Exodus: Gods and Kings

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1300 BC, Moses, a general and member of the royal family, prepares to attack the Hittite army with Prince Ramesses. A High Priestess of Sekhmet (the war goddess) divines a prophecy from animal intestines, which she relates to Ramesses’ father, Seti I. He tells the two men of the prophecy, in which one (of Moses and Ramesses) will save the other and become a leader. During the attack on the Hittites, Moses saves Ramesses’ life, leaving both men troubled. Later, Moses is sent to the city of Pithom to meet with the Viceroy Hegep, who oversees the Hebrew slaves. Upon his arrival, he encounters the slave Joshua, who is the descendant of Joseph, and Moses is appalled by the horrific conditions of the slaves. Shortly afterwards, Moses meets Nun, who informs him of his true lineage; he is the child of Hebrew parents who was sent by his sister Miriam to be raised by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses is stunned at the revelation and leaves angrily. However, two Hebrews also overhear Nun’s story and report their discovery to Hegep.

Seti dies soon after Moses’ return to Memphis, and Ramesses becomes the new Pharaoh (Ramesses II). Hegep arrives to reveal Moses’ true identity, but Ramesses is conflicted about whether to believe the story. At the urging of Queen Tuya, he interrogates the servant Miriam, who denies being Moses’ sister. When Ramesses threatens to cut off Miriam’s arm, Moses comes to her defense, revealing he is a Hebrew. Although Tuya wants Moses to be put to death, Ramesses decides to send him into exile. Before leaving Egypt, Moses meets with his adopted mother and Miriam, who refer to him by his birth name of Moishe. Following a journey into the desert, Moses comes to Midian where he meets Zipporah and her father, Jethro. Moses becomes a shepherd, marries Zipporah and has a son Gershom.

Nine years later, Moses gets injured during a rockslide. He comes face to face with a burning bush and a boy called Malak, who serves as a representative of the God of Abraham. While recovering, Moses confesses his past to Zipporah and reveals what God has asked him to do. This drives a wedge between the couple, because Zipporah fears he will leave their family. After he arrives in Egypt, Moses reunites with Nun and Joshua, as well as meeting his brother Aaron for the first time. Moses returns to confront Ramesses, demanding the Hebrews be released from servitude. Ramesses refuses to listen, insisting that to free the slaves would be economically impossible. Upon Moses threatening Ramesses life, Ramesses orders the death of Moses, executing random Hebrew families until he is found. Using his military skills, Moses trains the slaves in the art of war. The Hebrews start attacking the Egyptians, prompting Ramesses to raid slave villages. Malak appears to Moses and explains that ten plagues will affect Egypt. All the water in the land turns to blood, and the Egyptians are further afflicted by the arrival of frogs, lice, and flies. The plagues of the death of livestock, boils, hail and thunder, locusts, and darkness continue to affect the Egyptians. While conversing with Malak, Moses is horrified at learning the tenth plague will be the death of all firstborn children. The Hebrews protect themselves by covering their doors with the blood of lambs, as instructed by Moses. Ramesses is devastated over his son’s death and relents, telling Moses and the Hebrews to leave.

During the exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews follow Moses’ original path through the desert and towards the Red Sea. Still grieving for his son, Ramesses decides to go after the Hebrews with his army. After making their way through a dangerous mountain pass, Moses and the Hebrews arrive at the edge of the sea, uncertain about what to do. Moses flings his sword into the water, which begins to recede. Ramesses and his army pursue the Hebrews, but Moses stays behind to confront them. The Red Sea reverts to its normal state, drowning the majority of the Egyptians (crossing the Red Sea). Moses survives and makes his way back to the Hebrews. Ramesses is revealed to have survived, but he is distraught over the destruction of his army. Moses leads the Hebrews back to Midian, where he reunites with Zipporah and Gershom. At Mount Sinai, after seeing Malak’s displeasure at the Hebrews’ construction of the Golden Calf, Moses transcribes the Ten Commandments. Years later, an elderly Moses riding with the Ark of the Covenant sees Malak walking with the Hebrews through the desert.

REVIEW:

In the same vein as Noah, we have Exodus: Gods and Kings, a retelling of a well-known story from the bible, but with a darker, more fantasy-type tone. There has been a recent upswing, if you will, in films like this, as well as faith-based movies, but does that mean this is worth your time?

What is this about?

Re-creating the biblical narrative of Moses and his liberation of the Israelites from bondage, this epic drama covers the full span of his life, which includes his upbringing in Egypt’s royal court and following the Lord’s command to free his people.

What did I like?

Plague. The 10 plagues were a horrible thing that happened, but they made for one of the best segments of this film. Watching the darkness creep over Memphis as each first born child’s life was taken from them was a powerful bit of imagery. The other plagues weren’t as memorable, but at least the film took the time to show them on-screen.

Effects. The special effects in this picture are really the only thing that kept me interested. The aforementioned plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, battle scenes, etc. I will never be a fan of CG in favor practical effects, but there was just something about the way things were utilized. The special effects were not the focal point of the film, but rather the icing on the cake.

What didn’t I like?

Whitewashing. I hate to talk race, but this has to be done, especially since I happen to be watching this, coincidentally at the same time there is a controversy brewing over the next film set in this area, Gods of Egypt, is beginning its push towards a summer release. We all know that no one in this cast is of middle-Eastern decent. Well, Ben Kinglsey has something in him, but his portion of ethnicity isn’t enough to justify the casting of an all-white cast in a land of dark-skinned people. Hollywood needs to wake up! It is 2015, cast some ethnic actors in these ethnic roles. The backlash for this film and the one that is coming, not to mention Prince of Persia a few years back should be a warning for them. Audiences are just not going to take it anymore!

Change for change sake. It is pretty obvious that things were changed in this film to “make it more exciting” for audiences. The biggest change has to do with Moses. If memory serves, he was never a general in the Pharaoh’s army, nor was he adopted by said Pharaoh. Also, he had a staff when parted the red sea, not a sword. There are countless other changes to the source material, of course, but this is the biggest one in my eyes. Why did they feel the need to change things? Other than making sure this doesn’t come off as a remake of The Ten Commandments in some respects, I don’t understand the need to change things. For me, these changes did not work. Now, if you renamed the characters and not tell anyone what this story is, then yes, it would.

Somewhere beyond the sea. Staying on the change topic, I have to comment on the big effect scene of the film, where we see the Red Sea parted. Wait…we never see the Red Sea parted. This filmmaker chose to make God’s miracles come off as scientific, so we see all the water taken up in funnels. If I remember my biblical history, Moses led his people across on dry land. I did not see dry land when he was crossing. Also, as the Egyptian were giving chase the waves came down and crushed them. This was shown as a sudden change in the weather, if you will, as opposed to a miraculous feat.

I have my issues with Exodus: Gods and Kings, but I admit that it is a better film than everyone gives it credit for. The filmmakers and casting directors have no one to blame but themselves for that. Had they made better casting choices, more people would have seen it, or at least not boycotted it. While I am on the casting. John Turturro as Pharaoh and Joel Edgerton as Ramses just did not work. Turturro was laughable and Edgerton doesn’t scream great Egyptian leader to me, and his performance did nothing to change my opinion. That point aside, there are some aspects of this film that are worth watching, such as the effects, Christian Bale’s performance, etc., but that is not enough for me to recommend it. So, I cannot recommend this in good conscience. It is probably best that you forget this even exists, to be honest.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

  1. […] in lead/speaking roles for a film based on ancient Egypt. Why is that? Not too long ago, we got Exodus: Gods and Kings, which had a similar casting problem. Was nothing learned?!? Back in the day, it was custom for […]

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