a critiQal film review Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Plot: Defiant leader Moses (Bale) rises up against the Egyptian Pharoah Ramses (Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

503 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 30s)
  • ...never mind the white-washing, it's the muddled storytelling that brings down this CGI-laden epic - in spite of a strong showing by Christian Bale.

When trying to decide what to watch for today’s review, Carmella picked out Exodus: Gods and Kings. Would this retelling of the biblical story of Moses be worth our time, or is this just another example of Hollywood going for flash over substance?

As most probably already know, there was a controversy over the amount of white-washing in Exodus: Gods and Kings. Despite taking place in Egypt in 1300 BC, we have stars the likes of Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver taking center stage. Despite the heavy use of insta-tan, this is a glaring problem throughout the film, and viewers will find it hard to unsee.

That being said, Christian Bale still manages to deliver a strong performance in Exodus: Gods and Kings. While the rest are merely spouting their lines, Bale immerses himself in his character, and, while it’s a bit odd to see him as this iconic figure, his immersion helps him win the viewer over anyway, It’s just too bad the rest of the actors (including a miscast John Turturro and a barely-used Sigourney Weaver) couldn’t have delivered their lines with a bit less fakery and a bit more actual passion.

Of course, the story of the Israelites departure from Egypt (including the famous parting of the Red Sea and visitation of the plagues) is one that everyone knows. Exodus: Gods and Kings, however, turns what should have been a rousing story into a passion-less “re-imagining”, and relies on CGI to do all the heavy lifting.

Thankfully, the CGI at least is darn impressive. From the river turning to blood to the swarm of locusts and the frog infestation, director Ridley Scott really seems to be in his element. While the rest of the film is kind of a muddled mess, the special effects extravaganza that is the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea is right on point. That – aside from an epilogue – is what viewers end the film with, and so there opinions might be a little biased based on that.

Unfortunately, the rest of Exodus: Gods and Kings is largely forgettable. Despite Christian Bale’s best efforts, the storyline is a bit too convoluted and jumpy to really draw in the viewers. And, when God is represented by a spoiled brat of a pre-teen, it’s really hard to tell what kind of message the film is trying to send. Is this a harsh look at a biblical story from the eyes of a non-believer? Or one that’s trying to ground his faith a little? It’s never made clear. And that’s the biggest problem.

If you are going to make a movie about a famous story from the most famous book in the whole world, shouldn’t there be a reason? And no, Exodus: Gods and Kings, a big CGI budget doesn’t count as a reason. Fun for the CGI, and watchable thanks to Bale’s performance, but it could have been so much better. And from what others are saying, it was…in The Ten Commandments.

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