‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ review: if it weren’t for Christian Bale, the movie would have been a bust

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December 23, 2014 by Hope W.

Joel Edgerton (Ramses), John Turturro (Seti) and Christian Bale (Moses) in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Joel Edgerton (Ramses), John Turturro (Seti) and Christian Bale (Moses) in Exodus: Gods and Kings

So, watched any Biblical epics lately?

I have. I have also watched movies about huggable balloon robots, idiots 20 years older, silly penguins, sociopathic manipulative news-cameramen, and dwarves enacting a last stand.

Sadly, this year’s crop of year-end movies haven’t been very impressive. The movie I really loved out of all these was the huggable balloon robot, with meh feelings about the rest. The sociopath news-cameraman was great, truly — Jake Gyllenhaal is one hell of a creeper — but it was the equivalent of me eating my cultural vegetables, so I can’t say I “like” it.

I’ll elaborate on the rest if I have time. Today, I’ll focus on Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Let me bring you through the unfolding of its marketing strategy, and how my interest evolved from eager anticipation to “Hmm, okaaayyyyy…”

Before it was Exodus: Gods and Kings, it was simply called: Exodus. At the time, I was really excited for it — raring to go, in fact — because they cast Christian Bale, whom I love, in the role of Moses, to be directed by Ridley Scott, who does grand epics on a regular basis. (Though he has his “misses” — Robin Hood and Kingdom of Heaven were blah.) It’s also not the first time Hollywood has brought the story of Moses freeing the Israelites out of Egypt to screen; its past attempts have been, well, epic. (The Prince of Egypt was pretty sanitised and watered down for children, and there’s too much singing about “miracles”, but I have been meaning to rewatch The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston.) Plus the first still they released last year was promising. Christian Bale looked great.

Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Then they added the cheesy-sounding “Gods and Kings” as its completely unnecessary subtitle sometime in July this year, and I was a little taken aback. Was there anything wrong with the title “Exodus”? Why didn’t they leave it alone? Still, I was willing to put aside my misgivings, because Christian Bale as Moses! You have to really screw it up to make *that* pairing not work.

And THEN, they released these really tacky black-and-gold posters, and I seriously began reconsidering the artistic merits of the film.

Exodus posterExodus poster1 Exodus poster2

The trailers looked passable, but I no longer had confidence in the apparently gaudy-looking film they were making. I was also disturbed by Joel Edgerton’s fugly-ass bald look, but since I’ve never liked Joel Edgerton anyway (it’s another of my dislikes without basis, like the one I have for Jai Courtney), this only heightened my already-existing displeasure on hearing that he was cast as Ramses.

Still, it’s Christian Bale, and it’s Moses and the Ten Plagues, so I went to watch the film when it came out. (Because throw in some actors I love, a topic I’m interested in, and promise blockbuster-sized shenanigans that scream it’s “An Event Not To Be Missed”, and I’ll be there, whether I think it’s going to be a good movie or not.)

Christian Bale (Moses) and Ben Kingsley (Nun) in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Christian Bale (Moses) and Ben Kingsley (Nun) in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Maybe it’s because the show started at nearly 9pm and ended at 11+, and I had to rush to catch the last train after that; plus to top it off, the theatre was bloody freezing. But I felt the movie dragged a little, and was too long. Two and a half hours seem to crawl by when you’re desperately trying to conserve body heat, especially when you are forced to sit through plot setup of people you don’t like (Joel Edgerton), people whom too much attention is given (Moses’ wife and his family drama), and the Israelites’ futile attempts to free themselves (even though I like Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley). Give me Egypt suffering the wrath of God already, I say!

Not that the movie was horrible. It was better than Noah, at any rate. If you want someone to play Moses, you really can’t do any better than Christian Bale. I feel it’s sacrilegious though, the way he portrayed Moses as someone constantly challenging God. Also, I dislike the portrayal of God as a petulant little boy. But hey, in terms of liberties taken, I think it’s fairly mild for a Hollywood production. Moses was supposed to be 80 years old by the time he went back to Egypt to free the Israelites, but nobody wants to watch an 80-year-old Moses, so it’s not like I’m asking for complete accuracy.

(I’m pretty sure it was 2 million Israelites too, not just 600,000. But as I’m not a Bible scholar, I could be wrong.)

Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver (Tuya) on the set of Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver (Tuya) on the set of Exodus: Gods and Kings

But I would really like to understand this: why did Sigourney Weaver agree to join the movie for the three minutes of screen-time she got? Was she in need of some chump change? Or was it just because Ridley Scott could get her in his movie, so he did? And she didn’t even play Christian Bale’s, I mean, Moses’ mum, she played Ramses’! Just saying: if *I* were a famous actress whose screen-time was all of three minutes, I wouldn’t have chosen to be Joel Edgerton’s mum when I could be Christian Bale’s.

One thing that wasn’t Christian Bale that I did like: the visual effects. The Red Sea parting (or rather, refilling the basin, since it didn’t “part” so much as it dried) was splendid and terrifying. The ten plagues were also spectacular, and chilling. Watching it on screen was bad enough: I don’t understand how the real Pharaoh in history could harden his heart time and again after being visited by each plague and continued refusing to let the Israelites go.

The plague of hail rains down upon Egypt in Exodus: Gods and Kings

The plague of hail rains down upon Egypt in Exodus: Gods and Kings

The movie turned out as gaudy and tacky as I expected — all the gold and guyliner and Ramses’ especially questionable, uncomfortable-looking half-naked costumes as evidence — but it’s a movie about ancient Egypt. Is that a good enough excuse? (I don’t know by the way, I’m genuinely asking here.)

Seriously, I feel very uncomfortable for Ramses' nipples here.

Seriously, I feel very uncomfortable for Ramses’ nipples here.

This review has been totally biased and a little disgruntled, but I haven’t felt truly satisfied and/or delighted by the movies I’ve been watching for the past month since Big Hero 6, so pardon my negativity. The next movie I’m really looking forward to is Chris Hemsworth’s Blackhat, and that comes out only three weeks later, so in the meantime, I’ll have to make do with whatever meagre offerings we have now. Dang.

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3 thoughts on “‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ review: if it weren’t for Christian Bale, the movie would have been a bust

  1. La sortie du film “Exodus : Gods and Kings” de Ridley Scott n’était assurément pas vue d’un bon œil au Maroc.

  2. Dona Field says:

    I think the movie was excellent.Americans are spoiled.We have so many wonderful films
    we have become jaded

    • Jialing says:

      Perhaps? There will definitely be people who liked the movie, like yourself, because no movie, no matter how badly panned, is unanimously hated. In this case, I just can’t see the merits of this film.

      I must also add that I’m not American.

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