- Directed and Produced by Ridley Scott
- December 12, 2014 (US)
Moses stands against Ramses II in his quest to set the Hebrew slaves of Egypt free.
The Bible is fertile ground for spectacle, and drama. At one point Hollywood drew from it by the fistful and made plenty. Getting something that’s engaging and exciting AND character driven with deep emotion and powerful scenes should be no problem at all. Flip open the Old or New Testament and you’ll find something. So I find it amazing this Biblical epic (or more accurately Biblically inspired film) is only ever okay.
The pacing of Exodus: Gods and Kings is consistently slow and bland. Even what should be the most significant moment in the film-the parting of the Red Sea-doesn’t pack the punch of the Heston film. Emotion is mild in a good moment. Ramses (Joel Edgerton) is jealous of Moses (Christian Bale) and the connection Moses shared with Ramses’ father Seti (John Turturro), but that jealousy never feels like it’s a strong motivator for what comes later. The ‘romance’ between Zipporah (María Valverde) feels like a narrative afterthought despite his on screen professions of loyalty.
This took the Zack Snyder approach and desaturated the tones of the film. It’s almost like it was photographed perpetually during overcast. If that’s an attempt to make Exodus: Gods and Kings seem like a serious drama it fell flat. It just makes the movie difficult to see-especially during the night scenes. I have four eyes and they all had trouble discerning the action.
God does show up in the story, but he is not a strong presence. And given what we do get I’m left with the feeling His inclusion was more of a narrative afterthought to appease possible religiously oriented viewers than it was to actually connect to the narrative. And why was God portrayed as a child? I am not getting the symbolism.
This is an all-star and very talented cast. Aside from Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, and John Turturro there is Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Sigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley. Some seem to show up just to give their credibility to the narrative rather than actually make a good movie.
That brings me to Sigourney Weaver who plays Tuya. I can’t remember her character saying anything. She just kind of showed up and wondered around the set and then disappeared. It’s almost as if after getting lost while making another movie found herself in THIS movie and nobody told her to leave.
Or maybe it’s because there is just so much forgettable about this movie I could not remember what her character did. It just went on and on. So much of this could’ve been cut out and you would’ve still told the same story. There’s a lot of stretching in this film. Ridley Scott felt a strong need to justify his budget but not an equally strong need to make an engaging movie.
There is only one commandment when making a Biblical epic and that is “Thou shalt not bore.” While this doesn’t bore, it certainly doesn’t excite. It manages an audible “Meh.” It doesn’t get too religious or get any kind of message other than maybe God is generally indifferent. It plays it safe which is always a disservice to the material.
Maybe the issue is that Scott is ultimately an atheist who did not take the time out to learn or understand the material. I’m not saying he should convert to a belief in God, but rather he should approach this from a more religious perspective. Nicolas Meyer for example knew nothing of Star Trek nor to the best of my knowledge has he since become a Trekker yet he made Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which is quite possibly the best of all the Star Trek movies. How? He took time out to get to know the material and understand it. Scott is winging it here based largely on assumptions.
The costuming is absolutely amazing as are the sets. From that perspective it’s very good and the CGI is used just enough to expand the world and make what we get a little more plausible. But that doesn’t aid in a poorly done script that plods slowly along from start to finish. Ultimately Exodus: Gods and Kings is visually good but narratively poor. You won’t feel as if you wasted your time, but it is certainly not something to seek out.