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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Exodus - Gods and Kings Review: Choppy Biblical Blandness

Exodus: Gods and Kings is utterly forgettable, poorly-cast nonsense.


It's not hard to screw up Moses. Slaves wanting freedom against a dictatorial pharaoh, combined with plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. Yet somehow, Director Ridley Scott manages just that with Exodus: Gods and Kings, turning in a poorly-written and horribly-cast dud that wastes our time on so many levels.

You've heard the story before: Egyptian warrior Moses (Christian Bale) and his life-long friend Ramses (Joel Edgerton) are soon divided when news reaches the royalty of Moses' birth to the very people which father Seti (John Tuturo) has enslaved to build his massive city. After Moses is banished from Egypt, he begins his long trek to save the Hebrews with Godly help in the form of plagues and murder. As Moses leads his people to a final showdown with Ramses' forces, God intervenes with the mother of all parlor tricks, sending Moses to fulfill his destiny.

Scott's writing team of Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and two others gets the basic premise down; but it's the details and the dialogue which are worse than any plagues God sent to Egypt. There are times in which our creative team suggest they may in fact despise organized religion, as played out when Moses and God - portrayed here by a thoroughly pissy boy - wrangle around the Almighty's choices of religious terrorism during the third act. Moses isn't comfortable with killing, but God seems quite ready to do so, leaving the prophet as powerless to stop what's coming as an ant can someone from stepping on it. God here is an unsympathetic, rather cruel boy that doesn't ingratiate himself to the audience, more taskmaster than inspirational figure.

There's also some seriously bad casting choices to mention, as none of the major characters are of proper race. Sure, Scott has retorted that he couldn't get the funding if he had chosen more racially-appropriate people. But his casting is so white and their performances so drab that it's impossible to give him the benefit of the doubt. Tuturo as Seti and Sigourney Weaver as Tuya might be the worst casting of 2014, their Egyptian bravado as ridiculous as Tuturo's caricature of Agent Simmons in Transformers. Aaron Paul's agent ought to be get fired for encouraging him to take on Moses' ally Joshua, his bright blue eyes standing out as the only enjoyable thing about his performance. The Australian Edgerton stands atop this heap, first an ally to Moses then suddenly the biggest frenemy anyone has ever seen. It's a change that takes all of one scene to play out, and Edgerton doesn't handle it well - there's no 'difference of opinion' that separates the two, and he stumbles in every scene to keep up with the much-better Bale. And although he is in almost every scene of Exodus, Bale's performance soon becomes that of either a terrorist or a powerless pawn left to watch as God busts out the whoop-ass on Ramses' people.

I've never believed that one should make a movie, damning all conviction. If the boys with money won't produce my film, I either secure it personally and then cast who I want, or I find another picture to produce. Scott's decision to run the gauntlet results in a production that's hard to sit through, its editing jumping all over the place right up to the end as Moses suddenly begins to age once he's done chiseling The Ten Commandments, a fact in and of itself that's up for religious debate.

The human story - such an integral part to the Bible's success - is lost here among the pretty picture of Scott's ancient Egypt, adding to a resume of failures that include Prometheus and The Counselor.

Exodus: Gods and Kings looks pretty, but any underlying character development and basic editing seem as far away as Moses' goal of The Promised Land. For a filmmaker with such impressive credentials, it sure feels like it was made by lesser people. In this day of epic runtimes and hollowed characters, I can't recommend it even as a Netflix rental - your time is simply too valuable.

Exodus: Gods and Kings is Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images and has a runtime of 150 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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