I advise an exodus from ‘Exodus’

Posted: December 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

Hot on the sandy heels of Hollywood’s ‘Noah’ epic comes ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ – ostensibly about the life of Moses as described in the first dozen chapters of the Bible’s second book. I went to see it this evening and, boy oh boy, it was certainly epic. Epicly disappointing.

Now, I wasn’t naive enough to think it would come, word for word from the original Masoretic text. I understand that Hollywood reserves the right to have artistic license and to add light and shade to a narrative not necessarily designed for a movie audience. But the story in this film deviates so far from the Bible as to make it quite unpalatable at times and the essential ‘tone’ of this movie even borders on the offensive.

Is it based on the Bible account? Well, where do we begin? It’s quite understandable that the producers drop the eighty year old age tag of the protagonist Moses. Christian Bale’s young face will sell the movie. But unfortunately, the script portrays Moses as a violent soldier, devoid of any actual personality or religious conviction/experience. The holy and loving God of the Hebrews is depicted as an impetuous child, appearing like a ghost or demon, guiding (and occasionally rowing with) a secular and sceptical Moses. The burning bush is especially ambiguous, perhaps deliberately so, suggesting that the whole experience is a mild mental breakdown on the part of Moses, due to a timely bump on the head. The plagues of Egypt, most of which are explained scientifically, are complimented by violent acts of terrorism against the Egyptians by the Hebrews, led by a Jihad-driven Moses. God, if he exists outside of Moses’ mind at all, is a mysterious impersonal monster. Any hope that this could be partially redeemed by the dramatic crossing of the Red Sea at the end of the movie is without foundation. The scene hints at supernatural activity for sure but no more than a hint and the kind that one might find in a horror flick. We are left imagining that the Hebrews crossed in shallow waters while the Egyptians are killed by a storm and a rock fall. The earlier scene where the infant ‘God’ shouted in rage for revenge left me wanting to leave the cinema. I probably should have.

Ironically, I’m normally a fan of director Ridley Scott but despite the superb production values, CGI special effects and no doubt a shed load of money and work, the whole thing falls flat at first base with the script. Moses and Ramases shown as ‘brothers’ was the creative non-biblical element that added soap opera to ‘The Prince of Egypt’ and does the same here. Neither of these two lead actors persuaded me they were real people. At times, Bale sounded like the real ‘actor’ wasn’t on set and he was a stand-in reading the lines for a camera rehearsal. But the misrepresentation of God’s character is the unforgivable ingredient which I suspect will have Christians and those of other faiths like Judaism and Islam seeking an early exodus from ‘Exodus.’ Wasn’t the original story exciting and compelling enough for Hollywood this time?

I suspect, however, for those of us who love and cherish the biblical text, there could be some good news. Back in the early eighties, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg turned the Ark of the Covenant into a fantasy film too (‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’) that caused me as a curious teenager to read the Bible for the very first time. Let’s trust this movie does the same and I am optimistic enough to believe it will. Devout ‘Hobbit’ fans are encouraging us that the recent film franchise is nothing ‘compared to the book.’ That seems like excellent advice here too. Thinking of seeing ‘Exodus’? If you like big blockbusters, you might like it, but I’d pass-over this one if I were you. And if you want the original and authentic story found in the Bible, I’d avoid this movie like the plague.

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