Friday, 22 May 2015

Exodus: Gods and Kings

There seems to be an influx of Biblical films coming out of Hollywood recently. I thought Hollywood picked that carcass clean, but here we are. Don't get me wrong, there are some stellar Biblical films out there, namely the likes of Prince of Egypt, The Passion of the Christ and The Ten Commandments. They were films despite heavily rooted in belief, but didn't demand that you believed in the authenticity of their stories in order to enjoy them. They were just great films in their own right. Most recently I also (surprisingly) really enjoyed Darren Aronofsky's Noah. Hugely underrated, beautifully shot and a real treat in terms of performances, it was a film that made me think, “OK, maybe a few more biblical films ain't so bad”. After Exodus: Gods and Kings though I'd rather see Hollywood ravage the comic book world a little more.

Directed by Ridley Scott and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Exodus: Gods and Kings, a film that isn't exactly either good or bad. The biblical story of Moses has been told time and time again, and Gods and Kings does its best to stay true to the original story. But instead of starting with Moses' back-story that involves him being placed into a river, and ultimately being found by the Pharaoh's Queen thus becoming a king, Gods and Kings starts off with an adult Moses. He's a respected leader and alongside his brother Ramasses, they are virtually inseparably and unaware of Moses' Hebrew lineage. However upon learning about his true history Ramasses, now Pharaoh after his fathers death, sends Moses into exile. After 9 years in exile and a wife and child now in his life, Moses happens upon a burning bush, a manifestation of God on Earth that tells Moses that he must return to Egypt and free his people from slavery. You get the picture, right?

There are a few things I like about Gods and Kings. Though a lot of people complained about the fact that the film was essentially whitewashed- and hey, that's a very valid complaint- I at least enjoyed the performances given, namely from Christian Bale (Moses) and Joel Edgerton (Ramasses). Sure they didn't exactly look the part (I mean, Batman is playing Moses after all), but both deliver performances that really do elevate this film way above where it should be. I also really loved the overall look of the film. Much like what Ridley Scott did with Rome in Gladiator, he does the same here with Egypt. He brings it alive with stunning visuals, depicts it in all its beautiful and barbaric glory, and effectively resurrects to how it once was the big screen. This excellent visual style also extends to the costumes, battles and CGI effects. The two big CGI moments in the film naturally come about when God sends the plagues down to torment Ramasses, and then when Moses, with his staff in hand, parts the Red Sea in order for the Hebrews to escape. It's filled with some pretty excellent moments, but to get to these you'll just need to slog through a good deal of crap.

Gods and Kings fails when it's not hitting the major important aspects of Moses' story. Between these moments that can be riveting, moving, action packed and stunningly shot, we get scenes of people just needlessly talking, walking around grand looking rooms, looking moody in low-lit locations and essentially just filling time until Ridley Scott can break into another big God moment. Also, though Bale and Edgerton are genuinely incredible with both their roles, their relationship, and then their sudden lack of one, should have been probed a little more during the film. The same goes for the weight of responsibility that's on Moses' shoulders. Sure, you see him react to the plagues and at times think God is going too far, but for someone who just went from royalty, to a nobody, to directly speaking with God and taking upon a divine mission, you just don't really see the weight of this scenario from Bale, the script, or on screen.

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a blend between the awe inspiring and the mundane. There are scenes that clamp you down to your seat, but there are also scenes that'll have you reaching for you phone. It's pretty much like Prometheus for me- good ideas, some nice parts, but ultimately a failure. It's a real shame too, because this film does contain wonder and beauty, it's only surround by far too much worthlessness. If you ever want to watch the best take on Moses' story, go watch the Dreamworks animated film The Prince of Egypt. Now there's a stunning film.

Exodus: Gods and Kings doesn't cure me of boredom and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy

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