Sunday, December 14, 2014
Exodus Gods and Kings Review
White people, am I right?
Okay, let's talk about the big issue with this movie right off the bat; is this movie racist? That's the first thing that every critic wants to address, which is a shame, because the issue of race is not the most defining aspect of this movie. Exodus Gods and Kings is not a racist movie, but it was very stupid when it cast its actors. You see, Egypt has always been a very weird country when it came to racial identity because of how ethnically diverse it really is. Yes you have black people in Egypt, but you also have a solid amount of Arabs, Turks, and even Greeks for a time inside of Egypt. It's ethnically diverse is what I'm getting at. Casting Exodus with white main characters is fine, but as soon as you bring in black people as servants and slaves to the white rulers, then you have accidently tread into the territory of negative racial depictions. I don't think the movie did that intentionally though, which is why I'm calling the movie stupid. Ridley Scott had his vision, he had his cast, he just made a really stupid decision when it came to casting background actors. However, this movie will be remembered fro being racist because of that stupidity, which isn't what the movie should be remembered as. No, it should be remembered as a bad movie that has everything go wrong, but makes it difficult to say exactly what went wrong. This requires an explanation.
Exodus Gods and Kings is the story of Moses and Ramses and how Moses is able to free the Hebrews from Egyptian rule and bring them back to their homeland of Israel. Moses talks with God several times about this and eventually raises an army to fight Ramses. However, God decides the plagues would be a much better solution, so he sends those instead. You already know the rest of the story I assume. You know that there's boils, locusts, death of the first borns, parting the Red Sea, all that good stuff.
Look, if you want a comprehensive retelling of the story of Moses, read the Bible. I'm pretty sure there's a lot more vivid details in there than I could ever provide. Instead, let me tell you about a movie called The Room.
The Room is an unmitigated disaster of a movie. It's terribly acted, terribly shot, the script is laughable, and is just an awful, awful movie. However, I can say why it's a bad movie. I can identify what makes it so bad (and what makes it so hilarious for that matter). Exodus is not so fortunate. I've seen it all, but while I know it's bad, I can't say exactly why it's bad. Everything is wrong, yet I can't say what went wrong.
Like I said above, I'm not going to harp on the racial casting choices made in this film. They were stupid mistakes, but not intentional racist mistakes. What I will say however is in what reality did you think Christian Bale would be a good Moses? Seriously...? We're going to put Batman as Moses? In theory, I can see how it could work, but he just seems bored and stoned out of his mind the whole way through, mumbling everything he says with the occasional yell to show HE REALLY MEANS BUSINESS.
Joel Edgarton as Ramses is even worse. I'm not completely familiar with the story of Moses, but I'm sure that Ramses isn't normally this whiny or cowardly. He's portrayed as being the least favorite of the two and is quick to say that Moses is a traitor and send people to kill him. Immediately afterwards, he becomes a great king, but as soon as Moses returns, Ramses becomes weak and full of excuses before going on to kill countless Hebrew lives. All the while, they're painting him out to be a family man with a baby boy and develop him into a sympathetic character. You know what? No. No I will not feel sympathy for the man who was offered numerous times to surrender when his people were dying, only to refuse that offer. However, the movie wants us to feel sorry for him whenever misfortune falls upon him. Sorry, you don't earn that right movie. You need to have realistic believability when it comes to me caring about your villain.
So I can plainly see that this review is slowly divulging into a rant against the movie, so I will try to steer myself back on course. Try being the key word.
Even though this movie is two and a half hours, I still feel like nothing happened. I know that a story took place, but had no investment or sympathy towards anything that was onscreen. The entire time, I felt like I was just watching a modern version of The 10 Commandments. I wanted to see something new added to the story of Moses. Something that would have given this movie a stronger identity than other Moses movies. Instead, what we got were more battle scenes and a lot of death. Oh God, all the death. I have counted nearly a dozen separate instances in the movie where mass quantities of people were killed off. And I don't mean subtle off-screen deaths either. I mean large, elaborate, brutal deaths. Want to see a ton of people burned alive? You got it!
Look, I'm all for death in a movie, I really am. I think that when people are killed in film, they can be used to stir a whole mix of sensitive emotions that can help advance the story. When death is done as rampantly as this movie, and as violently as this movie, it becomes less and less about making a point and more about showing how savage the movie can be. How do we make the Nile run red with blood? Have crocodiles eat humans and each other! Then you have the death of all of the first borns, and to show in detail numerous, and I mean numerous, child deaths, is just uncomfertable and awful to sit through. I know what Ridley Scott was trying to invoke with that scene, but the point is lost when you show multiple children dying.
Speaking of children, God's a kid in this movie. Yup, God is a little eight year old that likes to randomly appear to Moses and force him into doing what he wants. I don't want to get into a theological discussion here, because no one wants to hear me try and rationalize my views on religion, but I will say that God most definitely is not a kid that yells at Moses for not doing what he says. Plus he likes to belittle Moses for doing what he was asked to do! Yeah, God tells him to go to Egypt to save his brethren, but as soon as he gets there and does exactly what God wanted him to do, God says that he's doing it wrong and unleashes all of the plagues on Egypt. So what the hell was Moses supposed to do anyway? Sit around and watch God do Moses's job for him?
And don't bring up the idea that this is all keeping true to the Bible or is accurate to previous iterations of the Moses story. This movie, at its core, is an adaptation. By that account, it should be held responsible for the same criticisms that most adaptations face; faithfulness to the source material. If God was a little kid that forced Moses to do everything that he said, that's fine. I retract my statement. However, I'm almost certain that Moses's job wasn't to sit around in a cave and wait for God to do all the work for him after God told him to do his job. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but there's having a point and then there's what Exodus Gods and Kings does, which is to say nothing.
While searching for Google images for this movie, do you want to know what I mostly found in my searches. I saw posters of the movie and behind the scenes footage of course, but I never found a single picture of Moses being Moses. I saw Moses as an Egyptian general, Moses with a sword, Moses holding a sword as an Egyptian general, but no Moses with a long beard guiding his people towards Israel. None of that. Every picture was Christian Bale being a gruff military general and not once did I see anything even resembling the Moses that we've grown accustomed to. That's because this movie is all about showing action and special effects than showing the heart and soul of the piece. It's always spending a ton of time showing huge action sequences, lots of fighting, and grand special effects. In reality, the action scenes detract from the plot, the fighting is pointless, and the special effects don't mean anything if there's no emotional weight behind them.
Exodus Gods and Kings is just an awful movie. It aspires to be so much more than it is, but doesn't know how to get there. Exodus is the result of someone being forced to watch Gladiator on repeat with someone reading Bible verses to them on the side. It is a grand failure unlike anything I've seen this year, and I've seen some pretty awful disasters this year. Those disasters were doomed to fail the moment I saw them, but this could have been salvageable. It honestly could have. Instead, all that we have is pure trash. Nothing but garbage and an absolute waste of time. I look forward to watching this movie be mocked and ridiculed in the upcoming months because that is what this movie deserves. Not because it is bad, but because its Exodus Gods and Kings. What more reason do you need?
Next time, much happier non religious fare.