“I came to tell you that something is coming that is far beyond you or I,” says Moses (Christian Bale) to Ramses (Joel Edgerton), trying to convince the Egyptian Pharaoh to set free 600,000 Hebrew slaves before the next terrible plague is set upon Egypt in director Ridley Scott’s Biblical epic, Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Using state of the art visual effects, Scott sets out to retell the classic story of how Moses, who once was a favorite of Ramses’ father, Seti (John Turturro), and was raised as an Egyptian, comes to learn the truth about his mother and about his Hebrew heritage. Exodus: Gods and Kings tells how Ramses, who used to call him brother, banishes Moses into the wilderness where Moses not only survives but finds a wife, home, and a new life until he is called upon by God to go back to Egypt and tell Ramses to free the Hebrew slaves. When Ramses refuses, God sets upon Egypt the 10 deadly plagues to force him to free the Hebrews and let them journey into the wilderness to find a home.
Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings is a ponderous, stilted, and heavy-handed epic with melodramatic performances and labored pacing. In truth, the 1955 Cecil B. DeMille film The Ten Commandments and even Disney’s The Prince of Egypt are far superior movie adaptations of the story of Moses and Ramses.
Christian Bale delivers an uneven performance as Moses, the favorite of Pharaoh Seti and chosen by God to lead the Jews out of Egypt. His best scenes are the quiet, intimate ones between Moses and his wife. The scenes focusing on Bale and Edgerton as Moses and Ramses battling wills feel forced and are over the top, as do the scenes between Moses and God.
Great actors including Sir Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver are sadly wasted in the hollow epic, with each given only two scenes in a film that runs two hours and 30 minutes. Other key characters such as Joshua, Aaro,n and Miriam who have traditionally played a big part in the telling of Moses’ story are given zero character development in Scott’s adaptation.
The production design is impressive, bringing back to the big screen a stunning Egypt the likes of which a moviegoing audience has not seen since DeMille’s Ten Commandments. However, the 10 horrible plagues set upon Egypt by God are done too rapidly in a montage of quick scenes. Especially unimpressive is the Passover where death slowly covers Egypt and claims the lives of every first born Egyptian but all the Hebrew first born children are left unharmed.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is a pointless, unnecessary, and unengaging retelling of a Biblical story that deserves much better and that follows two far superior films that got it right to begin with.
Exodus: Gods and Kings opened in theaters on December 12, 2014 and is rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images.
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
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