Following fast on the heels of other recent spiritual/faith-based movies such as ‘Noah’, ‘God is not Dead’ and ‘Heaven is for Real’, ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ is the most ambitious with a $140m budget but in my view the least successful of them.
Directed by Sir Ridley Scott (best known for ‘Alien’ ‘Blade Runner’ & ‘Gladiator’) the film starts with Moses (a less than convincing Christian Bale) being a full adult, a member of Pharaoh Rameses’ (Joel Edgerton) family and an Army General none the less, armed with sword. Moses fights the Hittites and in the battle saves the life of Rameses who at that stage he thinks is his Brother.
Now I am sure we all know well the story of Exodus (Moses learns that not only is he not a Brother of the Egyptian leader but is a Hebrew saved by his Mother, Moses is expelled by Rameses who then gets married, God communes with him to set the Hebrew people free, the ten plagues then arrive when Rameses refuses, there is much death and destruction and Moses leads his people across the Red Sea to liberty where God hands down The Ten Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant).
It is fair to say that ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ plays fast and loose with the biblical text in a number of important respects which may irritate- Moses is shown initially as an Army General with sword (and not staff), his encounters with God are given a ‘make over’ in that whilst there is a burning bush, from Moses point of view he is talking to God as a 10 year old boy but to an onlooker the impression is given that in fact Moses is talking to nobody- I suspect this is to appeal to both religious and atheist audiences but this sitting on a fence does not work .
Equally a ‘natural’ explanation for the parting of the Red Sea is suggested which although incredibly impressive to watch seems too convenient for the film makers.
That said, the film is substantive as it runs for 150 minutes, the photography of Egypt and its architecture, the exodus itself and the desert are sublime and it is a feast on the eyes- be warned though the plagues as filmed are very gory and not easy to watch.
In essence, I think Ridley Scott has made the wrong film as it is dedicated to his brother and fellow film maker Tony Scott who killed himself recently and it is really less about the story of the Exodus but about the bond between two ‘Brothers’. I would still say that the films does work in the sense that modern audiences who may have little knowledge of the Exodus story, of Moses and God will at least come face to face with some of the biblical story and any encounter with the faith story has to be good but the film is only a partial success.