Exodus: Gods and Kings Plot Summary:
A retelling of the biblical story of Moses (Christian Bale), the man who was raised prince of Egypt, but was discovered to be Hebrew, and quickly exiled. Moses struggles with his new identity, and a prophecy where it is foretold he will free his people from slavery.
Exodus: Gods and Kings begins with a bunch of people sitting around an Egyptian palace talking methodically about some impending battle. That’s the movie. All two and half hours of it. It’s ironic that a film with so much controversy turns out to be a boring harmless forgettable cinematic experience, but that’s exactly what Ridley Scott gives us. This film is completely passionless. Even these monumental and epic looking sets look bored to be there. While there’s a few bright spots, I put Exodus into that carbon-freezing chamber category, because when you walk out of the theater, you feel like you just woke up from one. But let’s start with the man himself, Moses, because that’s where a lot of my frustration comes from.
There’s actually a very good foundation of themes and ideas surrounding the Moses character, but it’s completely wasted. I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but I wasn’t even blown away by Christian Bale’s performance. It was solid, don’t get me wrong, but the actor was given scrap metal to work with. The character is totally underwhelming, and he really shouldn’t be. I like this interpretation, in that Moses really struggles to accept his true heritage, but there was so much more that could have been done with this. The one element I do love is they don’t just do a burning bush as the symbol of God. Without spoiling too much, there are actual conversations between him and Moses. These scenes work, and I love that Moses isn’t simply gung-ho about all of God’s plans. There are real arguments and debates taking place, and this is where Bale is given a chance to actually act. But in a movie that is so damn long, these scenes are few and far between. Bale, and the character of Moses himself are completely wasted.
Aside from Moses and God, there are no other characters who stand out whatsoever. Everybody is interchangeable and complete throwaway characters. Aside from one good scene where Nun (Ben Kingsley) reveals who Moses really is, he’s underutilized. There’s no reason for Sigourney Weaver to be here, as her character completely evaporates after the first half. John Turturro is decent, albeit in a small role, but the man who really gets the shaft is Joel Edgerton. Edgerton is an actor I like quite a bit, especially in Warrior and The Great Gatsby, but there isn’t one compelling moment written for him at all as Ramses. The climax of the film is solely dependent on this huge relationship between him and Moses, and that doesn’t come across at all throughout the movie, at least not well.
For as much complaining as I’ve done, the film does pick up in the second half. The sequence of all the plagues is done exceptionally well. All of them are visually appealing, and at least highly entertaining, which this movie sorely lacked. But let’s be honest, unless your director is Brett Ratner, it’s impossible to screw up the plagues.
While the second half is more action heavy, it doesn’t matter. I feel the same way at the end of this movie that I do in a Michael Bay film. I’ve already suffered through such boredom and lackadaisical care for all these characters, the action at the end is just numbing. Ridley Scott tries to make the most epic action scene of all time, but I’m just yawning, and waiting for it to mercifully end. You don’t even get an epic Moses staff moment where he splits the red sea! WTF?! I think I could actually see all the money and production that was spent on this sequence literally wash away in the red sea though.
There’s certainly some good effort put in at times, but this was a pain in the ass to sit through. The pacing is all over the place. It’s either too slow, or too fast, and Moses is barely present for a good chunk of the film, and that’s your best asset. It’s even worse when you compare it to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah from earlier this year. That’s a biblical adaptation that truly does something creative and powerful with its source material. This is just a paint by numbers piece of whatever. Every time I see a Ridley Scott movie these days, it makes it harder and harder for me to remember how legendary a filmmaker he used to be.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (Passable Entertainment)
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.