EXODUS – GODS and KINGS [Face-Off Review]: Moses’ Creed X.
Or, as I like to call it, Batman and Rhamses.
NERD – Directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien) this epic tale of Moses leading the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian captivity to independent freedom is certainly grandiose, accomplished by having the right man at the helm.
There are elements of Exodus: Gods and Kings that take on a certain Lawrence of Arabia quality. There is also a pile-up of chariots that reminded me of the police crash sequence from the Blues Brothers. Despite the dichotomy presented by these issues and further evidenced throughout the duration of the film, there was plenty of cool stuff goin’ on.
The special effects and sound design were brilliant, for one, drawing the audience in with detailed precision on a massive scale. To give a couple highlights regarding the post production work, there is a transition from indoor to outdoor where one can hear raindrops before actually seeing any precipitation, setting the mood in subtly subconscious fashion. No need to cue the CCR here. On the CGI side of the coin, the plagues were fantastic with the exception of the crocodiles (who were never there in the Old Testament, anywho). The shots would have been enhanced by using a few real life Nile crocs, if for nothing more than a lead-in tracking shot to match with the ensuing mayhem. I could film that at the zoo with my iPhone. No joke!
The coup de gras, of course, was the parting of the Red Sea. Right before the rogue wave hits and all the Pharaoh’s men enter the afterlife, a lone white horse stands in a master shot, giving new perspective to the enormity of the situation with a wonderful “Holy shit!” moment. It’s big. And if anyone remembers Charlton Heston doing the best Gandalf impression ever, Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, American Hustle) was going to have some tough shoes to fill in the lead up. However, without a magic staff, the film relied on the natural occurrence of tides to showcase the event as well as inject a “ticking time-bomb” mechanism into the script, driving the tension with fierce anxiety.
The pacing, set at 150-minutes, kept the story flowing despite the glut of information coming from the original narrative. That being said, certain characters were not given enough to work with. Take, for example, the performance of Joel Edgerton as Rhamses. The overall quality of the acting was well accomplished, yet I would like to have seen more of a Thor/Loki relationship. Specifically, I would like to have seen the jealousy exhibited in the eyes of Tom Hiddleston come through in the portrayal of the Pharaoh, thereby giving more cause to drive the actions that occur later on. Nevertheless, that may be a function of the script, in that not enough material was dedicated to that issue.
Speaking of limited time, let’s talk about the “cameos” by Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Avatar) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad, Need For Speed). Of the entire two-and-a-half hour run time, I think the two had a combined seven lines. With a few creative liberties, each of the lesser yet integral characters could have been greater utilized to round out the film, given the caliber of the supporting cast. Although, there were several instances where I caught the actors slipping back into their native dialects, Bale included. Also, Certain characters were not given enough to work with, compared again to the more familiar version of the story.
Also, apparently everyone in the ancient world spoke with English accents– and that about sums up how the movie was for me. Exodus was filled with terrifying highs and dizzying lows that left me with a creamy middle of meh. Cinematically accomplished, no doubt, but the little incongruencies brought the picture down a few notches to a better-than-average movie. Worth the watch (especially for free, thanks Monsignor!), but that’s about it.
GEEK – Well put, Rev.
Speaking to a few patrons at my bar job last night about Exodus: Gods and Kings (which just sounds like a really cool metal bar in itself…), one of them asked, “Does [Ridley] Scott direct this film with any sort of political/religious agenda, or does he just aim for the usual grand epic action/adventure?”
I’d say more of the latter, but it’d be terribly irresponsible of me to ignore the former. Thankfully for you all, I’m a TERRIBLY IRRESPONSIBLE person, and I’m going to avoid any sort of religious idealogy/sociopolitical ranting with my review. You go to the movies to be entertained, now, don’t you?
But, wait, isn’t your site called…
YUP. Let me stop you right there. You know what– fine. I’ll give you what you want. God is Damian Wayne. He is worse than the devil; and Moses is a terrorist from Assassin’s Creed‘s DLC, written by Grant Morrison, “The Return of Bruce Wayne.” Yes, Batman traveled through time in that mini-series, and they forgot to include 400-years before Christ. So Exodus: Batman and Ramses is a more accurate title. Although, I could have swore Aaron Paul was playing Jesus — imagine, “I’m Jesus, Bitch!!!” — especially since this Hebrew slave could feel no pain and all of the lashing from the Egyptian whips had no effect. Oh, but that’s right: Christ felt pain. Lots of it. That’s the whole point of Jesus in the first place.
They always sort of confused Joshua for Jesus anyway.
Back to the movie. Visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang explained that the VFX for Exodus were “grounded in reality.” I think he nailed it. It’s the absolute best compliment I could give this film. Does all that eye-popping CGI look real? Yes it does. Other than a moment towards the film’s climax, which, to Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max (American Gangster) and his team’s credit, that looked more Lawrence of Arabia than anything realistic, Exodus looks fantastic and nothing like the video gameness of, say, 300: Rise of An Empire. Because of the use of more practical means (i.e. a pulley system, real lighting, water tank, etc.), the movie’s scale may pale in comparison to the grandeur of Scott’s Gladiator.
But I’m OK with that, especially since the majority of Exodus is more about the internal struggle of Moses. His capricious encounters with God (as I said, Damian Wayne with a buzzcut: Isaac Andrews) often became moments of unintended hilarity, but Bale shows why he is one of the best actors in the business, nonetheless. Other than his struggle with his own accent, the emotion and presence this man conveys across the screen is unparalled.
One of the coolest bits about Bale playing Moses is his ability to just be human. THANK GOD Bale doesn’t attempt to “Shakespeare” his lines; and his prophet — while wildy violent, vindicated and confused (as anyone would be who is confronted by.. an Old Testament Toddler God) — still beats the stilted, meglomaniacal performance of Edgerton’s Ramses.
So long as you allow your mind to escape within the film’s well-executed turbulence, the skimpy supporting roles, blatant CGI aerials, and undercurrent of religious controversy can all be overlooked one lazy, Sunday afternoon. Because, why go see this on any other day?
20th Century Fox’s Exodus: Gods and Kings in theaters everywhere on December 12.