Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
Epic adventure Exodus: Gods and Kings is the story of one man's daring courage to take on the might of an empire. Using state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion, Scott brings new life to the story of the defiant leader Moses as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues. Written by 20th Century Fox.
So reads the marketing material for Exodus: Gods and Kings according to 20th Century Fox. However, the movie itself despite brimming with "state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion" lacks any emotional impact, has a choppy narrative and is completely devoid of any religious conviction. Do not mistake Ridley Scott's ponderous movie for a religious epic. It is more of a pseudo-historical blockbuster with some metaphysical overtones. By endeavouring to rationalise the faith based aspect of the story, we are left with a distinctly underwhelming costume drama.
It soon becomes apparent while watching Exodus: Gods and Kings that this movie has been subject to the usual editing issues that plague the work of Ridley Scott. Key members of the cast such as Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul and Andrew Tarbet simply vanish from the story shortly after their introduction. There are obvious gaps in the narrative and many of the key characters feel poorly defined. The central relationship between Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Egerton) is very thin and there is little back story to their emerging rivalry. Possibly these gaps will be plugged in a future directors cut; something Ridley Scott is no stranger to.
Many critics joked that "at least the plagues are nice" when reviewing this movie. They are right in this respect. The digital effects work certainly paints an authentic picture of the Egyptian world and the subsequent plagues are brutal and unpleasant. The Crocodile attacks are particularly striking, yet tonally sit quite awkwardly with the rest of the film. The choice to down play the religious element of the plot and effectively sideline Moses's visions of God as the results of a head injury is somewhat counter-intuitive. As a result, Exodus: Gods and Kings feels distinctly lacking in any sort of conviction.
I often wonder if the reason so many "great" directors produce such weak work in their twilight years is because their fame and success has placed them in an echo chamber. It is either assumed that their creative vision is infallible or that all concerned parties are simply too scared to challenge any of the ideas that are presented. This is by far Scott's weakest movie for a long time and frankly I am not sufficiently enamoured to give another longer version a try, as and when it becomes available. Unless you are a Scott completest Exodus: Gods and Kings is best avoided. If you are a person of faith you may still wish to defer to Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments.