I decided to literally start this review just moments after leaving the theatre because I feel it’s important to present a point of view that’s fresh and something that’s not just noise similar to what you’re receiving from so many of the other reviews.
First you will hear many critics downgrade Christian Bale’s portrayal of Moses. I disagree with that wholeheartedly. The material he was given in the screenplay is EXACTLY what he worked with and exactly what he handed us. So the failure of Exodus: Gods and Kings does not lie at his feet.
Problem #1: The people of Egypt and the people known as the Hebrews WERE NOT CAUCASIANS. Undoubtedly they were brown-skinned and in many places dark-skinned.
There are many people in the supporting cast of this film who show you EXACTLY what the people of Egypt and the people of Israel would have looked like. As a person who is closer in design to the people we SHOULD have been seeing in this film, I can’t deny that is initially a bit upsetting. However, I made it a point to leave my bias about that as far away from my screening as possible and I believe I have done just that.
This film suffers from three major issues that I believe are attributable to poor editing, poor casting, and a half-wit screenplay.
First, we are supposed to believe that Ramses and Moses were raised as Brothers. And although John Turturro as Seti does a decent job of building a bridge that shows you what their connection and camaraderie SHOULD look like, because there is VERY – and I MEAN VERY – little interaction between Moses and Ramses, it just doesn’t sell like it should.
And that’s problematic because you as a viewer NEED that relationship cemented in order to understand why it was EXTREMELY difficult for both Ramses and Moses to endure what follows.
This includes the exile of Moses, his first meeting with God, Ramses hunting of Moses, (a man he does not want to kill but feels he must kill to save face, as well as risk losing the undying obedience of the slaves), and the plagues.
One thing I should reiterate, I believe Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale did exactly what they were asked to do with what they were given. Consequently, do I think there were better actors that could have portrayed the characters better? NO. Skin colour ASIDE? NO.
The second issue? The absolute miscasting of Sigourney Weaver and the misuse of Sir Ben Kinglsey, a talent that just doesn’t get its due and is so ill-used it’s a travesty. And there’s a lot of that in this film. There are far too many instances of miscasting in supporting members that play key roles in the story but just don’t have the material necessary to make it what it has the potential to be.
The third issue? The film does entirely too many jumps from place to place and person to person. There is VERY little continuity from scene to scene, and worse still director Ridley Scott does a poor job of showing the passage of time as Moses ages. He literally ages and the rest of the film seems to stand still! And that’s tragic to say the least. If you don’t know the story this is highly problematic because you will get lost and find yourself at odds with what you’re seeing on-screen and how that relates to the timeline of events as the story has been told.
Now for the things that DO work:
This is a Ridley Scott film. Therefore the special effects and cinematography are indeed amazing as is the use of the terrain where the film was shot. A film this grand of a scale without a doubt requires that type of impact, otherwise the message doesn’t get received.
I also like Ridley’s interesting take on GOD and can see why he chose to portray Him in such a manner: you wouldn’t initially feel fear in His presence but when you do feel fear, there can be no doubt as to why and Who indeed is in control.
Again, I enjoyed both Christian and Joel’s performances and I cannot emphasis enough that they did the absolute best with what they were given. There is simply not enough of a connection established in the early stages of the movie that enables you to see the tremendous difficulty they face in going at odds with each other by the time the film is all over.
With that said, do I recommend a screening of this film?
ABSOLUTELY I do!
I think that if you go into the theatre with an open mind (and remember Ridley’s interpretation is slightly different than the original story) and not so lofty expectations, you should feel like the majority of the people who screened it with us did: somewhat satisfied and even more so, intrigued.
Also, I remind you to remember, this film is NOT a testament of faith, it is a display of the strength of will and the power of HOPE.
Joyll Cambridge hails from Manchester, United Kingdom and currently lives in New York, New York. She loves all things movies, fitness and swirling. To read Joyll’s personal blog at The Humanist Exec, click here.
Joyll is joining The Swirl World team as our resident movie reviewer. Look for more movie reviews from Joyll!
Copyright ©2014 Michelle Matthews Calloway, ASwirlGirl™, The Swirl World™, The Swirl World Podcast™, All rights reserved. Photo of Joyll Cambridge used with permission. Photo from the movie “Exodus: Gods and Kings” obtained from Entertainment Weekly.