At the Movies: Exodus: Gods and Kings

I suppose it was inevitable that someone would want to remake “The Ten Commandments” with 21st century special effects technology.

After all, Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic film was one of the first big screen special effects extravaganzas. And he left out half of the plagues.

So it’s past time for someone to tackle the subject matter again. Moses was arguably the Thor of his time (Although technically, given bloodline, he was more the Loki).

Directory Ridley Scott has reopened the biblical book of “Exodus” to give us his interpretation of the story of Moses and how he led the Hebrews out of Egyptian slavery back in 1300 B.C.E. It’s big on spectacle, short on human emotion.

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-7We open with Moses (Christian Bale) a general and the adopted son (and favorite) of the Pharaoh (John Turturro). The heir to the throne, however, is Ramesses (Joel Edgerton). It’s hard to get a read on the extent of brotherly love between Moses and Ramesses, as Scott doesn’t bother to really flesh out their relationship.

The Pharaoh dies and Ramesses takes over. Meanwhile the truth about Moses’ birth comes out and he is banished from Memphis. He wanders about and is eventually taken in by a family of shepherds where he spends the next nine years living a new life with a wife (María Valverde) and children.

Back in Egypt things aren’t getting any better for the Hebrew slaves and God has finally had enough. He meets up with Moses on a mountain and tells him to go back and free his people. He also tosses in some plagues to make things move quicker.

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is a visual marvel. From the towering statues in Memphis to the palace of the Pharaoh to the desert landscapes to the plagues of blood, frogs, locusts and more to the big face-off at the Red Sea — Scott delivers on the spectacle. And while I don’t remember a plague of alligators, they were a nice touch to set things off.

The actors are also fine, although it’s hard to think of John Turturro as a Pharaoh and sometimes it’s probably best not to hire well-known talent in minor roles. Am I really supposed to be sitting there wondering if that’s Sigourney Weaver under all that makeup? Kinda takes you out of the movie.

And while Scott is free to interpret scripture and present it as he sees fit, some of his choices didn’t work for me. I prefer my god to be an unseen, disembodied voice (preferably with the proper tone — like a Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones) and not some petulant child (Issac Andrews). I’d have a hard time worshipping — let alone taking orders from — the god of “Exodus.”

I also don’t care much for Moses the action hero. Moses should speak softly and carry a big stick, not bluster loudly while brandishing a sword.

But the film’s biggest failing is it just feels hollow. “Exodus” delivers an outline of a story, not a real story. The movie goes from one significant moment to the next without filling in the gaps that would give it heart and an emotional pull.

In short, if you’re only in it for the spectacle then “Exodus: Gods and Kings” delivers. If you want a more fully formed story to go with it, that might take a miracle.

 

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One response to “At the Movies: Exodus: Gods and Kings

  1. I appreciate your review…now I don’t have to see it!

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