“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is the retelling of the age-old story about how Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt. Christian Bale stars as Moses, Joel Edgerton plays the Pharaoh Ramesses, and Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsley and John Turturro all co-star. Ridley Scott directs.
Earlier this year we got another Bible epic, “Noah”, which was met to mixed responses but I personally enjoyed. Some people complained that director Darren Aronofsky took too much liberty with the story (you know, rock giants, and all), but I was for the most part willing to accept the film for what it was. And when compared to “Exodus”, “Noah” looks like a biblical masterpiece.
There is just so much going on in “Exodus” and almost none of it is done well, and even the parts that are properly executed have been done before and been done better. The plagues are all visually impressive, and we get some engaging bird’s eye shots of ancient Egypt, but I mean it’s 2014; if your film doesn’t have good CGI at this point then you’re well behind the eight ball.
Speaking of the plagues, the direction they chose to take them was interesting. Instead of direct punishment from God, the film places blame on natural causes and chain-of-events, such as the Nile becoming polluted and killing the fish, which led to an overabundance of frogs, and so forth.
The acting in the film is all pretty standard, even with Bale trying his best. He has a few riveting moments as the historical figure, but the script is so flat and the character development is so non-existent that his efforts are wasted.
The film begins with adult Moses and Ramesses going into battle, so we only learn of their relationship as adopted brothers through stories and narration. When Moses returns after nine years of banishment, we do not see how the two brothers’ relationship is strained or how having to become enemies has placed stress on them. The film simply continues to go through the motions.
Ramesses is a one-dimensional character, whom we root against simply because the movie tells us to. By the time the big confrontation at the Red Sea arrives, you feel no real urge to root for his demise or see him or his army defeated (I mean, kind of spoiler, but you’ve had over 3,000 years to read the story).
Finally, the running time of this movie. Oh my God, the run time. To paraphrase “The Social Network”, since this thing started I think I may have missed a birthday. After learning of his true identity, Moses is exiled from Egypt for nine years. In all honestly, it felt like this movie lasted longer than Moses’ banishment. It is so painfully paced and at times uneventful, I brainstormed this whole paragraph while watching the film.
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” has huge ambitions but it showed limited effort to try and meet them. Bale elevates a bland script to the best of his ability, and the plagues and parting of the Red Sea are all good looking, but the film as a whole feels empty, and scenes that should be emotionally stirring range from tedious to almost laughable. I will leave you with an imploration to watch “Noah”, a biblical film that at its height is grand and awe-striking, and at its low is still much better than anything “Exodus” thought it was.