Movie Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings
Stars: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, María Valverde, John Turturro, Ben Kingsley
Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images, 150 minutes, Adventure/Drama
Compare to: Gladiator (2000), Noah (2014)
When Ridley Scott does a film, it’s pretty much unavoidable that it’s going to be compared to one of the greatest sword-and-sandal films of all time, Gladiator. And while most films have fallen short of that arena, Exodus does what it can to give us some memorable moments by way of some performances and mostly by some amazing special effects properly set in place.
Raised by Egypt’s Pharaoh, Seti I, Moses is stunned to learn he was born of the Pharaoh’s slaves as a Hebrew. The film focuses on the biblical events involving the plagues, and his relationship with his cousin, Ramesses II and how it changes over the course of Ramesses becoming king of Egypt and Moses becoming a leader to the Hebrews.
There’s no denying the appeal of the spectacle in a film like this. From the plagues to the parting of the Red Sea, Scott knows how to work the action sequences into his sand-and-grit drama like few others do. It’s one thing to see the effects on screen and get a cool image, but another to be involved in the drama leading up to the bigger, more illustrious moments and still be taken in. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to know whether or not Nolan himself was influenced by Scott’s film-making as he also seems to revel in these build-ups.
Though certain names seem to be thrown in for effect and little more. From Turturro to Weaver, I wouldn’t call the roles beneath them but there’s very little shown here to make me think another less famous name could have been cast in the same role for an equal effect. Then again, the original cut was around four hours and this could explain why some A-listers were cast only to find their scenes on the cutting room floor. Many critics are also showing dismay toward a lack in character development and pacing, though I suspect much of what they claim is missing from the film could be found in a file labeled “Extended Edition” on a computer somewhere.
It would be interesting to know what those who weren’t familiar with the story previously would think of the film and it’s scenes here. I’m not sure what I would have thought were I in their shoes. I may just see scenes strung together and think “What, is that in the Bible somewhere?” I wasn’t lost, but I can see someone getting that way.
In the end, the film has its issues but it’s also got enough strong points that an initial interest is warranted and there were no Aronofsky rock monsters to be surprised by.
Positives: Special effects, Bale and Edgerton’s performances, a chance to see some unusual visuals.
Negatives: Pacing is sparse, unneeded cast seems to have build up only to lead nowhere, some may be lost.