MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton.
If Exodus: Gods and Kings weren’t based on the Hebrew scriptures, I might have reconsidered reviewing it at all, since I generally prefer to comment on movies that are thought provoking, creatively interesting, or morally relevant. To say that Exodus: Gods and Kings fails on all three counts would only be the tip of the iceberg (or pyramid, as the case may be). Egypt’s ban on this film because of historical inaccuracy is doing the movie a favor; there is so much more that is offensive.
I am not exactly sure what director Ridley Scott had in mind with his retelling of the popular Bible story about Moses leading the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage, other than turning it into a Jewish version of his 2000 hit Gladiator.
But before we get to that final showdown between Moses (Bale) and Ramses (Edgerton), there are many other things to suffer through. The film opens with a big battle scene between Egypt and the Hittites. Moses and Ramses (Pharaoh’s son and adopted son) are getting along as brothers in Egypt, with Pharaoh Seti (John Turturro) showing a shine to Moses. Moses seems to be totally clueless about his Jewish heritage, until Nun (Ben Kingsley), the father of Joshua (Aaron Paul) fills him in. After Seti dies and Ramses is made Pharaoh, Moses is exiled from Egypt and becomes a shepherd. Nine years later, while tending sheep, Moses falls down during a landslide and experiences a head injury that induces the scene of a burning bush as well as an encounter with God, represented as a snide and11-year-old boy (Isaac Andrews). This little kid will show up several times in the picture to stir things up. Rather than an awesome God, we are given a petulant child with destructive power (not really that different than Ramses, except for the omnipotence).
The film includes scenes of genocide (courtesy of Ramses), the forming of a guerilla army (courtesy of Moses – I think the filmmakers are confusing him with David) and a series of plagues that come in “shock and awe” mode, (courtesy of God). The character of Aaron is nowhere to be found, since he has nothing here to do.
As crazy as this year’s Noah film was, as least writer-director Darren Aronofsky showed real passion (including researching many of the flood narratives) for his subject. And Cecil B. DeMille never forgot to entertain when he filmed The Ten Commandments twice (in 1923 and 1956). Exodus: Gods and Kings manages to combine two-dimensional characters, terrible dialogue and slow pacing.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is big-budget “event” filmmaking at its worst. There is more faith at work in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and more inventiveness in Interstellar.
I was happy to make my exodus to the exit doors. Let my people go – to anything but this wretched mess of a movie.
One halo: There are a couple of impressive visual sequences.
Three pitchforks: For boring storytelling; confusion about deities (especially God); violence; and a particularly upsetting series of plagues, including the death of many infants and children.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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