Moses (Christian Bale) and Rameses (Joel Edgerton) were raised as cousins in Egypt, but when the truth is discovered about Moses’ heritage, there begins a struggle between the Hebrew slaves and the reign of Egypt, which leads the two friends to become enemies.
What is it about the Old Testament recently? In the last 12 months we have had Noah’s tale re-told on the big screen, and now Ridley Scott takes on the tale told by Cecil B. DeMille in The Ten Commandments. Sure, the Bible has a wealth of tales, many of them epic, but is there anything new to be said in adapting these ancient tales.
The cast is made up of Christian Bale as Moses, Joel Edgerton as Rameses, John Turturro as Seti, Aaron Paul as Joshua, Ben Mendelsohn as Viceroy Hegep, Sigourney Weaver as Tuya and Ben Kingsley as Nun. Each actors does fine with the job they are given – although Sigourney Weaver is criminally underused – there are problems with the performances, but these are largely due to the characters being vastly underwritten.
Screenwriters Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian have adapted this Bible tale for the screen, and have attempted to make Moses are more sceptical and relatable character. That’s all well and good until this sceptic starts talking to a burning bush, then it seems that all hope is lost. The characters are incredibly thin and under developed, with many of them just using to one character trait and sticking with it. As well as this, the story is so drawn out that the whole affair becomes rather boring. Not only does it take an hour before any bushes burn, but everything is talked about over and over again, so when the set pieces do kick in – and they do – it’s often difficult to remember who’s fighting for what.
As director, Ridley Scott creates the world with the same grand and epic feel that we would expect from the director, but the 3D darkens everything so much that it is often difficult to see the beauty of the cinematography and sets as they become lost in shadow. As well as this, the pacing is a mess and, as mentioned, the characters are so thinly drawn that it is difficult to side with anyone. Oh, and Edgerton’s scene holding a dead baby is farcical.
In all, Exodus: Gods and Kings is based on an epic and harrowing struggle, but little of this is actually portrayed on screen. The Bible stories have been imagined by readers time and again, and it is perhaps the difference between imagination and what is seen on screen that is part of the problem. The rest, of course, is trouble caused by an underwritten script, thin characters, bad pacing and terrible 3D. If you’re looking for a film about how much conflict religion causes, perhaps best to watch the documentary Holy Wars. Everything is implied here and the pieces thrown into the air, but they never truly land.