Friday, December 12, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings

'Exodus' starts slowly by setting up Moses' dichotomy, but turns into a wickedly fun film once the plagues kick in. Made for fans of grand scale epics that aren't as insane and oddball as 'Noah' (which was still pretty awesome).

Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images.

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Despite being known as a very good filmmaker, Ridley Scott has put out a few stinker epic movies. Robin Hood was sub-par and Kingdom of Heaven was as generic as could be. (If you haven’t seen the director’s cut Blu-ray of Kingdom of Heaven, you should. It’s worlds better than the theatrical cut.) Because of that, I’ve been leery of Exodus: Gods and Kings – even as I sat there watching it. But after the movie’s slow start, it turns into the successful epic that I’m certain Scott has been trying to produce all along.

Exodus: Gods and Kings (why it dons the sub-title “Gods and Kings” is beyond me) tells the story of adult Moses (Christian Bale). It’s assumed that we know about his Hebrew mother putting him in a basket and floating him down the Nile to where the Pharoah’s family found him and took him as their own. We’re expected to know that he has grown up like royalty, so none of that is ever shown. The movie kicks off with a prophesy that his adopted brother and future Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton) would be saved in battle by a future leader. During a standard epic battle sequence, Moses saves Ramses’ life and places worry in the back of Ramses’ head. When another revelation lets on that the Hebrew slaves in Egypt believe that Moses will be God’s anointed prophet and leader, Ramses banishes Moses.

After wandering in the wilderness, Moses stumbles upon a small village. Being a good man, his presence is enjoyed by the villagers and they couldn’t be more happy that he’s chosen to take a wife there. Cut ahead several years. We’re now 40 minutes into Exodus and nothing great has happened – but it’s about to.

While herding his sheep up a supposedly sacred mountain, Moses finds himself speaking with a God that he didn’t believe in until this moment. The way that Moses is perceived to have spoken with God in the film is unique and very fitting. It’s here that Moses learns what God wants him to do: free the Hebrews and lead them from Egypt. Moses parts with his wife and son in a very touching way, then heads back to Egypt to free his people.

It may sound odd to hear this, but once the plagues begin, Exodus becomes a whole lot of fun. It’s extremely entertaining – especially the take the filmmakers have chosen. Instead of plagues and miracles simply happening “because God wanted them to,” there’s some relevant science applied that explains how those unusual events may have truly come to pass. It’s much more refreshing than seeing Moses simply raise his arms and – whoosh – the sea in front of him is parted. This is part of the creative playfulness that makes Exodus a rather entertaining film.

Please note that even though I’ve deemed Exodus “fun,” it also packs a punch. Behind all of it is the wrath of the God of the Old Testament. It can be brutal. One scene, in particular, will shake any parent watching the film.

Exodus: Gods and Kings marks the third big Biblical epic of the year behind Noah and Son of God. Noah was purely made for entertainment, meaning that it’s not at all a faith-building film. While some may not have liked it, there’s no denying that it was extremely well made. Son of God was on the opposite end of the spectrum. It was made for the sole purpose of building faith, which made it lacking in the entertainment and filmmaking areas. Exodus: Gods and Kings, however, is smack in the middle. It features solid filmmaking with being both entertaining and inspiring. It will delight you, but also move you. It’s not completely “out there” like Noah, but it’s also not overly preachy like Son of God, which makes it a very good blend for the cinema.

(Photo credit: 20th Century Fox)

4 out of 5

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