Exodus: Gods and Kings
Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Hiam Abbass, Indira Varma, and more.
Directed by: Ridley Scott Written by: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, and Steven Zaillian Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolski Music by: Alberto Iglesias
Premise: Moses and Ramses are cousins raised together as brothers in the thriving city of Memphis. Though Ramses is the heir, between the whispers from his mother, his father's dotting affections for Moses, and a prophecy before a battle with the Hittites, he feels insecure of his future. So when a grovelling official tells him a story brought to him by some Hebrew slaves, Ramses pushes to discover if the tales of Moses being Hebrew are true. Though disbelieving of the story himself, Moses learns much about the Hebrew people after he is exiled. And due to events, he comes back to Memphis nine years later to demand the freedom of the Israelites in Egypt from Pharaoh. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Thumbs Up: Though the film had a great line up of actors and they did good to great work, they didn't feel well used. Sigourney Weaver's presence just about explodes on the screen during Ramses' coronation, but aside from a few lines and some telling stares, they did little with her talents. Ben Kingsley suffered a similar fate, though he did get more screen time.
Joel Edgerton did do a great job as Ramses - his jealousies, insecurities, and begrudging love were very easy to see. Christian Bale does a good job with what he's given, but the dilution of Moses' character with the direction they took the film didn't push or demand of him the presence and command that Moses would have had to have as the leader of the Israelites. You see it in his youth as the general in Seti's army, but aside from a few moments at the beach side...
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The recreations of Egypt by sets and CGI were fantastic. There were definitely times when you couldn't tell the difference. The shots of the city in the day, at night, on fire - just gorgeous. The mining area too was impressive in its scope.
The plagues were well done. You really felt sorry for everyone in Memphis who had to go through that nastiness. Seeing the nile and all the waterways turned red as far as the eye could see was a view to behold. Yet of all of them, it was the night the children died that was the most subtle and most impressive - the curtain of darkness snuffing out the light, literally and figuratively, spoke volumes.
The one spot I expected to be the most impressed at, however, I wasn't. The parting of the Red Sea wasn't so much a parting than a pulling back from shore, so it lost a lot of impact despite the fact we did get a giant wave. And the burning bush? Not sure why they bothered...The black mud was more impressive. :(
Strangely, with the current technology and CGI capabilities, you'd have expected the movie to exploit that to make the plagues more fantastic, but as you'll see in the next section, the direction taken by the script, pushed everything in the opposite direction.
3) Plot/Story - Neutral: Most people know the story of Moses, so movie watchers would have some expectations as to what is to come. Those who are of the Faith know even more on the details of the story. So while a lot of things were correct, a lot of others weren't. And some of the change choices did not help, but rather hurt the film. The biggest being the relationship between Moses and God. God bids him to check on his people and set them free, yet does not have him warn the Pharaoh or even tell Moses before unleashing the plagues. Only the last one were either of them told of before hand. Moses as a character never seemed to believe in the choices he made. The charisma and presence that made Moses a great general and leader for the Egyptians was almost completely absent when he returned to Egypt. Moses had no fire burning in him - and therefore neither did the audience.
Most of the secondary characters we do not get to know (except the viceroy), some thrown in without even an introduction, making the viewers feel lost. This was especially true during the scene where Ramses tries to get the truth from the maid - you thought maybe Sigourney Weaver might be Ramses' mother, but the other woman it took a while to realize was the dead Pharaoh's sister and by then, it didn't matter. If it was filmed, such things looked to have been lost to the editing floor. More's the pity.
The confrontation between the wizards of Egypt and the power of God didn't make it on the film. If anything, despite the bits here and there screaming of a force bypassing the normal laws of nature, everything was made to look as if it could have happened on its own, just on a grander scale. This screamed out the loudest during the parting (really more of a drawing back) of the Red Sea. Almost as if the writers couldn't make up their minds as to which approach to take and in so doing spoiled the whole thing.
And speaking of making things more scientifically feasible - giant wave falling/crashing dead on you at the edge equals death. Definitely - death.
And why did they decide to give God a British accent?!?!?!?
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: The clashing of two armies, chariots, swords, chaos - lots of lovely stunt work. The volleys of arrows coming down on the Hittites and watching them strike was a sight to behold.
5) Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: An epic tale deserves epic views and the film had plenty of them. From the pull back view shots of Seti's palace, to the grand view of Memphis, there were many awesome sights to be enjoyed. (Though I will say some of the statues were way bigger than standard Egyptian ones - so they looked odd.) The shots of the mountains and deserts as well as the migration of four hundred thousand Israelites were fun to see - the scope was mind boggling.
6) Costuming/Makeup - Total Thumbs Up: They may have skimped on story and a few miracles, but on makeup and costuming they went all the way and more. Ramses' armor for the war with the Hittites was fantastic! All of Sigourney Weaver's hats were delicious. The getup of the High Priestess at the beginning was a cool contrast between her and the medium of her oracle readings. Ramses' and his wife's nightclothes almost shimmered and looked ever so cool for those hot Egyptian evenings.
Loved all the bangles and jewelry Moses' wife wore, and especially her tattoo. She also was better dressed than almost everyone except the Egyptian royalty.
They also did amazing work with the sores, boils, and other skin issues the Egyptians developed. The royal family was not spared and we got to see their booboos up close. Eek!
Conclusion: While visually exciting, the end result of diluting Moses' character and not giving him fire for Christian Bale to play with, as well as trying to make the plagues fit scientifically plausible molds, what you end up with leaves you only lukewarm. Which was just too bad.
Rating: 3 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Better For Matinee)