Exodus: Gods and Kings Movie Review

exodus

This is my third Biblical Review of the year and although the first two movies did not meet my expectations, I’m tickled that I’m even writing these reviews and thankful that Hollywood is making an attempt to produce high budget top notch quality biblical stories. My only thought is, why are filmmakers that don’t believe in God producing films like Noah and Exodus:  Gods and Kings?  I’m not judging, just asking the question.  Just like someone would ask me if I ever made a movie about Darwin and how the false doctrine of evolution entered our public school system.   LOL, can you imagine the onslaught from the atheists?  Ha!  And they think I’m crazy!  Just the thought that we arrived from nothing is faith that I should strive for.

Anyway, I digress.  Faith like an atheist is something that I’ll blog about another time.

In regards to the quality of the film, the costumes and overall look and feel was excellent.  At times you felt like you were right in the midst of what was going on in that time of history.  The casting was awful.  Absolutely awful.  The original Pharaoh was played by John Turturro which in my opinion looks more like a Hebrew than Egyptian.  I don’t know if it is just me but anytime I watch a biblical movie I cringe every time contractions are used in the dialogue.

Here is a line from the movie:

Ramses: You say that you didn’t… cause all this. You say this is not your fault. So let’s just see who’s more effective at killing: You or me.

I would have written in like so:

Ramses:  You say that you did not cause all of this.  You say that this is not a fault of yours.  Let us see now who is more effective at killing.  You or me.

Seeing the splendor of elaborate costumes only to hear: didn’t, let’s, who’s, etc feels wrong.

The acting seemed forced.  I’ve seen Christian Bale in great roles like American Psycho and American Hustle (hmmm, maybe there is a theme with having ‘American’ in the title) this performance was not that.  I would have rather seen his Bruce Wayne character from the Dark Knight series than the warrior effort he displayed in this movie.

The actor that played Ramses was unrecognizable in his role and didn’t have his best performance.  Part of me thinks that this falls on Ridley Scott not getting what he wants from his actors.  All in all the acting was not the highlight of the film.

Story flow didn’t grab me either and it was hard to get a feel of where we were being led with the story.  Was this a story that had a religious theme or were we watching another Red Dawn remake?  If the plagues were a “5” rated on a scale of 1-10 in the movie The Ten Commandments, then this movie’s plagues were a 7 or maybe 8.  There wasn’t really a wow factor with the plagues like I thought there would be.

SPOILER ALERT

Just like Son of God (movie review here) got it wrong with Jesus recruiting others to ‘change the world’ and Noah (movie review here) got it wrong with the character of Noah; Exodus: Gods and Kings got it wrong with their version of Moses making it more of a Red Dawn feel than The Ten Commandments.

The movie is directed by Ridley Scott, who brought us the epic film: Gladiator, with, ironically, Noah’s Russell Crowe.  Ridley Scott is an atheist, which doesn’t bother me unless it gets in the way of the story.  Christians and Atheists alike are driven by agenda and please, please, please, just give me a great story without your agenda.  Ridley Scott does an ok job with not  having an agenda but because of his beliefs he is extremely misguided in appreciating the internal conflict Moses had and his insecurities having to rely on the God of his forefathers.

There is no baby in the nile, the movie starts with Moses and his ‘brother,’ Ramses.  Ridley Scott missed out on an opportunity to put us in the mindset of the Egyptian and Israeli relationships. According to scripture (and scripture counts since this movie is based on what is in scripture) these are the events that led to our epic story.

  • The Israelites were exceedingly fruitful and had many offspring, so much that it became noticeable to the Pharaoh.
  • The new Egyptian King feared that the Israelites would join their enemies so he made them slaves.
  • The more the Israelites were oppressed the more they multiplied.
  • To prevent the spread and growth of the Israelites, the Egyptian King told the midwives that when they help deliver Israelite children, if the newborn is a boy, kill him.

Yep, the Egyptian King was not a nice man.  In the movie though, he was portrayed as someone that was sympathetic to Moses, favoring him over his own son.  This felt weird to me, even without my background of the true story.  It didn’t seem like real life.  Felt like a hollywood attempt to create drama where drama did not need to be created.

Moses and Ramses were brothers but we discover that Moses is the warrior and Ramses is kind of a daddy’s boy.  Moses saved Ramses’ skin during a battle and there seemed to be some resentment by Ramses.  Again, it was kind of weird, you were just saved in the heat of battle, why the resentment?  Moses was the people’s champion and Rameses was left out.  (Kind of had a “Saul has killed thousands and David tens of thousands” feel from another Bible story).

The Pharaoh asked Ramses to go to where the Israelites were working and provide a report.  Moses stepped in and told his brother that he would do it.  Ramses tried to push back a little but Moses forced the decision and went in his place.  You could tell that the character Moses was a man’s man and a true warrior.  I would have much rather seen a conflicted warrior similar to Maximus from Ridley Scott’s other film, Gladiator, but this was not to be.

