Friday, December 12, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Director: Ridley Scott Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, Indira Varma, John Turturro, Ben Mendelsohn  Screenwriter: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, Steven Zaillian Editor: Billy Rich  Cinematographer:  Dariusz Wolski Musical director: Alberto Iglesias  Distributor:  20th Century Fox  Location: United Kingdom, United States, Spain Running time: 150 mins.
Technical assessment:  4  Moral Assessment: 2.5  CINEMA rating:  V14
       Moses (Christian Bale) and Rameses (Joel Edgerton) have grown up together in Pharaoh’s household as adoptive brothers.  Now handsome and heroic adults skilled in the art of war they are sworn to be there for each other, to the delight of pharaoh Seti (John Turturro).  One day as Seti consults the oracle it is predicted that one of the two would save the life of the other and would become the greater leader, but Seti dies before he could see the prediction come true. Rameses ascends the throne, and makes Moses his most trusted general.  Moses’ days in the pharaoh’s court, however, are numbered once his true origin as the child of a Hebrew slave is disclosed.
       Two assets of the Exodus: Gods and Kings are the CGI and the cast.  It is one “major major” spectacular bible movie, and owing to the theme and director Ridley Scott’s track record is being compared to the 1956 blockbuster, Cecil B. de Mille’s The Ten Commandments.  The comparison, however, proves to be inadequate, as it could largely dwell on the technical aspect of both productions.  To be appreciated on its own merits, Exodus: Gods and Kings has to be watched with an empty mind.  If you approach it thinking that the magic of CGI will give you a more awesome version of de Mille’s masterpiece, you will be sorely disappointed.  CGI was unheard of in the 50s; the amazing footages then were all credited to “camera tricks”.  Thus if you’re looking forward to seeing a magnificent computer-generated parting of the Red Sea—brace yourself for a tsunami instead.
       It’s been said that instead of edifying viewers or affirming their faith, Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings may simply shake it.  So be it.  Because the film is the director’s revisioning of biblical events, his interpretation of scriptures, he is given the artistic license to create an opus according to his perception of truth.  If he sees Moses as a military-man-turned-prophet, and Ramses as a blinged-out ruler with bizarre hobbies, or God (or is it His Messenger?) as a brat with a British accent, he is free to depict them as such—let’s welcome the diversity, vive le difference!    Such deviations from the familiar portraits are not without merit—Bale and Edgerton give their characters depth that could prick the viewer’s imagination into exploring the many facets of faith.  Just temporarily forget about your time-honored biblical knowledge in order to enjoy the superior technical rendering of the plagues.  No one will blame you, however, if you miss the breathtaking moment when Moses’s staff turns into a serpent, or the thrill of seeing the multitude walk on dry land between walls of water.     
       People who know their bible may regard Exodus: Gods and Kings as a big disappointment for failing to plumb the depths of God’s intervention in the affairs of men.  But here is where the challenge lies for the  “people of the book”—evangelists, catechists, theologians, even parents who must guide their children along the paths of truth.