I’m not entirely sure if Ridley Scott even read the story of Moses and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt found in the Holy Bible before agreeing to climb behind the camera and direct “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” Here we have an extremely fallible attempt at re-visiting what Cecil B. DeMille already perfected twice in two different decades with “The Ten Commandments.” While those movies still took artistic freedoms, they were one hundred times more close to the source material than what we see here.
In "Exodus: Gods and Kings," Egyptian Princes Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) are raised together as brothers. When Ramses becomes pharaoh, Moses is his most-trusted adviser. However Moses soon discovers his Hebrew parentage, and Ramses banishes him to the desert -- often a death sentence. But God has a mission for Moses: Free the Israelites from slavery. Moses returns from exile and demands that Ramses let his people go, but the arrogant ruler is unmoved, leading to a battle of divine wills.
I can’t believe it took four writers to completely desecrate and butcher what many would consider one of the most vital stories found in the Bible. Even if you consider the Holy Bible just to be another great piece of literature, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is a terrible adaptation for the big-screen of what many believe is a cornerstone of their faith and some respect as great fantasy. If Ridley Scott were Chris Columbus, this is his “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” versus “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” as far as imprecise and exact book adaptations go, respectively.
The acting in “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is all over the place in regards to performances. Christian Bale is completely wasted as Moses. He walks and stands around most of the film acting like a helpless bystander. Every once in a while he’ll lead a revolt against the Egyptians, but for the most part he just observes God’s spiteful punishment from afar.
John Turturro plays the King of Egypt and does his very best in the dramatic role. However, the entire time I watched him onscreen I kept waiting for him to exclaim, “I’m very sneaky” in a weird accent. Joel Edgerton’s performance as the Pharaoh Ramses II shows he has the acting chops to take on better big-budget productions than this tripe. Sigourney Weaver floats through her fleeting appearances in the movie as if she’s doing Ridley Scott a favor portraying the Queen of Egypt.
I won’t deny it was cool seeing the plagues come to life through the use of modern CGI. The alligators ravenously devouring the fisherman and turning the Nile red with their blood is a fun scene to watch. It was also an impressive sight to see all the frogs and locusts invading Egypt and wreaking havoc. The parting of the Red Sea was a bit of a visual disappointment, however. The primitive visual effects from 1956’s “The Ten Commandments” were more stunning than what we got in “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images. There are some gory scenes of Egyptians being eaten by alligators and animals throwing up blood. We also see the lifeless bodies of Egyptian children as their parents cry in agony over their deaths, which will be disturbing to some.
A few special features are found on the DVD version of “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” A featurette entitled “'Exodus: Gods and Kings’ – Ridley’s Epic World” goes behind the scenes of the film. Deleted scenes and trailers are also included.
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” completely belittles its reluctant hero and makes him nothing more than a raving mad bystander instead of the obedient instrument of God’s just rule. On top of that, the once powerful God is whittled down to a spoiled child who is arrogant and prone to venomous temper tantrums. The supernatural plagues found in the scriptures are reduced to natural disasters for the most part, easily explained away by convenient scientific theory. When it’s all said and done, the entire production is nothing more than a soulless and humanistic attempt at rehashing Cecil B. DeMille’s original masterpiece “The Ten Commandments.”
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and as a Digital Download.