REVIEW — “Exodus: Gods and Kings”
IMDB Plot Synopsis: The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.
Now, if only “Exodus: Gods and Kings” was that simple then maybe it could have been a good film. Unfortunately, and I’m hoping it’s the studios fault, the actual story isn’t as focused, and shifts the perspective of the story several times throughout its bloated run time. I’m surprised Sir Ridley Scott, who brought us such gems as “Gladiator,” “Kingdom of Heaven” (Director’s Cut) and “Alien” would get stuck in the same kind of studio dreck that gave us his version of “Robin Hood.” It’s like someone is just holding him back, and not letting him do what he wants to do, and that someone is 20th Century Fox. The studio has him by the short-and-curlies due to their control over his classic iconic properties, and because they’re willing to flip the bill on the projects he actually wants to make.
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is a clear case of, “Who gives a damn” through and through. From the casting to the writing, the special effects to the pacing, it seems like everything was done in a way to entertain the mindless without paying attention to quality control. We have, basically, three different stories in one flick. We have Moses as a rich kid, Moses as a poor kid, and Moses as a religious kid. The story only starts to pickup when we get to the plagues, that everyone has come to know by now, but it takes so long to get there that you’re just kind of hoping the thing will end. The pacing is so awful that we get to spend time with Moses herding sheep, climbing mountains, riding his horse through the country side, riding his horse through a quarry, sneaking around alleyways, and other mundane things that contribute nothing to the progression of the plot. To put it in perspective it’s as if you watched all of the film “Titanic,” but they tacked 40 minutes on the front to show the ship being built. No point to a lot of the menial stuff.
This brings me to the white washed cast. I was one of the people that defended Sir Ridley Scott’s choices in the beginning, as I thought it was all apart of his vision, but now it’s clear that this was just a cash grab to add some big (biggish?) names to something with no regard for the performances. Christian Bale is, in the history of theatrical representations of Moses, the WORST of them all. He does alright during the rich part of his life, channeling his inner Bruce Wayne, but around the time he is meant to be finding God he just kind of checks out; his performance lacks conviction. Poor Sir Ben Kingsley. I can’t help but feel a lot of performances were left on the cutting room floor to make room for more Christian Bale shenanigans, and his was certainly one of them. Add to him that Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”), Sigourney Weaver (“Alien” franchise) and John Turturro were all left with almost nothing on the screen. Why go through the controversy of hiring these actors for Egyptian/Hebrew roles, and then cut them out almost entirely? Joel Edgerton (“Warrior”) is the only person, I feel, that was worth a damn in this, and he looks nothing like an Egyptian (or the rest of his cast family).
What I can say worked was the action scenes and the plagues. The plagues, I feel, were the best version we’ve ever seen. Unfortunately it took about an hour and a half to get to them, but once we did is when things picked up (for a bit anyways). How they managed to write out the plagues in a way that they could feasibly happen (in a non-religious way) was pretty clever, and the Crocodile attack scene (shown briefly in the trailer) is pretty impressive. The action scenes lacked blood, were filled with quick cuts and Michael Bay-esque camera movements, but as a whole satisfied my love for swords-and-sandals combat. Unfortunately the time between these impressive parts of film are filled with plot dragging elements that ruin the ‘fun’.
As a whole, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” doesn’t deliver in any way to make this worth paying top dollar to see. The casting was weak, the main performance was shallow and pedantic, the writing (with exception to the plagues) was awful, and the editing even worse. For a big budget flick that I really wanted to like I was disappointed. This is NOT a Ridley Scott production. I refuse to believe anyone with his pedigree would consider this dud his baby, and it very much seems like a big studio interpretation without any cultural or artistic expression. Big fight scenes? Yes. Big special effects plagues? Yes. Quality film? NO! 2/5