"Follow me and you will be free. Stay and you will perish.”
I have a feeling that the Catholic Church has done quite a bit of lobbying in Hollywood, after noticing that their fanbase started to dwindle. First there was the biblical story "Noah" with the famous boat builder who started constructing a huge ark, insisted by "The guy upstairs", just so he and his family could withstand the announced tidal wave together with a pair of every animal species. And now they even convinced Ridley Scott to make a film of the incomparable epic story of Moses who guided his people through the desert to absolute freedom (It's clear he hasn't pointed out the right place, because they still haven't found the right spot). Ultimately, this film won't convert me (it didn't appeal to me either), but I did expect great things from this pimped version of "The ten commandments" from 1956. In the end it was just a boring spectacle in which the whole bag of CGI tricks, special effects and contemporary modern camera technology was opened, to ensure a stunning visual show. I couldn't find any added value compared with the original film from 1956. Indeed, it was dead boring and disappointing with some non-impressive performances in comparison with those from "The Ten Commandments".
Writing a spoiler-free review for a film like "Exodus" isn't really difficult, because most of us know the initial story. In contrast to the story in the Bible with everything miraculous, wondrous and divine described, this film looks at it from a scientific perspective. There's a meaningful explanation for every Egyptian plague. Even the highlight with the Red Sea didn't look as if the hand of God was in play. As Scott announced it himself, the intention was to give all miracles a scientific twist. Similarly, the big trick with the Red Sea. A giant tsunami caused a drawback of the Red Sea. As a realist, I can live with this, and it's a more plausible explanation for the course of events. As an avid movie lover, this was a rather disappointing choice. In my honest opinion this ruined the magic of the movie. To be honest, my high expectations about this scene made sure I persisted in looking further to this rather miserable-long film. I was expecting an impressive fragment (compared to that of the film of 1956) but was treated to an empty, muddy seabed (and judging by the immense noise of the flying birds, it was swarming with air gasping fish) which got flooded again by huge tidal waves. So it wasn't an impressive moment with a sea opening itself. Waiting impatiently for this moment was just a waste of effort.
The performances by Christian Bale (Moses) and Joel Edgerton (Ramses) were sometimes flatly embarrassing and totally unconvincing. Bale really wasn't believable as the famous Moses. As would-be Egyptian, he looked youthful and virile in the beginning. Like Moses, he also looked like a virile person, but with a fake beard. Also, he wasn't confident and he even dared to accuse God of going too far. Compare him with Charlton Heston. Now THAT was a real Moses : his stature, the impressive beard, that appearance and he was a perfect example what leadership is all about. Also Edgerton as the cruel ruler Ramses looked downright ridiculous. The moment he lays aside his dangerous sword, being part of "The Village People" wouldn't be out of place with the thick applied mascara and his shiny bald head. Remember Yul Brynner ! Yes, he looked like a dangerous and cruel Egyptian pharaoh. For the supporting roles they recruited some big names like Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul and John Turturro. Obviously neither cost nor effort was spared and this served merely to give the whole spectacle a Hollywood status. The only one who didn't disappoint me was Kingsley, although there is a little wear on the routine of facial expressions by him.
Is there anything positive to report ? Yes of course. Visually it is a feast for the eyes: the whole decor, the costumes, Memphis and the surrounding slums were impressive on screen, the monuments and the ongoing labor, the mandatory large-scale battle scenes (I got that "The Lords of the ring" feeling again), the Egyptian plagues look slick and some images are real gems. The subtle interpretations of the biblical story, were surprising. Firstly, He-who-always-talks-with-a-reverberating-voice is represented by an irritating young boy who speaks with a British accent (Not an uninspired burning bush). He's a real brat who gets terribly worked up when his demands aren't met. I'm not a religious type and certainly no expert when it comes to the content of the Bible, but I'm pretty sure that while His Holiness let the 10 plagues rage over Egypt, he still was working on the 10 Commandments, because the rule "Thou shalt not kill" and the concept of "to love thy neighbour" wasn't applied here. The term "turn the other cheek" apparently wasn't customary either. He rather used the slogan "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" I guess. But that's a subject for a theological debate. Furthermore, I think it's wonderful that Moses had to chisel the 10 commandments into the stone tablets himself, instead of "The Big Chief" using some lightning.
Yet I ask myself why Ridley Scott, still one of my favorite directors who produced a series of superb films (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Prometheus) at the age of 77 years has choosen this project. Maybe he wanted to come to terms with God! Conclusion: a visually successful film but substantively it's as empty as the desert during a hot summer. The only thing they need to make is a soft erotic drama about Sodom and Gomorrah, a thriller about the fate of Lot and an adventurous movie about Samson and Delilah, and I think they would have covered the most thrilling parts of the Bible.
PS. It's certainly not my intention to offend those who believe. Who am I to judge if believing is a good or a bad thing. That would make me God, God forbid. But let me quote Ridley : "Religion is the source of all evil. Everyone is tearing each other apart in the name of their personal God". Ultimately, this film will cause a fuss among the devout audience. For me it was simply a simple story.
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