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December 25, 2014 1:49 am

Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

avatar by Jason Stack / JNS.org

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Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings. Photo: Screenshot.

JNS.org The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations.

Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses (Christian Bale) saves the life of his adoptive brother Ramses (Joel Edgerton) during a battle with a Hittite army, recalling an earlier prophecy that the skeptic Moses laughed off. He learns of his lineage from Nun (Sir Ben Kingsley), which leads to his exile by the now-Pharaoh Ramses II. During this nine-year exile, Moses has a child with Zipporah (Maria Valverde) and climbs a forbidden mountain—only to hit his head, see a burning bush, and get a request from a child messenger of God. Moses’s return to Memphis (Lower Egypt’s capital, not the hometown of Elvis) and demand for Ramses to pay the slaves or let them go leads to guerrilla warfare, hangings and arson by Ramses, and the Ten (Attempted To Be Rationally Explained) Plagues from God. Ramses relents and Moses gets the freed slaves to safety across the gradually receding Red Sea before a tsunami of epic proportions fills the sea—rather than the sea being parted.

There’s nothing to spoil about a film like “Exodus.” It’s in the same camp as Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah.” The plots of both films have been in the public consciousness for centuries, so there’s little that reinvention or “fresh” adaptations can accomplish. Instead, “Exodus” yields an awkward experiment with trying to rationalize supernatural biblical events like the burning bush, the messenger, the plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea. The bush and the messenger are treated throughout the film as psychosis from Moses’s head injury, an advisor to Pharaoh works to connect six of the 10 plagues, and the sea-level changes are attributed to an underwater earthquake (inspired by a similar real-life incident, according to Scott).

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The film itself is full of holes and missed opportunities in its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Characters go unnamed, Moses’s speech impediment from the Midrash is left out, and the talents of big-name actors Sir Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, John Turturro, and Aaron Paul are wasted. And that doesn’t even touch upon Scott’s controversial decision to cast white actors to play Middle Eastern and North African biblical figures, which garnered talk of boycotting the film late last summer, or the inconsistent accents.

“Exodus” is a competent film with epic intentions and scale, but doesn’t live up to its potential. The practical side of depicting the biblical story shows in the costumes and sets, but that gets overshadowed by the CGI (computer-generated imagery) armies, animals, and tsunami. The at-times bombastic choral film score of composer Alberto Iglesias is fitting, but doesn’t do anything to stand out from similar scores. As for the acting, there are unfortunately no standouts—even from the Welsh and Australian leading men (Bale and Edgerton).

Like others before it in recent years, Scott’s attempt to bring the biblical epic back to the big screen falls flat. If Passover comes and you’re looking for a filmic version of the story of Exodus to watch, I’d go as far as recommending “The Prince of Egypt” and leaving “Exodus: Gods and Kings” to flounder in the Red Sea.

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  • Vinacoro

    Time is much older than this stupid story full of lies and mythology, made on Bronze Age.
    My dear “journalist”.
    XD

  • Mex Seiko

    They must’ve confused “literary license” with “license to kill” because killing the essence of the narrative is what they did. But these are secular, even Atheists taking G*d’s, which is sensational, and sensationalizing it but exchanging the truth for the humanistic rudiments of this world.

    I am disappointed at the lack of respect Christian Bale shows for the faith of the people he represents in the movie.

  • Tess

    As the atheists,deniers and leftists try to construe and concoct “reasonable explanations” to Gods power,they look like silly fools and therefore just confirm even more the greatness of our almighty God.

  • Ola

    It is un-excusable to thwart the Biblical story of Exodus like that.

  • Jan

    All movies are romance, in the orginal meaning of the word – how can anyone capture events in 2.5hrs without leaving out half the truth? (And half truth is whole lie) If you are looking for truthful depiction you might try a documentary, though I have my doubts about some documentaries, and always double check the source. The problem is just why so many think that movies (by definition entertainment) should depict reality of any sort! In movies I prefer total fantasy, not messing with history. Most movies about historical events are not useful.

  • I liked it. You have to understand, Hollywood is so left of center that this film is seen there as a gateway to Judeo-Christian thought. I liked the kid that portrayed GOD in this movie, showing how GOD is unadulterated and decisive, untarnished by age (he’s played by an 8 year old boy). The attempt of making the plagues seem scientifically plausible was also useful in explaining why Ramses was so stubborn. Its not perfect, but its really entertaining. Scott captured the geography of the Sinai, and Egypt. Give him a break. He supports the Judeo-Christian cause. Maybe a sea change is happening in Hollywood. In my support of the attempt to support GOD on screen on a grand scale, its my favorite movie of the year. And it has a happy ending, unlike many of the downers that are going to win the awards this year.

  • I enjoyed the film. WORTH SEEING. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

    • Julian Tepper

      I could not disagree more.

      JULIAN TEPPER
      Brooklyn, NY

  • Julian Clovelley

    Can’t wait for the musical version.

    It’s a bit of cheeky but maybe, after paying their fellow writers’ Estates a fee, they could call it “Climb Every Mountain, Moses”.

    Here in Australia we have special screenings of “The Sound of Music” where the audience dresses as nuns and sings along – Any suggestions as to how to dress to join in for “Moses – The Musical”?

    We could get Andrew Lloyd Webber on to this. He did a great job with “Joseph,” and “JC Superstar”

    Definitely time to lighten up with the Bible stories. Freedom is about joy in living.

    • Ola

      Keep waiting

  • Michael

    Opportunity squandered. Another Hollywood formula flick rip off where authenticity is sacrificed to play to the dumbing down of western civilization and the movie’s financial interests and investors.

  • lanre

    The film is a hell of misinformation and a first class world cheating. A shameful act.

    • Ola

      Amen to that; great mis-information !

  • In that case, no need to waste money to see it!

  • Bob Strum

    THE FILM ALSO FAILS TO POINT OUT RECENT MUSLIM TEACHINGS THAT MOSES WAS A MUSLIM. THERE WERE NO HEBREW SLAVES. THEY TOO WERE MUSLIMS

    HOW CAN SUCH A MALICIOUS FALSIFICATION OF THE TRUTH BE PORTRAYED ON THE SCREEN!

    IT I A LIE THAT MUST BE BANNED.

    THE ONLY REAL BURNING BUSH WAS WHEN GEORGE W. BURNT HIS HAND ON THE BARBECUE

    • michael

      Moses was a muslim ?? How could he be a muslim when he lived 2000 years before mohamed – please don’t rewrite history to match your distorted religious beliefs

      • Perfectly said! Where do these people get off, and who teaches them to think and say what they do? You gotta wonder….

      • pxfragonard

        I think he’s being sarcastic.

    • Julian Tepper

      Bob, get a guitar.

      Julian Tepper
      Brooklyn, NY

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