Granger on Movies: 'Exodus: Gods and Kings'
What was Ridley Scott ("Gladiator," "Prometheus") thinking? Not only does his $140-million epic spectacle pale in comparison with Cecil B. DeMille's "Ten Commandments" (1956), but he has the audacity to depict God as a petulant British boy.
The Biblical story is there: Baby Moses found in the reeds and raised as companion to Pharaoh's son Ramses, the slavery of the Hebrews, the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. But the Ten Commandments seem like an afterthought.
When first seen, Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Australian actor Joel Edgerton) are grown men, warriors charged with caring for each other by Pharoah Seti (John Turturro), whose soothsayer warns him of an ominous prophecy.
When a sneaky viceroy (Ben Mendelsohn) exposes Moses's lowly Hebrew lineage, he is banished. Wandering through the wilderness, Moses meets a winsome wench (Maria Valverde) whom he marries and they have a son.
Obviously suffering from an identity crisis, brooding Moses is reluctantly compelled by a strange lad, who calls himself "I Am," to strive to free the Hebrews from slavery. Pharaoh refuses, enduring frogs, gnats, boils and locusts until the final plague -- the death of his first-born son -- convinces him.
You think you know what comes next, right? Not quite. Instead of the Red Sea "parting," the water quietly recedes, making it far less dramatic, even when waves engulf the Egyptian armies.
Actually, the most ferocious action occurs when huge computer-generated crocodiles attack fishermen, along with the fish, turning the Nile red with blood. But I don't remember crocodiles in the Old Testament, do you?
Working from an atrocious, revisionist script, credited to four screenwriters (Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steve Zaillian), the actors flounder, grimly garbling their lines, particularly Bale and Edgerton. As a Hebrew elder, Ben Kingsley delivers wise counsel, while Sigourney Weaver snarls as Ramses' resentful mother.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is an underwhelming 4, with little or no emotional resonance. Moses doesn't even say, "Let my people go."
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