Biblical films have previously been met with comedy, music and adventure, hence Evan Almighty and the popular stage production, Jesus Christ Superstar and more recently Noah. This popular biblical tale was met with CGI special effects and a critically acclaimed director, Ridley Scott. With Gladiator and Blade Runner under his belt, this had high expectations.
Exodus: Gods and Kings has had mixed reactions around the world due to historical inaccuracies and certain portrayals of parts of the story. The story of Moses is well known, he was a Hebrew born in the time when the Pharaoh Ramesis wanted all Isreal children to be drowned. Moses was placed in a basket in a river and adopted by the Pharoah’s daughter. After killing an Egyptian Moses flees fearing the Pharaoh will be furious for he knows Moses isn’t Egyptian. God approaches Moses and tells him to free the slaves. The Pharaoh refuses and God puts Ramesis through ten plagues resulting in the death of his son before he relents and frees the slaves.
The film adaptation has a few inconsistencies with the religious version of the story which has seen it’s ban in Morocco and ironically, Egypt. It has been widely criticised for the use of western actors for middle-eastern characters, something which I didn’t acknowledge until I saw complaints. The story pulls you in so much you don’t notice.
One thing that did strike as odd was Moses using a sword as a staff during the Red Sea miracle, rather than the wooden staff used in the Old Testament tale. In some ways the inconsistencies can be excused as is it a dramatisation of a story from a religious book about a figure who has precedence in multiple religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, however when it is such a sensitive area to film, you’d think they would keep true to the story.
Scott pulled off the story dramatically, with speech dominating the film, the action is minimal but powerful. Although the plagues could have lasted longer, throughout each one it is clear the affect they have on the Pharaoh Ramesis, played by Joel Egerton, and the residents. The plagues are in a different order to that set out in the original story, another inaccuracy.
According to the tale, Moses is adopted by the Pharaohs daughter, however in the film his sister, Miriam, got a job at the Pharoah’s palace and consequently brought Moses up when she “found” him in the river.
Each actor cast fits into their roles accordingly, Christian Bale as Moses pulls at your heartstrings when he is torn between the relationship of him and his sister Miriam, his lifelong friend Ramesis, Pharaoh of Egypt and his wife who he meets when he flees.
A memorable feature of the film is the portrayal of God. 11-year-old British actor Isaac Andrews, known for roles in Hercules, plays God as a child. The introduction of God as a child could be derived as mocking the existence of God in his entirety as Moses only sees him when he wakes up from being hit on the head by a rock. This has been criticised as mocking the authority of God, but it could be justified by the innocence of a child which God represents.
The battle scenes in this film are spectacular and it’s very easy to follow, even if you do get lost in the complexity of the story. Scott’s vision for the film was clear – powerful and engaging. The famous miracle of parting of the red seas is as extravagant as you could imagine and the special effects for each of the special effects feeds the imagination.
Overall, the film had high expectations and in some respects it matches those. As for the dramatisation it was a good effort, but when a religious story is put into film it will never make everybody happy, but what Scott has achieved with Exodus is another moving and memorable film. If you’re willing to sit down for a while and watch a biblical tale played out on the big screen, this is the film for you!