While Moses was visiting the Israelites he discovered that he was the chosen one and there was a group of Israeli rebels that had been waiting for a girl like him…er..sorry, waiting for a warrior like him.  I should stop listening to Foreigner as I write my blogs. 🙂

Back to the movie review.  Moses kills an Egyptian in the shadows of a back alley.  I was a disappointed that they didn’t do it according to scripture.  In scripture Moses, defends one of the Israelis and in the process murders the Egyptian slavemaster.  Later in scripture Moses plays peacemaker in a dispute between two Israelis and one Israeli asks him, “are you going to kill me now?”  This frightens Moses so he flees and ends up in the desert.  In the movie, he kills, then runs to the desert.  Might be a minor difference for you but for me the scripture shows his heart of a true peacemaker.  In the movie he is not portrayed that way.  He is a man of war.

While in the desert Moses meets his wife and becomes a shepherd.  You get the sense that there is a greater calling on his life and although he is happy being at home with his wife and kid, he knows there is something more for him.  We all know the story from here.  He finds a burning bush and speaks to God.  The same happens in the movie and although we live in a world where movies can provide the most cutting edge special effects, Ridley Scott decided to keep this critical part of the movie fairly low key.

Moses is shaken by an earthquake and is lying face up in the mud which is almost like quicksand, He can’t move and the mud covered his entire body only showing the front portion of his face (eyes, nose, mouth).  It’s raining and the bush is burning in the background.  There is no way that Moses could see the bush burning from where he lay in the mud.  God then appears as a child and the dialog begins.

isaacandrews-200x300
This is God in the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings

The idea of God being played by a child didn’t bother me as much as some of the Christian reviews I’ve read.  God loves little children and I thought it was clever for Ridley Scott to use a child.  What I didn’t like is that the child was literally a child and seemed unsure of himself like a child playing with his toy.

Why?  Isn’t God the creator of the entire universe?  He’s omnipresent and can make a bush burn yet not burn in the rain?  That’s amazing isn’t it?  Well, this is where having an atheist director may get in the way of something awesome.  In my opinion, use the child as what Moses sees and use the dialog from the scriptures.

In the scripture Moses tries to convince God that he is not the right person for the job of approaching Pharaoh.  Moses is insecure in his abilities.  In Exodus 4, Moses said to God: “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

God:  What is in your hand?
Moses:  A Staff.
God: Throw it to the ground.

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

Moses was scared of the snake and ran from it.  Scared!  The Moses in the movie would never show this type of fear.

God then had Moses put his hand in his cloak and when Moses pulled it out it was covered in leprosy. When Moses put his hand back in his cloak and pulled it out he was healed.  God assured Moses that if Pharaoh didn’t believe these two signs more would come to show that God wanted his people freed.

Moses:  Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.
God:  Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.
Moses:  Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.
God:  What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.  You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.  But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.

What I like about this exchange is it shows the human side of Moses.  I know for myself I don’t think I can do much.  I doubt my abilities all the time.  In this conversation with God, Moses is showing respect to the deity and negotiating that someone better than him go.  It shows the emotion of God too.  At first God is angry with Moses but then finds a solution through Moses’ brother Aaron.

In the movie the child told Moses (who was in the mud, prostrate) that he needed a warrior and to go and do his will.  In scripture it’s a conversation and God is less about ‘do it for I am GOD!’ And more about helping build confidence in the human he has chosen to do his will.  Not only do I like the scripture version from a Sunday School perspective, but I like it from a script and movie perspective.  There is more conflict with the character, more fear, more doubt which makes for a great hero in the end.

The movie continues with Moses recruiting an army and training the Israelis to fight for their freedom.  Insert rolling of the eyes, we’ve seen this countless times with Hollywood.  Enough already! Bring us something different, please!  Bring us something that will have the church folk coming in droves to spend their green dollar bills during the holiday season.  You missed a tremendous opportunity, Ridley Scott, to make a lot of money with a biblically accurate epic film.

Moses’ brother is now the Pharaoh and Moses leads his army in a Red Dawn fashion hiding and hitting the enemy in weaker parts of their operation.  This doesn’t work so God comes in for the rescue.  God is disappointed with Moses and his failed attempt and says He will do it another way.  Moses disagrees but is helpless and must sit on the sidelines and watch God destroy the Egyptians through the plagues.  Now, understand something, in the movie Moses never asks Pharaoh to let the people go.  He just starts attacking them.  In the scripture God gives Pharaoh the opportunity to let his people go.

Scripture is so cool in how it describes the relationship between God and Moses.  At one point God was going to kill Moses but someone intervened and Moses was spared.  God’s call to Pharaoh was: let my people go. If you don’t release my first born (the Israelis), I will kill all the firstborn in Egypt.

In scripture Moses and Aaron walked directly to Pharaoh and communicated God’s message.

