EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS
A pathetic, uninspiring, and boring film with a lousy finish.
Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds
Pseudo-Religious Dramatic Re-telling
Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, and Steven Zaillian. Produced by Peter Cherin, Mark Huffam, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott, and Jenno Topping. Produced in Egypt by Mohamed El Raie. Executive produced in Egypt by Hisham Soliman. Assistant producer in Egypt, Mirel Soliman. Associate produced by Teresa Kelly. Co-producer Adam Somner. Line producer Sebastián Alvarez.
Starring: Christian Bale (as Moses), Joel Edgerton (as Ramses), John Turturro (as Ramses' father, Pharaoh Seti), Aaron Paul (as Joshua), Ben Mendelsohn (as Viceroy Hegep), Maria Valverde (as Zipporah), Sigourney Weaver (as wife of Pharaoh Seti, and mother of Ramses, Tuya), Ben Kingsley (as Heprew slave, Nun), Hiam Abbass (as Bithia), Isaac Andrews (as Malak), Ewen Bremner (as Expert), Indira Varma (as High Priestess), and a host of others.
Everyone involved in giving the "green light" to and the production of "Exodus: Gods and Kings" should be ashamed, including director Ridley Scott and writing team of Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrehy Caine, and Steven Zaillian. If you go to this film expecting to see the stewardship and boldness of Moses leading his flock as he parts the Red Sea forget about it. Instead, expect to see a wimpy and disillusioned Moses as portrayed by former "Batman," Christian Bale. Remarkably, the Academy Award® winning Best Visual Effects (John P. Fulton, A.S.C.) in the 1956 "The Ten Commandments" are clearly superior to the uneventful special effects in this 2014 "re-imagined" pseudo-epic. What a complete waste of time. What a complete waste of time. What a complete waste of time. "Noah (2014)" should hold the title as the worst film of 2014, but instead, "Noah" must share this distinction with "Exodus: Gods and Kings."
Look at the image below of Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea from the 1956 film, "The Ten Commandents" (click the image to watch the video). This image conveys the wonderment and strength of one's religious belief; an individual's confidence that God's power will set his people free, keep enemies at bay, and enable the "chosen people" to do God's will. This is a regal image, an iconic image of steadfast religious belief. It's an iconic image of how the "Hollywood" studio system produced astonishingly well-made films. Most importantly, "special effects" did not drive the storyline; on no, to this very day, it was the scripts and the performances of capable actors that compelled us to watch these "Hollywood" epics.
There's absolutely nothing epic, or exceptional, or inspiring about this film. "Exodus" is just dumb, and pretentious. It's stupid to "re-imagine" a film if you can't make it as good or better than the original. Cecil B. DeMille understood this simple concept, as clearly demonstrated in the production and direction of his legendary "The Ten Commandents," which was the highest-grossing film of 1956 and the second most successful film of the decade - and a re-make of his original 1923 silent film epic, "The Ten Commandments," also a major box-office hit upon its release. To review DeMille's 1923 version of the parting of the Red Sea, click here; again, to view the 1956 version, click here. We should rightfully expect much better "special effects" in the 2014 film; unfortunately, you should ignore the false advertising of the poster at left, because the parting of the Red Sea was not a miraculous spectacle in "Exodus: Gods and Kings." But what about the story?
Note the inclusion of the supporting cast
Unlike the 1956 film, "Exodus" provides very little setup or back story. Eventually, we discover that to prevent a prophecy, Pharaoh Rameses ordered the death of all firstborn Hebrew males, but "somehow" one lucky Hebrew infant male was set adrift on the Nile and discovered by the Pharaoh's daughter, who had had no children of her own, and decided to adopt the boy as her own, never revealing the child's Hebrew heritage to anyone. The child, now named Moses, grew to become accepted as a true prince of Egypt, an adept military leader, and considered as an equal "brother" to Pharaoh's natural son, Ramses.
This brings us to the center of our story, the conflict between Moses and Ramses. The 1956 film (see poster at left) presented these brothers and actors as equals, but the 2014 film did not. Christian Bale is clearly the "name above the title" movie star featured in this film, because Joel (who you've never heard of) Edgerton as Ramses is NOT featured in equal status in the promotional advertising (see poster at right) or with the on-screen time allotted to his character in the film.
Note the exclusion of the supporting cast
In the 1956 film, there's a discernible on-screen conflict between Heston's Moses and Brynner's Rameses. These men held strong personal convictions and the body language used by Heston and Brynner conveyed such. Conversely, the script for "Exodus" only establishes a perfunctory relationship between Moses and Rameses, and there's absolutely no on-screen chemistry between Christian Bale's Moses and Joel Edgerton's Ramses (different spelling this time out). Frankly, it would have been better to cast Academy Award® winning actor Nicholas Cage as Ramses, because Cage would bring the intellectual and physical stature (emotional content or "edge") equivalent to Bale's Moses.
This film is supposed to be an epic, a blockbuster, which means it should also have an exceptional supporting cast. The 1956 epic featured many of the best leading and supporting actors of the day, including Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, John Derek, Cedric Hardwicke, Vincent Price, and John Carradine. Conversely, "Exodus" is mediocre in this regard, which is a shame because John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and other featured players are extremely talented actors and have consistently demonstrated their acting proficienies in projects far more demanding and complex than "Exodus." Frankly, to save time and money, all of the supporting roles should have been realized as computer-generated CGI characters. After all, who needs "real actors" when CGI characters work so seamlessly for Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" film franchises; so CGI characters would have worked in this pseudo-epic as well.
From a religious perspective, the film should manifest the conflict between the one-true God of the Hebrews verses the God-King, Ramses. Unfortunately, in "Exodus," Moses doesn't speak to God directly; oh no, instead, Moses gets his "vision" and "inspirations" by speaking to a know-it-all pre-teenage boy with an English accent. Stop laughing.
"Exodus" is a dark and gloomy film. Perhaps, the producers and director thought it better to remove aspects of the previous versions that appear as religious fantasy (Moses turning his staff into a cobra, etc.) and replace such events with the pseudo-realism of Moses appearing as a schizophrenic madman with brooding encounters with a know-it-all pre-teenage boy with an English accent. Again, stop laughing.
Bale has consistently been an excellent actor, as he demonstrated at 13 years of age starring in Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun (1987)," but "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is not about one actor; it's an ensemble work that's best delivered by a supporting cast of actors (there's no "i" in team). The best thing about this film is the final credit crawl that began after nearly 150 minutes. Film is genré specific, of course predictable, and unnecessarily long. Direction by Ridley Scott is perfunctory, and his attempt to make film into a pseudo-epic is a complete failure. Editing by Billy Rich is sharp, but film should have been trimmed from 150 minutes to 90 minutes to make film less laborious to watch.
Recommendation: Don't waste your time with "Exodus: Gods and Kings." There's nothing memorable here. Instead, purchase the 50th Anniversary Collection of Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" which also includes the epic 1923 silent film (with its much larger production scale that included hundreds and hundreds of real horses and actors, actual sets, and no CGI). As Yul Brynner's Rameses said in the 1956 epic, "So let it be written. So let it be done!"