Another biblical film is upon us. And whether or not you liked Noah, released earlier this year to very mixed reviews, you might also have your qualms about Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. Not only were his cast choices questionable (many outlets covered this topic for months)–and not because the cast isn’t qualified as actors, but rather because of its lack of diversity in a story that takes place in Egypt–but after seeing the completed film, I can safely say that the casting is only really part of the problem in a film that’s inflated with an air of epic proportions, but never fully realizes it. The end result is the audience sitting through two and a half hours of practical nothingness and lack of passion within the actual story.
Films like these are especially hard to write about. There are always people who will get upset, perhaps about the story itself and whether the facts of the story are true, but for the sake of this review and for avoiding argument, I will just be focused on the story itself and how this story takes shape within the scope of the film and not anything else surrounding it. To start with some credit, Ridley Scott is a very competent director. He’s given us Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and Body of Lies, among other hits (and sometimes misses). So, he isn’t a stranger to these kinds of stories, nor does he shy away from them.
So it’s really a shame to be a downer, but the film is borderline awful and very, very hard to sit through. Scott sticks strictly to the story of Moses, leaving in all the major points about the events which take place within the long-told tale. And it’s here, as a storyteller, that Scott skips several beats. In just sticking to these points, everything else is shot to hell, making the story seem more like the Charlton Heston epic The Ten Commandments (obviously about the same thing).
There are no keen developments of character personalities, no true relationship ties, no reason to stand behind, like, or hate any of these people. Simply put, they’re all two-dimensional and more than a little boring. There are some good lines in the film said by these characters, but they’re never expanded on or brought to any attention for risk of being anything but subtle.
Rhamses (Joel Edgerton) is ultimately the stereotyped bad guy with only a few hints as to why, but his outright hatred and actions don’t seem to fit completely. Christian Bale’s portrayal of Moses is most definitely not up to par with every other character he’s played in the past. We don’t understand his sudden shift, why a man who comes from royalty and from what’s essentially a good childhood to become so vengeful. Sure, there’s the “his people are slaves” part, but it comes off too easy an explanation for his sudden change and some of his actions are just as bad as what Rhamses does.
Sigourney Weaver’s character is in the film all of ten minutes and only has a few lines to say. She’s easily forgettable and her character in the scheme of things doesn’t feel like she belongs since a lot of what happened between Moses and Rhamses as children is never shown, but only told, resulting in having her role rendered pretty useless.
Ironically, Scott can be construed as challenging monotheism in a film about a famous biblical story, but this is all how you see the film. From an artistic perspective, there’s nothing wowing about it. The fight scenes are dull, the drama contrived, the romance between Moses and his wife (María Valverde) dry and unconvincing. Even the CGI will start to get on your nerves, with the only saving grace being the Egyptian columns and depictions of their architecture here and there.
Suffice to say that Exodus has gotten negativity thrown its way long before hitting theaters, and unfortunately the movie itself doesn’t save it from an ugly fate. Artistically and technically speaking, the film is lacking in every factor. In regards to the story, the fact that it’s too literal might be a part of its own downfall. Tedious, tiresome to watch, and lacking any passion for character and story, Ridley Scott unfortunately doesn’t give us one of his best.