release date: 12 December 2014 (Canada)
run time: 150 mins
considered: Action, Adventure, Drama
director: Ridley Scott
starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelssohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Hiam Abbass, Isaac Andrews, Ewen Bremner, Indria Varma, Golshifteh Farahani, Ghassan Massoud, Tara Fitzgerald
movie summary: The majority of people in the world know the story of Moses, the Ten Commandments, and the Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. Every April when Easter rolls around Charlton Heston can be found on the every major TV station leading his people from the desert back to their homeland. Christian Bale takes his turn as Moses while the ever versatile Joel Edgerton plays the mad yet powerful Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses.
Moses and Ramses go way back to childhood when Ramses father Seti (John Turturro) took Moses under his roof and raised him as his own. The two boys grew up together, trained together, and went to battle together. Ramses has a major ego problem, since he is the son of the king. He is a little jealous of Moses because his dad looks highly upon him more than he does his own flesh and blood. The two almost die in an epic battle, before Moses saves Ramses life which pleases Semi. This act of courage drives a deeper wedge between the two “brothers” because Moses looks like a hero. When Semi says that Ramses must go down to see the slaves, he feels it is beneath him and Moses steps in to offer his services. While wandering down amongst the slaves, Nun (Ben Kingsley) spots Moses to tell him the true story of his childhood and that a prophecy says that a Hebrew leader will raise against Pharaoh and lead their people to freedom.
When Moses returns Seti is on his death-bed and Ramses descends to the throne. The self-proclaimed ruler of the slaves learns of the true story about Moses and comes to Ramses to offer his services in exchange for this new information. Ramses calls Moses to his table and asks him about the true story. When Ramses figures out that Moses is Hebrew he banishes him from Egypt forever. Moses wanders the deserts and mountains to come across a small village where he meets his beautiful wife Zipporah (Maria Valverde). After nine years of taking care of sheep and his little boy, Moses climbs the Mountain of God to encounter a burning bush. God speaks to Moses and informs him that he must return to Egypt and free the slaves to bring them back to their homeland. Zipporah can’t believe Moses will be leaving her and their family but Moses says this is his destiny and that he will be back one day.
Ramses can’t believe Moses is alive and refuses to free his slave workers because it would cripple the Egyptian economy. As Moses leaves the kingdom strange things begin to happen. First the river turns red, all the fish die, bugs invade the kingdom, and frogs come ashore to cover everything. When none of these events changes Ramses’ stance God brings down a storm of hail and diseases upon all the people of Egypt. Ramses continues to stand firm until God sends a plague that kills all the Egyptian children. Upset over the loss of his only child, Ramses orders Moses to the kingdom to tell him to take his 400,000 Hebrews out of Egypt and never return. After burying his son, Ramses decides it’s time to seek revenge and instructs his 4,000 troop army to follow Moses and his people into the mountains to slaughter them all.
my thoughts: I’m trying to think the best way to describe my feelings about this movie. It took me many years to understand all the events in the Ten Commandments and after watching Exodus: Gods and Kings there appears to be so much more for me to learn. Instead of remaking one of the greatest movies ever made, Ridley Scott decided to break free from what we all know and explore the same story but from different angles.
First thing is the story of Moses. Instead of focusing on his epic adventures to save his people, Scott decides to tell us how he was like a brother to Ramses. When their relationship goes sour, the story moves along with his journey into the mountains touching upon his marriage and life outside of Egypt. When he returns to free his people, he fades away from the spotlight as the plagues hit the kingdom wave after wave. As he begins to question God’s intentions he decides it may be time to walk away until the final plague hit and he’s finally able to lead his people away. On his journey home, Moses is shown as a weak leader who has no clue what he’s doing and where he’s going. Instead of parting the Red Sea, when 400,000 people get to the shore banks, Moses just relies on the low tide to get people to safety. Now that the Hebrews are free and safe, the story fast forwards many years into Moses old age where he is fragile but still climbs the mountain to write the Ten Commandments on his own. I have no clue where Scott got the idea to have Moses carve the tablets himself but it kinda ruins the story and character. I get that he was a messenger of God, but no where have I ever read that he craved the tablets himself. It seemed like the shady way to end the tell of one of the bibles most iconic figures. The story as a whole focused so much on who Moses was before he returned to Egypt only to rush through everything he did during the pilgrimage and the aftermath. The 2:24 long movie did a horrible job dividing up his character from trained killer, to desert wanderer turned father, to the saviour of Gods people. The title could have easily been called Exodus: Story of Moses and I would have been happier.
The one bright spot about this whole movie is the performance of Joel Edgerton. I thought he was fantastic as Ramses, the jealous and power-hungry king of Egypt. Edgerton has been in a variety of roles throughout his career and really steals the show away from the more famous Christian Bale. He just had the look of a greedy, cut throat, and selfish man who would stop at nothing to get his way and protect all that is his. Of course his thought process will lead to his downfall like most evil rulers, but he will go down in a blaze of glory. He only thinks about the here and now instead of the future on top never once thinking about his family or people. His mind is so focused on revenge of those who wronged him even though he’s been treating people wrong for decades.
Despite the flaws in the on-screen Moses character and the overall story, there’s one other thing to take away from this movie and that is the amazing landscape shots. While traveling across the deserts or building the great pyramids or statues, the special effects are A+ in this film. It was pretty awesome to see how everything was built and how far the distances are when looking at the mountains that stand out among the miles of sandy desert. The opening battle sequence would rival many other classic films while the Red Sea pouring back into the land was really epic. The Egyptian costumes were spot on as well, which made everyone’s appearance in the film feel really authentic.
my final thoughts: I wouldn’t recommend paying full price to see Exodus: God and Kings because you may fall asleep and snore like the guy did two rows behind me. You may get bored with a dragged out storyline that doesn’t feature a lot of action or adventure but will try to make up for it with amazing special effects. This movie will never rival the Ten Commandments, both in story and characters, and will fade into the desert soon to be forgotten much like the other blockbuster religious movie from 2014, Noah.
my star rating: 5 out 10
imdb: 6.4 out 10
rottentomatoes: 27% out 100%
roger ebert: 1.5 out 4
richard crouse: 2.5 out 5
2 thoughts on “Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)”
Good review. It was too much of a snoozer for me to really keep me awake. Nor did Scott seem to do anything with this story as a whole.
great review Ryan! Finally got around to seeing this and it truly was horrendous the way it was handled. If you wanna see a good version of this story, check out Prince of Egypt