EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS Author: J.A. Hyde
December 12, 2014
SYNOPSIS: From acclaimed director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Prometheus) comes the epic adventure "Exodus: Gods and Kings," 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 (Christian Bale) as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues. (c) Fox
Iím an avid fan of both Christian Bale and Ridley Scott, but Exodus: Gods and Kings is not their best offering.
Thatís not to say that thereís nothing interesting in this overly-long version of the story of Moses, itís just that Iím willing to bet that this film is not what viewers expect.
If youíre looking for a religious experience, you wonít find it here. For the story, writers researched a number of sources, so I decided to have a look at some of them.
First of all, there is no actual historical proof that Moses actually existed Ė itís all circumstantial and contained mainly in the Holy Books of the three major western religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moses figures prominently in all three. Biblical researchers conclude that itís unlikely Moses and Ramses lived at the same time, with Moses preceding Ramses by anywhere from 200 to 300 years. That being said, thereís still a good story here. I mean, why not pit former brothers against one another as they fight for their respective Godís wills? Thatís the story Scott gives us.
As the film begins, Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) are preparing to lead their armies into battle against the Hittites. The reigning Pharoah, Seti (John Turturro), gives them matching golden swords and off they go to slaughter some Hittites Ė which they do with alarming efficiency. Their coming rivalry is strongly suggested as Seti hints that he trusts Moses more than Ramses. The battle scene provides some much-needed action in a film whose pace soon becomes agonizingly slow.
Mosesí discovery of his true parentage comes slowly, and he isnít open to it. When he visits the Hebrew slave quarters and encounters the elder Nun (Ben Kingsley), who tells him of his true identity, he replies, ďThat isnít even a very good story, and you people are supposed to be great storytellers.Ē However, his interest in the Hebrews is piqued, and when Seti dies and Ramses takes over, Moses is less and less welcome at the palace.
Eventually, everything comes to a head and Moses is exiled from Egypt (as in the Bible), wanders across the desert, and stumbles upon the land of Midian where he marries Zipporah (Maria Valverde) and becomes a shepherd. In the Biblical account, he remains there for 40 years, but in this version, itís more like 9. He does climb the forbidden Holy Mount, but the burning bush scenario is as different from the traditional story as is possible. Iím guessing this version is going to offend believers of all three aforementioned faiths.
The review continues after the jump!
The rest of the film recounts Mosesís decision to return to Egypt and lead the Hebrews out of bondage. Aspects of the Biblical story are included, but not in the traditional way. The Ten Plagues smite the Egyptians in gruesome detail, and Moses and Ramses clash dramatically. As in the Bible, Moses and his people do leave Egypt, but his leadership of them is enshrouded with self-doubt and his own ambiguous feelings about his divine mission. As in the original story, Ramses, with 600 chariots, pursues them, and they all encounter the Red Sea experience.
Again, Scott returns to other possibilities for the parting of the Red Sea. Over the years geologists, archaeologists, and other scientists have tried to find natural explanations for this occurrence. From the little bit of research I did, it would appear that Scott presents an amalgamation of these opinions. Again, this may not set well with the more traditional crowd.
On a positive note, as with all of Ridley Scottís films, this one is rich cinematically and visually. As he did in Gladiator, Scott realistically recreates an ancient time in minute detail. The one sour note is Mosesís costume when he first appears. He looks more like an 11th century Crusader. If he were indeed treated as a prince of Egypt, his attire would be more like that of Ramses. Bale looks much too contemporary as the film begins.
As far as performances, Joel Edgerton gets my vote for the best one. His Ramses is both arrogant and subject to moments of hesitation. He shows tenderness yet grows increasingly ruthless as he contends with Moses and his God. Christian Bale always delivers an outstanding performance, but heís asked to deal with an uneven script. His lines are sometimes too contemporary for the character, and his accent seems to waver between ďAmericanĒ and British.
The film was shot almost entirely in Spain (The Canary Islands and Andalucia), and, as always, Scott transports the viewer to an alien, but striking, landscape. Special effects are reliably impressive. Speaking of Spain, Spanish actress Maria Valverde, who plays Mosesís wife Zipporah, is radiantly beautiful and performs perfectly in her part.
For me, the film comes up short. However, if youíre a die-hard fan of any of the actors or of Ridley Scott, itís definitely worth seeing. I realize thatís a bit of a paradoxical recommendation, but it reflects the over-all tone of the film. Scott, himself an Agnostic, intentionally gives no clear answers. - JoAnne Hyde