Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Review by Fr. Scott Archer and kin blog at Catholic Faith In the Light of Tradition and are good friends of USC.

Begin with one of the most dramatic stories of the Old Testament—the exodus. It is rich source material involving a staff that turns into a snake and the waters of the Nile into blood; that parts the Red Sea with the hand of God, a wall of water on the right and left; of plagues that include fiery hail from heaven; with dialogue that calls for the booming voice of God saying, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground,” and “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel: Let my people go that they may sacrifice to me in the desert.” Then, bring in writers who replace the staff with an Egyptian sword; a Nile that is bloodied because of hungry crocodiles; a Red Sea “parting” that takes place while everyone, including Moses, is asleep and with no walls of water; plagues that happen against the will of Moses, including a hail storm that anyone living in the Midwest of the United States would consider mild; and replace the booming voice from the burning bush with a petulant eleven year old boy who throws temper tantrums. What you get is Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, one of the most boring movies of 2014.

This movie is unfocused and meanders throughout its two and half hours looking for some direction. It never finds it. Moses, played by a very stiff and disinterested Christian Bale, passively watches everything taking place around him, while the audience is left wondering why the eleven year old playing God wants the people of Israel to be freed. Moses tells Ramses, competently brought to life by Joel Edgerton, it is because the slaves are Egyptian citizens and, therefore, should either be paid for their work or freed. Perhaps God would have settled for the unionization of the workers in place of freedom?

It gets worse. Moses, when the freedom of the slaves is not granted, begins training the Israelites in military tactics. While Moses himself works hard at chiseling the words of the Ten Commandments into stone as God pours tea (I wish I were joking), we do see a glimpse of the Israelites in camp with a golden calf in their midst. We also see another missed opportunity to dramatize the events that followed in the source material.

This is a movie that could have inspired the audience and brought to life one of the greatest stories of the Old Testament. Instead of a triumphant exodus of the people of Israel from their bondage with the spoils of Egypt in tow, as well as miracles wrought by the hand of God, pillars of fire, the parting of the Red Sea, and the hand of God writing the Commandments, we have a dusty testament to the bland direction of Ridley Scott and the unfocused view of the multiple screenwriters, several of whom are not even credited. This is a film of many missed opportunities. Exodus: Gods and Kings breaks the first commandment of filmmaking; Thou shalt not bore thy audience.

Half a tiara.