Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Film Review: Exodus - Gods and Kings



Holy moses Batman!

Ridley Scott, director of Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, is back with another historical epic in Exodus: Gods and Kings. It sees Christian Bale play Moses, a prince/shepherd tasked by God with freeing the Hebrew people from their Egyptian slave-drivers and their tyrannical king, Rameses (Joel Edgerton).


Adapted from the Bible book of the same name, Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings is a lavish yet bloated film that's only saving grace is its impressive visuals. Not even a talented cast that includes Christian Bale, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Paul can save this farce from being consigned to the pages of history faster than you can say "Let my people go".

The film sees Moses (Bale) and Rameses (Edgerton) go from childhood friends to mortal enemies - exiled from his role as advisor for his Hebrew parentage, Moses is tasked by God with leading his people from the clutches of Egypt by any means necessary. Blah, blah, blah ten plagues, blah blah blah the Red Sea - you know the drill, you probably saw The Prince of Egypt from Dreamworks.

Anyway, Scott's vision of the Bible is one that doesn't strike any fear or awe into the audience. Sure, the city of Memphis and the CGI looks good, but I'm talking about the mythical elements of the story. Much like Darren Aronofsky's work on Noah earlier in the year, Scott's version of this tale plays it straight, rather than taking full advantage of the majesty or wonderment on offer.

Essentially, the problem with Exodus isn't that it's drab (the visuals certainly do pack a punch), it's that the whole affair is so...boring. The film is just so long (with the runtime knocking on for 2.5 hours) and it simply isn't very exciting or impactful. I didn't exactly see a late showing, but could still feel my eyelids getting heavy about 2/3rds of the way through. Not a good sign.

On top of that, it suffers from a common complaint from Scott's previous work on Robin Hood and Kingdom of Heaven - it's way too serious. Every scene is acted out with the same po-faced expressions and sombreness. Where is the emotion, or dare I say, fun?

The plot is also very stop-start. In some ways, it feels like three different movies - the first being a Game of Thrones-style family melodrama with political manoeuvring and scandal, the second being a war film against the backdrop of revolution and social uprising, and the third being a Emmerich-style disaster movie with locusts and flies in place of gigantic hurricanes. The transition between these sections is grinding, and the conclusion (where Moses and Rameses charge toward one another as the Red Sea bears down on top of them) is equally as forced.

Racial casting controversy aside (I'm going to save that gem for another day), some of the choices simply don't work. Christian Bale as Moses is fine, but John Turturro as a pharaoh? John Turturro, the same man who once uttered the infamous line "I'm directly below the enemy scrotum" hamming it up as the wise and regal ruler of Ancient Egypt? I couldn't get past how ridiculous and out of place he looked whenever he was on screen.

Joel Edgerton isn't any special as Rameses, neither charismatic nor overtly detestable. The film sells itself as a clash of two brothers torn apart, but the two rarely share screentime where we can see this conflict play out. Bale isn't even phoning it in, he's pretty much sleep-walking through it.

Furthermore, how poorly underused was Sigourney Weaver? I mean, I know the plot isn't about her - it's about Moses and Rameses - but what happened to her?! One minute she's there, utters a couple of lines about how much she hates Moses, and then she buggers off for the rest of the film. Did she die? Where did her character go!? The worst part is, the trailers make her character seem significant or integral. Don't be fooled - she really isn't, and barely registers at all during the second half of the film.

Aaron Paul is also present, but you wouldn't know it from the complete lack of dialogue or action his character is afforded. Seriously, he doesn't do anything. Like, ever. Other than hide behind bushes gawping at Moses having conversations with God. Why bother hiring an amazingly talented actor of Aaron Paul's calibre only to waste it? The same goes for Ben Kingsley and Ben Mendelsohn.

All in all, my expectations for Exodus were quashed . Ridley Scott's track record isn't exactly flawless, but I still expected something fun to munch popcorn to. Instead, Exodus: Gods and Kings is a jumbled mess that is neither impactful nor entertaining.

The Verdict: 3/10


Exodus: Gods and Kings is a long, dull affair that lacks heart or a rigid structure. Bale doesn't entirely convince as the charismatic leader Moses, whilst Edgerton looks ridiculous. It's only saving grace is a brief interlude where any inclination of Biblical mysticism starts to creep through and Scott unleashes the ten plagues upon Egypt. That aside, Exodus doesn't have too much going for it.

9 comments:

  1. Really? That's all Aaron Paul does? Wtf were they thinking? As much as I love the cast, I'm going to skip this one. Nice review!

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    1. Yeah Aaron Paul does get a little shoutout as Joshua, but within the framework of the film he could basically not be there and it would play 100% the same.

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    2. Pretty much, yeah. They give his character such an interesting and frankly intriguing intro ("they say he feels no pain!") and it leads...nowhere. Ever. Like, Moses mentions it once later in the film, but his character has no impact on the film either way. He literally could have not been there and it would've made no difference.

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  2. I was torn when I saw the trailer, I thought 'this is either going to be amazing, or awful, no middle ground' and it seems you've confirmed my prediction!
    - Allie

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    1. Haha, yep! Sorry to break it to you ;) It started out pretty well, but lost its way fairly quick. Thanks for commenting :)

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  3. Pretty much right there with you, Rhys. This thing was a dud. And hell, even the spectacle scenes did nothing for me, personally. Blah. :P

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    1. Hooray for agreement! :) Although, I don't think there'll be many people that are split over this one. Thanks for commenting Chris :)

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  4. Every time I read a review that's way less favorable than mine was I rethink the whole thing lol. I do agree that the movie was a little lackluster, but I think I might be skewed in liking the movie for seeing how the whole religious factor translates. They should've trimmed a little of the political nonsense in the beginning and a little more of the militaristic feel of the thing in favor of some character development. Prince of Egypt ftw.

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    1. I think the real fault with Exodus is the complete dulling down of the magical, supernatural religious aspects of the film. That scene with the burning bush was completely wasted if you ask me. The more I think about it, the more I think that I wasted my time. Thanks for commenting Annie!

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