There are old stories that are so well known that they transcend the genre they belong to. We all know them, even if we don’t believe in them. One such story is the sordid past of rampant whitewashing in films. The other is the story of Moses. Exodus: Gods and Kings unnecessarily reminds us of both.
We know the story well. Moses (Christian Bale) and his brother (in the comradery sense) Ramses (Joel Edgerton) were both the Pharoh Seti’s (John Turturro) favorite, with Seti favoring Moses a little bit more. Seti’s wife and mother of Ramses Tuya (Sigourney Weaver) hated this fact and would find any reason to banish/kill/imprison Moses. After meeting with Hebrew elder Nun (Ben Kingsley), and being told he is also Jewish, Moses kills a guard and leaves the other for dead. Tuya finally has her excuse so with Ramses’ blessing, he is exiled to the dessert where he meets a woman, has a child, chases some sheep into the mountain, has a grave head wood, sees God as a British child, and sees a burning bush. Hallucinations be damned, he goes into Egypt, under the occasional guidance of child God, also with the help of Joshua (Aaron Paul), and demands the freedom of his people. Then the plagues come into play, only to placate us until the climax that should have been parting of the Red Sea. It was, like the rest of the film, anything but climactic.
There is no point in retelling a story that has been told so many times before unless you’re adding something new to it. Despite Noah‘s many flaws it did at least introduce original aspects, unlike Exodus. Hell, we’ve even seen this story whitewashed before in The Ten Commandments, and whitewashed Egyptians in Cleopatra, so what does this film have to contribute to the already over-produced story of Moses freeing the slaves from Egypt? Nothing, but some fodder for religious skeptics and more than a few angry religious believers. The only reasons The Ten Commandments and Cleopatra were able to get away with it is because not only was is a completely different time in American cinema, but also because of the grand scale of the production.
This production was grandiose in it’s own way. The sheer amount of computer generated people and battles will make you think you’re in Middle Earth instead of Egypt. That’s not all! The accents will make you think you are in England. The only thing that keeps this over-the-top production from being an outright joke is Christian Bale’s completely serious and professional approach to it. He portrays Moses with a sort of respect even though everything else about this film is disrespectful on more than a few levels.
There will not be a mass exodus from Exodus: Gods and Kings. Frankly, the people who will go see it, those not part of the #BoycottExodus protest against the film’s whitewash casting, won’t get a chance to make their exit until the end. You will be left in the theater long after the credits have ended, only to be woken up by the theater usher telling you that you need to go so they can clean up. Despite Bale’s performance, there is very little reason to go see this film. This is one of those films that deserves to be watched if only so you can tell your friends how right they were to boycott it/not see it. It commits many cinematic sins, but the two most unforgivable ones are that it wastes your time and it wastes your money. Neither of which you can ever get back, no matter how much you pray.
RATING: ★★(2/10 stars)