Exodus: Gods and Kings review

>The biblical epic has always enjoyed a good relationship with the main Hollywood studios. Stories from familiar texts put onto the big screen in a BIG way – the words Biblical and Epic go together like salt and pepper. Stepping up to the religious film plate is Sir Ridley Scott, who has already had huge success with his swords and sandals movie Gladiator – and here he is taking on the much adventurous story of Moses.

As Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Edgerton) looks to secure his position as the world's most powerful leader, his friend Moses (Bale) does not agree with his decisions and rises up against the empire. Along the journey, Moses takes more than 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey to escape Egypt and its terrifying plagues. He also has a guiding light helping him along the way. As with all biblical movies, a scale of epic is required. Exodus: Gods and Kings continues that trend. Everything is on an epic scale, and that does mean everything. All establishing shots, all tracking shots, all intimate talking scenes are filmed on overlarge scales. Impressive and jaw-dropping initially, but soon with the over-reliance on creating these shots at every turn it loses the impact and becomes boring. Scott has tried to create the landscape shots as their own entity but the overuse kills the wow factor pretty early on.

Exodus: Gods and Kings has been made to tell, rather than show, a story passed through generations and millennia about one person with a life that had many journeys. Scott, once again, tries to create impact by visuals rather than emotions. Moses' early battles with Ramses are loud and brash with the use of swords or shouting. Even once Moses sets out on his journey the story still relies of visuals. There is no sense of emotion that either he or his comrades are going through; the sense of injustice never appears. There is no connection created, no care of the wrong doings that continue to happen. It then falls into becoming a tick-off list of what we waiting to see on screen.  Burning bush? Tick. Plagues? A tick for each one. The parting of the Red Sea? Tick. And that is what Scott has created with this movie, a tick-list of key moments in the life of Moses. At more than two-and-a-half hours, everything happens so quick, almost as if 10 minutes has been allotted to each segment of the story before moving on to the next plot point. Sadly this is just the tip of the biblical iceberg that is Exodus: Gods and Kings. In every story section there are issues that disconnect the emotional feeling that it is trying to establish.

A biblical epic relies on big character actors as well. One's that know a larger than life requirement is needed. Bale is the obvious choice for this type of role, but the curious casting is of Edgerton as Ramses. But he is held back by a role that ultimately boils down to nothing more than a make-up clad, perma-tanned shouty leader with very basic character development. Bale has finally stopped using his Batman voice, and here he is quite reserved apart from the face offs with Ramses. But quiet and reserved doesn't work in a film that is not creating an interest in its central character. Bale is watchable that much is true, but considering what we have seen from him in other more charismatic roles this really does feel like going through the motions and nothing more.

Can a biblical epic be so far over the top that it's almost parodying itself? Because that's what Exodus: Gods and Kings has created. The blame has to fall at the feet of Scott, who clearly wanted to do an epic movie that he will always be remembered for. But this is so wide of the known story that even listing it as a re-imagining wouldn't help.

Exodus: Gods and Kings at IMDb

Mark Searby is a Screenjabber contributor

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