Moses & Aaron:  This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, Let my people go.
Pharaoh: Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.
Moses & Aaron:  The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword
Pharaoh:  Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!

Pharaoh then demanded that the workload increase without straw provided by Egypt.  The Israeli leaders went to Moses complaining asking why he is causing problems for them.  Moses then went to God and asked why God was doing this.  God had not rescued the people like He said.  God assured Moses that He would free His people.  He told Moses to go back to Pharaoh asking for the release of the people.  Moses again reminded God that he was not the best choice because of his poor speech.  God then instructed Aaron to not only do all the talking but to use his staff to show miracles.  Moses and Aaron went back to Pharaoh, used the staff to show miracles, and Pharaoh’s magicians did the same “tricks” with their staffs so Pharaoh wasn’t convinced and refused to let the people go.

These were two non violent requests made by Moses and Aaron in scripture.  In the movie though, there was killing and demands made as if they were Israeli terrorists.  We’ve seen the terror route played over and over again.  The scripture way is just better in my opinion.

The plagues play out in the movie and it’s a little unclear to me, but I think the plagues affect everyone in the land including the Israelis.  I could be wrong, but in the movie Moses is upset with God because God’s not only hurting the Egyptians but His people as well.  Finally, God tells Moses that there is one more tragedy coming that will free the people.  Remember, Pharaoh has no idea when the plagues come and go, there is no warning or requests of letting the people go.  If my memory serves me right, in the movie, Moses finally meets with his brother, Ramses, urging him to free the people, that God is bringing something sinister.  Sure enough, the Israeli people put blood on the door and the Angel of Death passes over their homes and kills the first born of everyone else including Ramses, the Pharaoh.  This is where Ridley Scott climbs on his atheist soapbox and has Ramses deliver the question that has plagued all weak minded Christians.

“How can YOUR God kill children?”

The camera did a close up of Ramses holding his dead infant pleading with Moses to give an answer.   Moses did not respond.  How can you respond to such a question?

As a Christian this is where perspective comes in.  The question to ask isn’t, “how can your God kill children?”  The question should be, “why did you not let the Israelis go?”  Naysayers will respond to me by saying, “your God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so Pharaoh wouldn’t let the people go.”  At this point, I typically ask myself “is it worth having this discussion with someone that doesn’t get it?”  If it is worth it to continue the conversation, then I’ll explore with them the big picture and how important the passover is in the Israeli culture and those that follow Christ. This impact could never be as powerful as it is without this tragic event in Exodus.  The Angel of Death passing over those with the proper blood on their doors is a visual we as Christians can believe in strengthening our faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his ‘blood’ on our hearts.  His ‘blood’ on our hearts (door) confirms that ‘death’ will pass us over and we will spend an eternity in Heaven (promised land) as freed slaves of sin.

My mind can comprehend only a few things.

1.  God is God and can do whatever he pleases whenever he wants.
2.  God is good and a loving Father that gave His only Son to save us from an eternity without Him.
3.  There are things that are outside of my human understanding as it relates to our species.

Aside from that shot in the movie that I just described Ridley Scott stayed away from an agenda filled nightmare like Noah which I can appreciate.

Pharaoh’s child was dead and he demanded that the Israelis leave their land.  A few days later Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after the Israelis who were crossing the Red Sea.  In the movie Moses threw his sword into the Red Sea angry that they were stuck (there was no staff used in the movie).  The tides then all of a sudden rescinded and the Isrealis could then walk across the Red Sea.   As the story goes, the Red Sea comes back together when the Egyptian army is crossing destroying all of them except Moses and Ramses.

Moses and Ramses were in the middle of the Red Sea when the wave crashed down on them and this was a killer wave let me tell you.  It killed everyone else but Moses recovered and swam to his side while Ramses swam to the other side.  Ridiculous!  How did everyone else die from the crashing wave and Moses and Ramses survive?  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

The movie ended with the Israelis partying with the Golden calf.  Weird imagery here; don’t know what the point of that shot was but the camera pans up the mountain top to Moses by himself in a cave chiseling the ten commandments.

There you have it.  If you are planning on watching it you might want to wait until it’s released via Redbox and if your kids are watching it prep them of all the inaccuracies.   Maybe read through the story first and reinforce that our God is a loving God and not one that pleasures in the killing of little children.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. ejinthemirror says:

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing. I still plan on watching it so I can form my own opinion.

    One aspect you didn’t mention was the filmmaking quality of the movie, excluding any Biblical inconsistencies. What I’d also like to know: How were the acting, casting, scoring, cinematography, and special effects? I’m especially eager to hear how the plagues looked on the big screen.

    I do agree with you that casting a child as God wasn’t necessarily a bad move. Interestingly enough, the other inaccuracies seem more frustrating here than in Noah — probably because the Moses story in the Bible is exponentially longer than the Noah story, so there is less room for creative license.

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