Review

Prior to its release, Exodus: Gods and Kings has been the subject to much controversy.  The religious folk took aim at the film for its inconstancies to the source material, while most of its critics have knocked the film for casting an all-white cast in the leads.  White Englishman did not rule over Egypt, and unfortunately for the film, the problems don’t stop there.  Ridley Scott’s last few films Prometheus and The Counselor looked great and were excellently shot.  The problems however arise when looking at the character building and telling a truly compelling story.  With his latest effort, Scott once again has shot a gorgeous film, that ultimately leaves the viewer feeling empty.  Exodus: Gods and Kings is like a big beautiful fast food meal, meaning that it looks great but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied and still hungry.

Christian Bale steps into the role of Moses, telling the familiar story of his life, albeit according to the “new Hollywood” standard.  The story of Moses freeing the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian slavery has already been told on screen, but it’s twisted the story a bit to fit Scott’s vision of Moses as more of a Aelius Maximus Decimus Meridius character from his hugely successful film Gladiator.  The film begins in 1300 BC when Moses was a member of the royal family ruling over Egypt.  When the former pharaoh Seti I (John Turturro) dies, prince Ramesses II (Joel Egerton) take over the thrown, and things quickly change.  Although not related, Moses and Ramesses are practically brothers.  This changes however when its brought to the attention that Moses is in fact Hebrew, and should be killed.  Ramesses chooses not to kill but instead banishes Moses from Egypt, where the story really begins.

What’s clear from the film is that Scott still can still shoot the heck out of a movie, but is struggling to find the human side of things which compel and intrigue the viewer, leaving a lasting imprint in their memory.  Character motivations are implied, rather than fleshed out like a “good” movie should.  Besides Moses, most characters are just there to advance the movie.  As a viewer, you have no emotional connecting to the characters which make the movie feel like a giant spectacle without a heart.

Scenes with dialogue feel like filler to move the story along just enough for Scott to show off his massive set-pieces.  The events showing the ten plagues feel more like montages, and again, add nothing to the emotional level of the story.  The pacing is all over the place, and fails to build up to the events that everyone assumes will occur (if they are somewhat familiar with the story).  Just when the movie starts to build-up and move toward something, it takes a step back, leaving the viewers frustrated.  Christian Bale plays the only character with any depth (and exceptionally done), with actors like Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsly, and Sigourney Weaver forgotten and mainly playing background actors in a select few scenes.

Walking out of Exodus: Gods and Kings all I could think is “what a waste of talent”.  Sure it looked great, but so many movies with similar budgets nowadays are ultimately forgettable.  I have limited knowledge of most bible stories, so turning Mosses into a Russell Crowe Gladiator type, didn’t bother me.  All I want in a film is a compelling story with equally compelling characters, which wasn’t delivered.  From a distance Exodus: Gods and Kings looks appetizing, but when you sink your teeth into it, it’s like biting air (think the dinner scene in Hook).  There is almost nothing to digest, which given the talent involved, is a shame.



About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.