Friday, December 12, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings

The tale of Moses is hardly new ground for Hollywood. Director Ridley Scott's version of the story is a mishmash of disaster porn and drama casting a mostly pale-white cast in the role of Egyptians and their Jewish slaves which, when not not off-putting, is occasionally unintentionally hilarious such as Sigourney Weaver and Joel Edgerton (reminding me of crazy Marlon Brando from The Island of Dr. Moreau) as Egyptian royalty.

Exodus: Gods and Kings isn't a bad film per se. It's competently handled and I actually think it's more successful than last year's similar biblical big-screen epic Noah, but it fails to add anything new to the story to justify it's $140,000,00 cost. The effects are effective but not memorable. And the addition of 3D adds a dimension but is far from enveloping.

The film's most bizarre choice, which may create a backlash within its desired audience, is the decision to cast God in the role of a petulant and impatient child (Isaac Andrews) who forces Moses onto a path and then throws a tantrum when his prophet fails to move quickly enough.

The story is what you would expect. Moses, the adopted brother to the next pharaoh, discovers he is in fact a Jew leading to his banishment from his family and home and eventually adopting the cause of his people and God. There is a little more guerrilla warfare in this version of Moses' story than we've seen before, but of course we also get the CGI plagues which eventually force the hand of Ramses in a struggle that costs both brothers dearly.

Scott and his team know how to design action, various plagues, and disaster sequences which are impressive in their own right. And Scott spares no expense in the climactic Red Sea sequence, although some of that cash could have been spent fleshing out the characters a bit more. Despite not really fitting the role, Bale is able to carry the film through its rougher patches, but I wanted far more of MarĂ­a Valverde in the role of Moses' wife Zipporah who brightens every frame in which she appears.

I found Edgerton's crazed version of Ramses both unsympathetic and ridiculous, making it hard to take the character seriously especially as he began ignoring the truth of Moses' words (he's more clown than king). Moses' unwillingness to fully accept his role through more than 80% of the film doesn't make him all that more sympathetic than his brother (especially when he's whining to an invisible child) and despite his goal of freeing slaves the movie makes it far more difficult to root for the man than it needs to.

I don't see this replacing The Ten Commandments on network television come Easter and I'd probably rank it behind 1998's The Prince of Egypt in overall effectiveness at retelling a story nearly every member of the audience will known going in. That said, for those who can get over its rougher edges and the petulant child god, there is skill and effort in several pieces of the movie which can be appreciated even if the overall combined result doesn't fit together just right.

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