WARNING: Spoiler Alert. If you don’t want to know what happens in the movie, do not read this, or the book of Exodus. Though the book is SO much better than the movie.
Imagine a story line like this: A repressive polytheistic government with a “god-king”. An entire race of people in slavery under this regime. And a slave baby spared from the government dictated infanticide of new born males. That spared baby found as a cast off by the King’s daughter then raised in the King’s palace. Rising to fame, and thinking himself called to deliver his people from their slavery – the now grown man flees in the aftermath of killing one of the oppressors, and hides in the desert where for 40 years he tends sheep.
Then one day, God comes to this man. The God of the people in slavery – back where he came from. And this God tells the man He will use this man to deliver God’s people through a series of miraculous plagues that will bring the oppressors to their knees – in order that this God may be seen and known for who He is, and that the oppressed people are His special chosen race. The final act culminating in the King and his army being vanquished in a miraculous deluge after this God had parted a sea so that His people could go free. And this God is doing all of this as part of keeping His covenant and promises to the progenitor of their race – Abraham.
Now imagine taking that powerful and compelling story line, and reducing it to a cryptic deity doing unexplained things to help some people along in an anachronistic human rights revolution.
Thus is Ridley Scott’s (Prometheus, Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) uneven and boring take on the Exodus of the Jews from Egyptian slavery. Scott, one of my all time favorite directors – didn’t just strike out in this one, he burned the bat, lost the bases, skewed the baselines and dug up the outfield. He seemed bent on trying to do everything he could to take the true and truly compelling Biblical account, and make it into – nothing.
Never mind the fact that many of the sets look like movie sets. The statuary especially is all so pristine and too too perfect. Never mind Ben Kingsley is totally wasted as a created, semi-mystic somebody, named in an apt homophone “Nun”. Never mind that god (appearing as a young boy) never seems to have any real plan or purpose, and gives “Moses” absolutely no information either as to what He is doing or how He wants Moses to accomplish it (contrary to the Biblical account). Never mind Moses is a young, strapping (albeit VERY confused and conflicted) Christian Bale instead of the 80 year old man he was in the Bible. Never mind Sigorney Weaver is wasted as the non-descript and once again fabricated “Tuya”. Never mind a wasted Aaron Paul as a useless and less than marginal Joshua. Never mind Aaron has nothing to do with anything other than looking as bewildered as Moses apparently is. Never mind that Moses never tells Pharaoh anything about God’s demand to let His people go, or that the plagues are directly tied to that demand and Pharaoh’s refusal. Never mind the hysterically posited advisor to the King who to tries to use scientific means to explain the plagues when in fact he would have been steeped in Egyptian religious perspectives and far from trying to rationalize them apart from that context. Never mind that Moses tries to stir up a militant insurgency among the Jews to fight for their freedom – in complete opposition to the Biblical account. Never mind all the anachronistic dialog.
All of those (and myriads more) besides, Scott missed all the good stuff that could have made a great movie from the real account, and opted to simply co-opt the ideas of Jews, Egypt and a guy named Moses with a big water scene – to invent a boring, confused dud.
Do not. DO NOT. DO NOT!!! Take ANY of your concepts of what the Exodus was, meant, or how it occurred from this film. Virtually everything factual, other than a few names, some geography and some events – is missing. In favor of tepid mush, with perhaps a nod to human rights issues and slavery. Beyond that, it is 2 hours and 34 minutes of mind numbing nonsense. For the fact is, apart from understanding God’s redemptive purposes in the Exodus AS HE EXPLAINS THEM in the Bible, it IS all nonsense.
Now having said all of that, you may think I didn’t like anything in the movie, but that is not accurate. Here’s the best of the best from the movie as I saw it. Bearing in mind that I NEVER, NEVER, EVER sleep during a movie (even in something as dreadful as Warhol’s “Empire” which is 8 hours and five minutes of black and white slow motion footage of the Empire State Building – but then again I didn’t watch it all either) – but I nodded off twice in Exodus. It was simply so lame.
What did I like?
Joel Edgerton played a good spoiled brat, moody, skeezy Ramses.
Indira Varma as the High Priestess had a wonderful, ironically humorous line or two.
There was a pretty good battle scene where Moses and Ramses fight side by side at the beginning.
It wasn’t meant to be but John Turturro’s Seti was funny. It was like he knew the role was a joke and so there is a sort of unexpressed smirk underneath every line he gives.
The Frogs and the Red Sea special effects were particularly good.
Maria Valverde was a really cute Zipporah.
Other than that – I felt like I even wasted my money on the popcorn. For even its artery clogging joy couldn’t offset the disappointment.