The 400-Word Review - Exodus: Gods and Kings
By Sean Collier
December 17, 2014
Inasmuch as any ink has been spilled over Ridley Scott’s poorly-timed Exodus: Gods and Kings, it has focused on a curious racial issue.
Wait, wait, that was far too subtle. To rephrase: people are talking about how this movie is straight-up racist.
All of the main characters — who are either African or, at the very least, living and working under the African sun — are white. But just about every actor portraying a servant, a bum, a thief or an otherwise diminished presence is black.
This is the case because, uh... yeah, I don’t have anything other than racism.
But the head-scratching decisions from the Scott camp don’t stop there. At some phase in the development process, it seems that Exodus was about a potentially inflammatory question: were the events depicted in the Bible miracles, or explainable phenomena? Excuses are given for the red Nile, the boils, the locusts; even Moses’ encounter with the burning bush is given a possible earthbound out, as Moses is bopped on the head right before speaking to God. The whole film sneaks in non-miraculous excuses, although the finished product isn’t really about that question.
Oh, except for the death of the firstborn. Whatever non-magical explanation they had for that is evidently on the cutting room floor.
The confusion continues: Exodus’s weakest moments are those when Moses (Christian Bale) speaks with God (Isaac Andrews). Don’t bother Googling that name, by the way: it’s a bratty child. Yes, in Exodus, the almighty is a temperamental fourth-grader; I’m loathe to pan the performance of a tot, but the kid can’t deliver a convincing line. Any other option would’ve been better. A voice from above! A voice from the bush! An adult performer! A mist! Nothing at all, with Moses talking to himself! One of those weird rock monsters from Noah!
The shame of it is that a halfway-decent movie is buried underneath these mistakes. The performances (well, except for the kid) are powerful, and the imagery is vivid and captivating. Most of all, the visual effects are stunning; sequences of chariot battles, mountainside avalanches and the watery climax are overwhelming. A movie with these scenes should be great. And even with the weight of boneheaded casting, overcooked story and a few laughable decisions, Exodus is okay. But Scott and company searched out every possible pitfall separating them from an excellent movie and dove headlong into each.
My Rating: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark