films didn’t include the epic battle at the end, or if the Spiderman movies didn’t have the death of Uncle Ben take place…many would be up in arms due to the exclusion of such paramount events in those books. The same applies here to Biblical films and yet so many films overlook big aspects of the events (including God) and mentioning that exclusion often draws more criticism. From a storytelling standpoint, it was a poor choice, Ridley Scott, to ignore and exclude some of the major things that make the Exodus such a great account and that deserved to be in the film.
The Continuity: Disjointed at times, scenes are jumbled together in an effort to distract audiences’ minds back and forth from one semi-related scene to another making the entire experience overall one of non-chalance for the players, their plights and their passions. Even the plagues tend to come…and go…and that’s that.
I can say that Ridley does not hold back on his cinematography and brings vast and grand camera sweeps of great scenery and backdrops as is his usual. Ancient Egypt, perhaps, never looked so good. Unfortunately, the film brought more disappointment than desired and as it dragged in parts, I found myself hoping for an exodus from the theater a few times.
Definitely better than Noah on most points listed above, but if you are looking for an accurate account of the Exodus, I strongly recommend reading about it in the Bible, or watch The Ten Commandments for a more exciting rendition of events than this film.
-On a side note: Ironically, most movies from books often inspire a spark of interest to read the source material after (The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, The Hobbit, etc)…at least for me, but if I didn’t already know the account of Moses, I’d venture to say that Exodus: Gods and Kings did little to inspire me to want to learn more, sadly.
My Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars for Exodus: Gods and Kings “So Let it Be Written…So Let it Be Done!”
***Random trivia: In Exodus: Gods and Kings, Joel Edgerton plays Ramses, a brother-type to Christian Bale’s Moses. He also played the brother to Tom Hardy in Warrior. Bale played Batman and Hardy played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Therefore, Edgerton is the brother of Batman and Bane! 🙂 You’re welcome!
(Remember, to read this review of mine and over 250 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies I have reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)
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–T, The Focused Filmographer