WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This is a loose interpretation of the biblical story of Moses, from director Ridley Scott (Gladiator).
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: D+) Inconsistent in its characterizations and unable to commit thematically, Exodus: Gods and Kings is gorgeous to look at but lacks heart, intelligence, and soul. Apparently trying to appeal to believers, skeptics, and atheists alike, it can't decide whether to portray God as a figment of Moses' crazed mind, a petty and vicious child to be abhorred, or a figure to be trusted and revered. The film also can't settle on whether the plagues and parting of the sea were divine miracles or events with natural, rational explanations.
The character of Moses is likewise all over the map. Sometimes he's driven to insanity by his faith (similar to Russel Crowe's performance in Aronofsky's Noah), then switches gears and is alternately a mighty leader, a hopeless romantic, a violent hothead, and a man of compassion. The screenplay is clearly aiming to make him a complex figure, but it's too sloppy and lacks the nuance to pull it off. Christian Bale can be a marvelous performer, and while this role allows him to showcase his range, the weak, unfocused screenplay does him no favors.
Great actors like Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, John Turtorro, and Aaron Paul are utterly wasted in roles that are either underdeveloped or embarrassingly written. Joel Edgerton, as Ramses, fares better. The movie plays fast and loose with the biblical version, changing details on a whim (but then, so did superior films The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt). Giving credit where it is due, it must be said that the film looks phenomenal. The special effects, giant sets, stunning locations, vivid cinematography, and impressive wardrobe combine for first-rate visual experience. It's a pity that the rest of this dark and oppressive movie isn't up to par.
CONTENT OVERVIEW – Exodus: Gods and Kings is rated PG-13. There's no foul language. A husband and wife kiss on their honeymoon night; he begins to untie her top and the scene ends (there's no nudity). The film pushes the PG-13 rating in terms of violence; persons are hanged, stabbed, shot with arrows, devoured by crocodiles (in a particularly bloody scene), whipped, and burned alive.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Religious belief can lead to great deeds as well as dangerous fanaticism. For the actual story, read the book of Exodus in The Bible.
For a superior version of the Exodus story, try The Ten Commandments, The Bible miniseries, or The Prince of Egypt (see my KJZZ Movie Show segment on the latter below).