Directed by Ridley Scott, Exodus: Gods and Kings tells the epic biblical adventure of the defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) and his daring courage to take on the might of an empire. Finding out that he is not the son of a King he was raised to believe he was, Moses is asked by God to rise up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.
Acclaimed director Ridley Scott knows how to tell a story, as he has previously shown with films such as the powerful historical action Gladiator and the audience splitting, visually empowering sci-fi Prometheus. And the story of Moses is an epic one to tell, so Scott was the perfect director to take this on. Personally, I don’t believe in any of the Bible, but I love the story of Moses and anything to do with the history of Egypt, so I was quite excited to see this epic on the big screen on a full, live-action scale.
Just like 2014’s Noah, the biblical story told here is dark and full of fantasy, and that’s exactly what we want from such adaptations, showing the magic of storytelling in full might. Moses’ journey is told well, but it’s one that’s been told so many times before so Scott needed to give the story something that would stand out.
One thing that does is the beautiful visuals. Seeing this vision of Egypt with such great effects and CGI brings the story to life in the best way possible. The huge sculptures and statues against the backdrop of empty, dry deserts really is a wonder. And then come the plagues themselves; the magic of God and his own wonders. This certainly was a story made for the big screen.
The major problem, I feel, is that the film itself lacks heart. Scott’s Gladiator, an adventure on the same kind of level, managed to evoke emotion and empathy, but Exodus doesn’t come close to this in terms of engagement. Moses should be a character who oozes courteousness and determination, but unlike many other re-tellings, it comes across as if Moses takes a bit of a back-seat to God, here, when the film needed him to be enforcing God’s messages as if he had all the power and magic. Instead, Bale’s character doesn’t have the strength a character like this needs, not by any fault of his own, however.
The cast list exceptional. Bale and Edgerton are both brilliant in the leads, both giving strong performances but also very visually fitting. Their competitive chemistry is believable and they were the right choices for their roles, their characters just needed a tiny bit of tweaking. There’s a great supporting cast, too, including Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley, so it’s definitely not the performances that can be blamed for this film not quite hitting the spot.
Then again, you can’t beat DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt when you want a story of Moses that is both magical and educational, so, for now, I’m just going to stick with that.