I love movies! I love big, historic Cecil B. DeMille-esque movies with a cast of thousands! So, when We saw that Exodus: Gods and Kings was going to be opening last night in Gunnison, we decided to stay over at a motel and hang around town to see it.
I had seen a few commercials for this film but had not read any reviews or articles. I marched into that theater with a box of popcorn and an open mind; full of high hopes and anticipation to see what renowned director Ridley Scott could do with one of the greatest stories ever told.
It started out strong with handsome, gritty Christian Bale playing the unflappable Egyptian general and capable right-hand man to his cousin and heir to the throne, Ramses. Quickly though, the plot begins to veer away from the largess of detail put forth in the Bible. Details which really don’t need to be Hollywood-ed up or re written for a more savvy 21st century audience. I might have accepted this with a wink and a nod had it created a fantastic, fascinating film. It really didn’t though. In addition to playing fast and loose with the actual scriptural timeline which I was willing to ignore, the script never adequately develops a bond between Moses and the Hebrew Slaves. The characterization of God as a young boy who appears mean and spiteful was an strange theatric device and it compounded the disjointed feeling of the entire movie. Unlike the actual account in the book of Exodus, there is very little interaction with God or between the returning Moses and Ramses.
There is little interaction between Moses and the Hebrew people or his brother Aaron. Rather than establish these relationships more fully, the script has Moses involved in Guerrilla tactics with Egyptian targets and training Jewish warriors to no avail. When suddenly plagues begin to occur willy-nilly and the confused Egyptians are left to try to figure out the rhyme and reason for these plagues, without any assistance from Moses and Aaron.
I will say that the special effects were really awesome. However, what should have been really stunning cinematography was shot with lighting so dim that we were distracted from the richness and pomp of ancient Egypt and frequently had difficulty making out exactly what was going on. This may have partially been a function of the 3-D glasses but it was really dark. There were nice surprises like cameo’s with Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver playing Ramses’ meanie of a mother.
You may enjoy this movie if you have no knowledge of scripture, or Bible history and have never seen such cinematic gems as The 10 Commandments with Charlton Heston. That classic from back in the day may have taken a few liberties with the story line but worked really hard to relay the idea of the majestic nature of God. That Jehovah had heard the cry of the Hebrew Slaves and that He was sending a much older Moses back with the ability and authority to bring down miraculous happenings to get that job done. We felt and shared their joy as they caravanned out of Egypt. We saw in that film that Heston was profoundly changed and impacted by his close association with God.
In addition, we saw missing in God’s and Kings the weighty burden and immense frustration of leading so many people who had largely forgotten their roots and were quick to forget the blessings they were seeing daily from God’s hand, that was so clearly portrayed in 10 Commandments. We rooted for Heston as he struggled to get the Egypt out of his disparate, complaining followers.
This new movie never really engages us with the slave people. We see them only as a dirty moving horde of stage dressing for Bale and his need for a better script and a speedy way across the Red Sea and to the final credits.
Exodus God’s and Kings works pretty hard to minimize the miracles and subtly explain away the wonder of God. He is there, but, more of a impish little helper and not the Amazing I AM. We see Moses chiseling the 10 commandments himself rather than the finger of God. The movie ends very abruptly leaving us both relieved that it is over and a little angry at having been taken for 10 bucks a pop for such a disappointing evening. C+