EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, María Valverde
This is the second biblical epic to hit the big screen in 2014. Darren Aronofsky’s Noah was released to mixed reviews and naturally controversy followed. Continuing on with stories from the Old Testament, Ridley Scott has decided to tackle the story of Moses (Bale) and his dysfunctional relationship with “brother” Ramses (Edgerton). Even after Moses saves Ramses’ life in battle, their feud and rivalry is nowhere near over. Moses has grown up in the royal court under the current Pharoah (Turturro), but Ramses believes he should be the true heir to the throne. Only after a trip to Pithom does he learn the truth about his past as a Hebrew and that he was sent away in a basket down the river in order to survive. This revelation does not sit well with Moses who retreats into hiding.
Nine years pass and Moses has started a new life with wife Zipporah (Valverde). After being knocked unconscious by a rockslide, Moses is awakened sinking in mud with visions of a burning bush before him. Coming from the bush is the voice of God manifested in the form of a young boy. This idea of God is not referred to as “God”, but instead as “I am”. Moses is tasked to be the general and free the Hebrews who are slaves to Ramses. He has since taken over the throne in Eqypt after his father died. We all know the confrontation between Moses and Ramses does not go to plan, and all hell breaks loose with frogs, locusts, and more plagues.
When you decide to tackle a huge tale based a biblical story, you enter risky territory as you know it will inevitably anger devout readers who believe the bible word per word. With previous films like Cecil B. DeMille’s classic The Ten Commandments or even the animated film The Prince of Egypt, we have seen the story of Moses and Ramses before on screen. So how do you make another movie version and make it fresh and interesting? Ridley Scott has had his fair share of big films, and he dutifully tackles the story with a new approach. For instance, you won’t find the parting of the Red Sea here. While that moment happens, he takes a different angle with it. We also have Scott’s choice to turn God into a young boy. I see where Scott is going with this choice, but I wish they had cast a better child actor.
Unfortunately, too much of the film feels like a big disjointed mess. Once the credits started rolling, the problem became a bit clearer as the film boasts four screenwriters. I always think it spells trouble when that many writers have hand their hands in the same script. The films sits at two and a half hours and it tries to cover too much territory. The whole first hour felt long with poor character exposition. It made me question where the story was going even though I know the Moses story and knew where it was eventually supposed to go. The film only starts to pick up some speed and tension once the plagues started happening. Each one topped the next and it was visually impressive to watch the creation of each of these.
Controversy also surrounds Scott due to the casting of all white American actors like Bale, Edgerton, Weaver, Kingsley, and Aaron Paul in the “major” roles. I use the term “major” loosely as Kingsley, Weaver, and Paul basically have glorified cameos. Are they all turning in favors to Scott? Was this a pure casting stunt to get studio funding and potentially draw in a crowd? I was drawn in hook, line, and sinker because I love a good Sigourney Weaver performance, but she is left with merely two lines and just a handful of scenes to stand in the background in a cool costume. How in the world do you cast Weaver and then never use her? Couldn’t the four screenwriters at least give her a juicy monologue or have her kick ass somehow? Maybe this is the wrong movie for that, but don’t tease us with Sigourney Weaver and then waste her. Aaron Paul is practically unrecognizable as Joshua with his long hair and beard. Again, he’s another talented actor being wasted away. Character actor John Turturro feels so miscast and out of place; it was completely jarring to see him bald and in charge. Lastly we have Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom, Warrior) who are desperately trying to keep their characters realistic and believable as possible. Edgerton teeters the campy level at times, but I blame the material he was given to work with: a poor script, snakes, and some guy liner.
It’s one thing when a comedy or horror film disappoints. It almost feels worse when something of this size and scale misfires. This is coming from the same director of Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, and Gladiator. Shall I go on? The studio has mentioned that Scott uses state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion. Enough with the 3D already. It serves absolutely no purpose here and basically ruins the opening battle sequence. While the plagues are effective and captivating, they can’t save the rest of this mess. It’s quite a shame as Scott can’t seem to save his own movie.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? One of the worst of the year.
RATING: 1.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS