Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings ★★★

Film #28 of the Star Wars: 40th Anniversary Hunt
Task #17: A sword and sandals film

That was the weirdest take on Moses I've ever seen.

I understand the hate train behind Exodus: Gods and Kings completely. Like 2014's other Biblically-inspired epic Noah, the film does take a huge amount of dramatic license that deviates from its source material, some of which is definitely alienating for many in the faith. God comes to Moses as a little boy (strange), crocodiles slaughtering each other causes the Nile to become bloody, Moses carries a sword instead of a staff (probably because he's played by Batman himself, Christian Bale), and a drought causes the Hebrews to cross the Red Sea rather than a divine parting as depicted in other adaptations, among other bizarre choices for this movie.

So as a Christian, what do I think of this movie? Look, I've seen plenty of bad movies in my life, and if this qualifies as a disaster, I don't think it's THAT horrendous. Sure there's a ton of dramatic liberties taken and some of the changes are indeed far-fetched (mainly, the depiction of God), but at the same time, I don't think it's awful either.

Honestly, what annoys more about this movie is mainly how rushed it feels. Apparently there's a 4-hour cut of this movie somewhere, but was cut down to 2.5 hours for more theater showings.... and it shows. I know many people know the story of Moses whether you're religious or not, but for the few who had never heard of Moses and had their introduction through this adaptation, they wouldn't really care about the stakes. So much compelling narrative that should have been fleshed out was completely rushed simply to get to the cool visual spectacle. There should have been more time focused on Moses' life raised as an Egyptian, his conflict with his raised family after finding out he's really a Hebrew, his relationship with his real family (like his brother Aaron and sister Miriam) and his gradual progression from the prince of Egypt to one of the greatest Jewish leaders recorded in The Bible. This movie really skimmed most of the character development just to get to the cool parts of the story (you know, the burning bush, the ten plagues, the Red Sea). I can't really fault the actors, as they do a fine job in their parts (even if Christian Bale's accent is inconsistent, John Turturro is badly miscast as Moses' adopted father, an they horribly waste the talents of both Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver), but the writing doesn't give them room to make me emotionally invested in what was going on, which is a shame, because movies like The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt both did phenomenal job at pacing the stories where you could get emotionally invested in Moses' journey. This one didn't hit the mark. It's hard to get into the story here when so much Egyptian and Jewish history is quickly rushed just to get to the cool flashy stuff.

Even with all the strange decisions Ridley Scott chose for this adaptation of Moses, I cannot say I despised Exodus: Gods and Kings. The cinematography and visuals are spectacular to say the least and there's solid performances, and I guess the action is fun to watch, but the bad pacing and the rushed character development does harm the film from being the next great big-screen sword and sandals epic, which is very disappointing, as Ridley Scott gave us one of the best in the genre, Gladiator. Maybe if we get a Director's Cut of this film down the line with all the cut scenes restored, I'd likely enjoy the film a little more. I'm not sure if I'd still be on board with the story changes if that does happen, but if Moses had a love triangle between the woman he married and the woman he loved in Egypt in The Ten Commandments, one of the finest films in the sword and scandal genre, then God coming in the form of a little boy could work in film.

Bring us this Director's Cut, Mr. Scott. I'm curious to see if it does improve the narrative like Legend's did...


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