This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Movie review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Do not waste your time.

ExodusFor obvious reasons (i.e. the subject matter), I felt I needed to go see Exodus in spite of the mediocre reviews it has received from the critics. But be assured I went in with the lowest of expectations. They were not low enough, even so.

Exodus, of course, tells the very familiar story of Moses and God combining to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, focusing on the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. With Ridley Scott at the helm and one of our best actors (Christian Bale) playing Moses, one would expect a solid Hollywood production and maybe even some intelligent controversy based on a modern take of the story. And indeed, a few of the reviews I had read pointed to precisely such a controversy, suggesting that the film might offend Jews, Christians and Muslims. That sounded promising.

But no such controversy exists (other than a casting controversy) because there is nothing new here. Exodus is entirely unoriginal and a giant bore. The Ten Commandments is ever so much more entertaining. So why on earth did Scott make this? Don’t ask me.

Sure, God is represented by a petulant 10-year-old boy. That’s a little risky, but really the boy doesn’t say anything that God might not have said from the burning bush (Moses did see a burning bush before the boy appeared).

The only potential controversy is the most brilliant line in the film, spoken by Ramses (Joel Edgerton) after the death of his son (the final plague). Holding his dead son out to Moses, Ramses says: “This is your God? A killer of children? What kind of fanatics worship such a God?” That is a truly excellent question, worth considerable thought and discussion. But does Exodus do anything with that question other than put it in the mouth of Ramses, who is hardly opposed to killing children himself? Nope. Nada. Moses ignores the question and leads his people across the Red Sea, where God wipes out the Egyptian army in the most (and only) spectacular scene in the film. In the process, Moses has many conversations with God but by the end seems to have decided that God knew what God was doing. And by the end God and Moses are smiling at each other. Makes you want to cry, but not for the right reasons.

The cinematography in Exodus is very good, as is typical of Scott, but the washed-out colors were obviously the result of making it for 3-D (and no, I certainly did not watch it in 3-D). The score is nothing special. The actors are barely competent, other than Bale, who does his best with Moses, and Edgerton, who could have done worse. As I mentioned, there has been some controversy surrounding the casting of Bale, Edgerton and others. As if Hollywood has a history of casting actors from the racial group represented? Anyway, for me the casting was just bad, period, though one could have done much worse than Bale. But the biggest flaw of the film was the screenplay by a team of writers which gave us no real character development (other than Moses) and, one brilliant line notwithstanding, very poor dialogue.

Exodus is a huge disappointment and well deserving of the **+ which critics have given it. But I am going to take off another star just for that fact that it was made, thus wasting incredible resources and Scott’s valuable time. So Exodus gets *+. My mug is down.

Vic Thiessen lives in Winnipeg, Man., and writes here, where this blog post originally appeared.

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