Holy Moses, here’s a misfire of Biblical proportions. In Exodus: Gods and Kings, director Ridley Scott, four screenwriters, and star Christian Bale wring all the inspiration, life, and fun out of a rip-roaring Old Testament tale full of passion, betrayal, armies of marauding chariots, a burning bush, plagues of gnats, boils and locusts, and even the parting of the Red Sea. Sure, Scott’s spectacle play is a big old thing, incredible to behold and filled with truly eye-popping grandeur and swooping CGI renderings of ancient Egypt. But it’s a tame, oddly muted, fusspot of a movie.
The film, really a tale of brotherly bonds and rivalries, revels in the gratuitously gory slicing of the throats of birds and goats (clearly Scott is not only agnostic but also not a vegetarian) but the action lurches from incident to incident with no sense of drive, rhythm or power. Why was this $140 million 3D movie made if it has nothing new to say, no bold or unusual point of view? For 150 minutes, it’s as if we keep seeing and hearing everything from the wrong end of the telescope. Besides, the whole thing keeps crashing down to earth every time the characters yammer on and on, spouting pointy-headed lines the likes of, “From an economic standpoint, what you’re saying is problematic, to say the least” and “Well, wars of attrition take time.”
Christian Bale makes for a commanding, flawed, intelligent Moses, even if his gravitas is undercut by an anachronistic Supercuts hairdo. Opposite him is the movie’s Ramses, his half-brother, played by Joel Edgerton, slathered in mascara, all pouts, poses and, well, just freaking weirdness. He recalls Brando in the latter’s untethered The Island of Dr. Moreau era and he steals the show, even if it’s petty theft. Also floating in and out of the narrative are the wonderful Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsley, and John Turturro, all miscast, none sticking around long enough to leave much of a trace.
Of course, some of us go to a grand, booming, majestic movie with like Exodus: Gods and Kings expecting it to out-DeMille The Ten Commandments and there’s no arguing the immensity of it or the beauty of its visual images. But what’s around the many show-stopping moments is too generic to send us out of the theater properly awestruck, reverent and wowed. **½