Image Source: Wikipedia (Copyright: 20th Century Fox, the film publisher or graphic artist.)
Written By: Luke Mythen
Distributors: 20th Century Fox
Production Companies: Chernin Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Babieka and Volcano Films
Director: Ridley Scott
Producers: Peter Chernin, Ridley Scott, Jenno Topping, Michael Schaefer and Mark Huffam
Scriptwriters: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian
Main Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Sigourney Weaver and Sir Ben Kingsley
Released: December 12 2014 (US) and December 26 2014 (UK)
Running Time: 150 Minutes
For a number of years now, I have become less excited each time I hear that Ridley Scott (Alien, 1979; Blade Runner, 1982) is directing a new feature film. His last couple of films have been average at best; for example, Prometheus (2012) had so much promise, and was a film I had been looking forward to as a massive Alien fan. However, it did not live up to expectations; it was not a bad film, but it wasn’t a particularly good one either. I was also let down by Robin Hood (2010), amongst his other recent works.
Which brings us onto his new film, Exodus: Gods and Kings. I felt this was a very cheesy title, probably given to draw in crowds since a film about Moses, God and the Ten Commandments probably wouldn’t be too popular with the average modern-day movie goer. This film is a remake/modern adaptation of the 1958 film ‘The Ten Commandments’ (Cecil. B DeMille), which starred Charles Heston as Moses. This time around, it is Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, American Hustle) as Moses. Originally, he was wanted as Noah for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014), but ultimately filming schedules clashed and he opted for this biblical epic instead.
To begin with, the casting in this film is a little erratic. The leads are played brilliantly by Bale and Edgerton (Warrior), as you would expect from such experienced actors. However, the performances of the supporting cast are very forgettable, and this includes Sir Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island, Iron Man 3). This is partly down to the script favouring action over story, in my opinion, which in the case of Kingsley just doesn’t do an actor of his ability any good.
Casting has been heavily criticised for this film. I won’t go too much into racial politics and so on, but the idea that all the main characters are played by white American or British actors and that all the slaves were played by black American actors made me feel very uncomfortable. I understand that at the time slavery did exist, but it seems like the movie is trying to hammer this point home, which is slightly unsettling. Ridley Scott has claimed that this film would not be financially viable without white actors, which has led to discussions of whitewashing and structural racism in Hollywood … but we’ll move on.
At 150 minutes, the running time is fine; I didn’t feel the need to keep checking my watch to see how much time had passed. That being said, one could tell that it had been 150 minutes long. The opening scenes are fast-paced and introduce the characters really well. But then the movie becomes less enjoyable: the middle section is really boring and easy to forget, despite being pivotal to the narrative, to the point where I just couldn’t find myself caring about the characters at this point. And some scenes are simply not effective or progress too quickly. For instance, at one point in the film years pass by, and it isn’t explained very well at all. One minute, Moses is meeting a young woman for the first time and flirting with her, but then in the next scene they are married, and just as quickly they then they have a child. I understand about moving the film along, but maybe it would have been a little more interesting to show their love a bit more? Not only was this rushed, but when he leaves to help his people, you should care that he is leaving his family behind, but because of the rushed nature of the marriage and parenthood, I really didn’t care at all. I knew her for fifteen minutes and then she was gone again. How am I meant to feel an attachment to a lady in fifteen minutes?
On-screen, I mean?
The film does pick up steam as it heads towards its climax, as the two lead actors come together again. The plagues of Egypt form the highlight of the movie, in my opinion; on the whole, they are done really well, and whilst some were more disgusting than others, they all make an impact in their own way. That being said, the plagues are done fairly quickly so they perhaps does not hit the audience emotionally in the way that they should. A key problem I do have about this film is when we see the parting of the Red Sea by Moses. Now, I am a believer in Christianity and God, but I am a little skeptical on whether Moses really did part the sea. But in this film, I was still hoping to see an incredible CGI effect for this moment that would look fantastic on the big screen, which would make me sit back and go “Wow!” But it didn’t happen. The way that this was handled was really dull and disappointing and, if I hadn’t already read the story of Moses, the chances are that you wouldn’t have even noticed it happening. It looked more like the tide went in and then just came back again a couple of hours later, so this was a big let-down.
To be fair, the CGI is actually really good in this movie. I believed everything that I saw; everything seemed to look realistic enough. I am not generally a fan of 3D films; I feel they are a waste of money and, even when a film is shot in 3D, I still don’t feel the benefit of them. Besides, they give me a headache. So, if you do go to see Exodus, don’t watch it in 3D!
To conclude, the best thing I can say about Exodus: Gods and Kings is that it has been hard to write this review, but only because I had forgotten most of what happened. It does not stand out for me as a 3D film, an action film or a drama. It tries too hard to do one thing that it forgets the basic elements of an interesting story and script. The story of Moses is really interesting; unfortunately, this film’s adaptation of it is not.