Exodus: Gods and Kings (M)

In a word: Flat

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“Inspired” by Biblical story of Moses, the script contains the basic elements of the story found in the Book of Exodus but deviates in many of the details. Which isn't necessarily a problem, except that in this case what ended up on the screen is a somewhat insipid retelling of what is a powerful story.

Director Ridley Scott boasts a number of stand-out films to his name. His latest epic – Exodus: Gods and Kings – isn’t one of them.

While it certainly fulfils the anticipated scale of a Ridley Scott epic with some superb cinematography and interesting CGI effects, the film generally lacks heart thanks to some significant issues with the script and the casting.

“Inspired” by Biblical story of Moses, the script contains the basic elements of the story found in the Book of Exodus but deviates in many of the details. Which isn't necessarily a problem, except that in this case what ended up on the screen is a somewhat insipid retelling of what is a powerful story.

Moses (played by Christian Bale) is an important figure in Egypt – a hard-nosed general raised as a "brother" of Pharoah Rhamses (Joel Edgerton) – who knows nothing of his Hebrew heritage. When Hebrew leader Nun (played by Ben Kingsley - one of the wiser casting choices) tells him during a secret meeting of how he came to be saved from the death squads of Rhamses' father - Pharoah Seti - as a baby (floated in a basket down the river to be saved by a member of Pharoah's family), he doesn’t believe him.

But word leaks out and Rhamses doesn’t react well, exiling Moses. As in the Biblical story, it's while in exile that he encounters God (who appears in the form of a petulant looking child - an interesting interpretation but one which fails to provide the necessary gravitas in this case required in the role), before eventually returning to Egypt. There he finds his calling, although he seems to be more of a freedom fighter than a prophet of God (and it's never quite explained how he becomes accepted as leader of the Hebrew people).

While the seven plaques make for some interesting footage as does the film's interpretation of the parting of the Red Sea, Moses’ encounters with God are very curtailed (God doesn’t turn Moses' staff into a snake in a sign of His power, for example), as is his role in warning Pharoah of impending doom unless he releases the Hebrew slaves. There's no scene in which Aaron and Moses confront Egypt’s sorcerers, they play a much reduced role in calling forth the plagues and the pillar of cloud and fire which God uses to guide Moses when the Hebrews fled Egypt aren't there.

Inevitably one can't include everything from the story in a film version, but stripping out so much of the miraculous leaves a much more prosaic story which fails to explore in any depth the relationship between Moses and God - the key factor in Moses coming to lead the 600,000 Hebrews out of Egypt.

The script doesn’t built to an empathic connection with any of the characters and the use of such well-known actors is distracting at times. The film has justly copped criticism for casting choices.

There’s less cartoonish moments than there was in the Russell Crowe vehicle Noah - although there remain a few such as the meeting early on between Moses and the viceroy played by Ben Mendelsohn - but, like that film, this one is overly long and when the ending does finally arrive, it’s something of an anti-climax.

Exodus: Gods and Kings will hopefully get the conversation about the story of Moses and what it means to us today happening and should see Christians reaching for their Bibles to see what the original story really says – but, all-in-all, this is a missed opportunity by a master of the art.

Exodus: Gods and Kings opens at cinemas in Australia on 4th December.