Ridley Scott Returns To Epic Land With This Biblical Entry. The Sheer Scope, Set Pieces, Production Design, Digital Effects Work & Story Are All There, It’s Just A Pity The Drama Is So Dour…
Ridley’s ode to Moses is certainly a lavish (and spectacularly digital) affair, coming in at 150 minutes Exodus: Gods and Kings is a big movie in more ways than one. Recanting the tale of Moses (Christian Bale), an orphaned Hebrew boy who grows up a part of the Egyptian royal family under ruler Seti (John Turturro) and alongside his son Ramses (Joel Edgerton). Moses, of course, is the more level headed of the pair and when he visits the slave mines of Egypt, where thousands of hebrews are ruthlessly worked to their deaths, he is told by an elderly prisoner (Ben Kingsley) that his is hebrew and his coming was foretold. In the meantime Seti ups and carks it, Ramses takes the thrown and it’s not long after that the news of Moses’ heritage gets into his ear and… BAM… Moses is banished from the Egyptian kingdom.
Working from a screenplay by four writers (Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, Steve Zaillian), Exodus: Gods and Kings tries to be a lot of things all at once. A grand epic, an introspective mood piece, a character study and an action adventure tent pole. But with Scott at the helm, and taking matters for too seriously, the sense of wonder about the life of Moses gets lost in the dour earnestness of its portrayal. Ridley rigidly keeps things ultra-serious and sides his hand heavily on Moses, lessening the focus on Ramses and ultimately losing some of the real power this collision of ideologies should have.
In comparison, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah was like a kid in a candy store interpretation of the story where he kept proceedings moving with variations in film styles, leveraging the fantastic with the human and setting a brisk pace whilst never sacrificing the central core of the story. It was wildly shambolic, thoroughly engaging and an entertainingly new approach to approaching bible tales. For all intents and purposes, it worked.
Performances across Exodus: Gods and Kings really vary. Christian Bale does his very best Russell Crowe impersonation as Moses and he pulls it off given how strong a leading man he is, Joel Edgerton seems a bit outgunned as Ramses but considering his story is the most under developed in the film what can you say?, Sigourney Weaver has all but 3 lines and looks like a drag queen (seriously why is she even in this or given billing?), Aaron Paul has barely anything to do but look slavey so he nails it and John Turturro is almost laughable as Seti. Ben Mendelsohn’s slimy bad guy General is fun but his make up is distractingly bad.
Scott is in familiar territory here, reigning in on the same aesthetic and visual scope we saw in Robin Hood. There is definite confidence and visual flair throughout the film, with thanks to cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Prometheus) and it certainly is the trump card of proceedings. The sense of scale is all there, the grandeur of early Egypt alongside the breathtaking landscapes of Egypt and across the Red Sea all make for eye popping stuff. As too does Arthur Max’s production design, the sets look authentic and grand.
Cue the digital effects, which are first class and for the last 40 minutes of the film it is a veritable bonanza of digi-digesty-goodness. From the first crocodile attack to the parting of the seas the visual effects work done here is incredibly impressive stuff and would have even the most hardened movie watcher giving kudos for what they’ve achieved here.
Is the film too long? I didn’t notice the length, it certainly isn’t boring but it is fairly heavy going. From all of the recent Ridley Scott films (Body of Lies, Robin Hood, Prometheus, The Counselor) this one stands up better as a complete entertainment. Some characters are over exposed, many underexposed and there’s a tonal dourness that detracts from the films purpose. All in all Exodus: Gods and Kings is a slightly uneven blockbuster from one of cinemas longest standing film makers that has enough dazzle for cinema goers to keep em kicking on.
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS releases on DECEMBER 4, 2014 in AUSTRALIA through 20TH CENTURY FOX