Film: Exodus (Gods and Kings)
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley
In cinemas: Now
Exodus (Gods and Kings) is destined to become one of those sprawling epics that are a staple of the Christmas holiday tv schedules. The sort of film you dip into every 20 minutes or so while you’re doing other things and think, this looks great, I must watch all of it someday. The film sure does look great and if you take out the bits that don’t work, it’s pretty entertaining and watchable.
The problem is it could have been amazing. Moses, a prophet revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims; so, a sizeable proportion of the world’s population. Christian Bale, one of the finest actors working today. Ridley Scott, legendary director of some of the greatest films made. What could possibly go wrong? First up was the usual controversy about lack of diversity in the casting. On social media this equates to not having black, ie of African heritage, actors in the lead roles. Despite a divergence of opinion as to what skin colour ancient Egyptians actually were, Twitter et al decided the leads should have been black.
Then came grumblings about whether Scott, said by social media to be an atheist, could properly render a biblical epic. When the first trailers came out there was an outcry about the missing ‘money shot.’ Where was the parting of the
Red Sea scene?
Not surprisingly, by the time the film was released it was up against it. Box office has been disappointing.
So, is the criticism warranted?
The film is visually spectacular, as you might expect from Ridley Scott. There is racial/ ethnic diversity in the supporting cast although the plethora and inconsistency of accents is off putting. The main elements of the Moses story, including God, are kept in. And while the Red Sea doesn’t quite part, it plays its part in the spectacle.
Yet, the reviews from critics and movie goers are mixed to bad.
The screening I saw it had the most ethnically diverse audience I have ever seen in a cinema, suggesting that the character and story of Moses resonates with people of many backgrounds and faiths. From the excited chatter I heard around me before the start of the film, Bale and Scott were going to be the icing on the cake, suggesting that the casting was not a problem for most.
By the end of the film the chatter had turned to questions, this being the ‘why does Hollywood mess with the bible like this?’
That’s the big issue. This film has no real identity. It’s a biblical epic that plays partly as Gladiator lite (Scott’s big success) coupled with religious elements that seem designed not to offend atheists and agnostics as well as please believers. As a result, by trying to appeal to everybody, it satisfies few.
Nevertheless, it’s Moses, Bale and Scott, so it’s worth seeing.