Tag Archives: bible

‘Exodus’: The Book Was Better

Exodus2014Poster            Oh, Hollywood. Yet another example of one of your movies being not as good as the book on which it is based.

“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.

Critics Rating: 3/10

‘Noah’ Lands on Solid Ground

Noah2014PosterWhen a movie is based off a book, there are always the groups of fans that will claim the movie took liberties that it had no right to take, or that it left out things that needed to be in the film. Darren Aronofsky’s new film “Noah”, based off the story from the Bible, does not divert from this tradition. Russell Crowe stars as the titular character, with Jennifer Connelly playing his wife. Aronofsky wrote and directs the film.

People who are looking for a by-the-book (pun intended) portrayal of Noah and his ark should know right away that Aronofsky has taken numerous creative liberties. This isn’t your great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s Noah. This is a story for the modern filmgoer, filled with epic shots, hand-to-hand combat and giant talking rock monsters (I told you it diverted from the source material). It is a little like “300” in that it takes a historical event and adds mystical and mythical aspects.

Russell Crowe does a great job portraying the man who built a boat to save every kind of animal when God decided to flood the Earth. He struggles balancing his human instincts while at the same time obeying what the Creator is telling him to do. It is a multi-layered performance that connects with the audience.

Ray Winstone plays the film’s antagonist, the leader of a group of corrupt and treacherous people. He is scummy and evil and embodies every characteristic that has made the Creator decide mankind needs to be eradicated. The scene where Winstone leads his army against Noah in an attempt to take the ark is wonderfully entertaining and well-shot.

There is a bird’s-eye shot of Earth about halfway through “Noah” that shows the storm in full rage, and it had several members of the audience, including myself, whisper “wow”. That shot is the peak of the film. Everything after that is just not as interesting.

It is almost like every character on the ark has a sudden change in heart; they all become different people. Some people’s motivations don’t make sense, while other people’s choices are just maddening. It drags on for a little too long, and by the end of the film you feel like you have cabin fever from being trapped inside the boat with these people for so long.

As gorgeous as some shots are, there are other shots that seem like they were shot on a handheld camcorder. They are so shaky and so borderline vomit-inducing that I had to actually look away from the screen for a second. I’m not sure if they used up the $125 million budget before they could purchase a tripod, but it really was shocking that a Hollywood project could get away with several shots like that.

“Noah” really is a tale of two halves. The first half is full of an epic hand-to-hand battle, great story telling and that one jaw-dropping shot of Earth. But the second half of the film feels much longer than it actually is, and you simply don’t care about the character’s desires. Still, the film’s scope is impressive and the effects are first rate. As long as you walk into “Noah” knowing you are not getting a straight out of the Bible story, you will be entertained, and at times in awe. It is just a shame the film could not maintain its momentum for the entire ride. Then it could have been something special.

Critics Rating: 7/10