Ridley Scott directs great movies. He won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2000 for Gladiator, and his films Alien and Blade Runner are science fiction classics.
Scott has a way of offering grand spectacles on the screen and telling sweeping stories with images that stay with the viewer. His latest film, Exodus: Gods and Kings is no different. The images are dazzling. If the images alone made up a film it would be epic. But a movie has to be more than just pictures.
Exodus: Gods and Kings lacks a coherent story. The script falls short of the depth we see in the photography. We’re given grand images but a middling story.
It is the story of the exodus of the Hebrews out of Egypt. The movie begins with the plight of the Hebrews, bound in slavery. We are introduced to Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton), who are not brothers, but bond as though they were.
Ramses is the heir of the throne of Seti (John Turtorro), but like Commodus in Gladiator, Ramses is not worthy of the throne. Unlike Moses, Ramses lacks maturity.
When Seti dies, Ramses discovers that Moses is Hebrew and exiles him. While in exile, Moses meets Jethro (Kevork Malikyan) and Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah (Maria Valverde), whom he marries and settles down with.
One day, Moses is tending Jethro’s sheep and sees some going off to a forbidden mountain. He climbs up after them and has his encounter with God. God informs Moses to go back to Egypt to deliver the Hebrews and take them to Canaan, where they will resettle.
When Moses returns to Egypt, he attempts to bring about the Hebrews’ release through guerilla warfare. This only places more hardship upon the Hebrews. Ramses begins killing one family a day until Moses is turned over to him.
God intervenes and tells Moses to stop, and then begins the series of plagues. The last plague allows the Hebrews to be released and they leave for Canaan.
The problems with this film are many. God is presented as a boy who looks to be about 10. And God has all the tendencies a boy would have. He is petty and vengeful. When the plagues begin it feels as though he is a boy with a magnifying glass, burning an ant hill. God has no wisdom in this presentation.
It appears that the screenwriters wanted to present God as a young god, who had not learned yet the way to be God — as though he has just come on the scene of history and is just learning how to deal with the people he chose. God is a boy because God must grow into becoming the God we know him to be.
The story is under-dramatized and the characters undeveloped. A good example is Sigourney Weaver’s character, Tuya. Who she was in the movie was never clear to me. I came to the conclusion she was Ramses’ mother, but her only focus is her hatred of Moses and her desire to have him killed. Why is not unclear.
Another problem is Christian Bale’s interpretation of Moses. At a press conference, Bale said, “I think the man [Moses] was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life.”
The story confirms his impression. When Moses talks to God, Aaron (Andrew Tarbet) hides to see what Moses was doing. To Aaron, Moses appears to be talking to himself. With God played as a petulant child, it is easy to see how Moses would have to be played as having some mental issues.
I had such great hope for this movie. At seminary, Dr. John I. Durham said the theme of the book of Exodus is, How can the little country God, Yahweh, take on the greatest power in the world, Egypt?
This idea would have been a better movie. But instead what we get are two characters, Moses and Ramses, playing macho head games with each other.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffery Caine and Stephen Zaillian
With: Christian Bale (Moses), Joel Edgerton (Ramses), John Turturro (Seti), Maria Valverde (Zipporah), Sigourney Weaver (Tuya), Ben Kingsley (Nun)