I was pumped to see this movie like nothing else. How could I not be? After the cinematic fail that was Noah, I needed a breath of fresh air. It’s directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Prometheus), starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, and John Turturro. Best of all, the story is an adaptation of one of the most powerful, thought-provoking, and monumental stories ever told, the story of Moses. With all these geniuses coming together, how can this film possibly mess-up?
I’ll begin with the positives. To start, the effects, sets, props, and cinematography are all spectacular (minus Ridley’s occasional shaky-cam). Egypt looks grand, and the third act is a marvel to watch. Another highlight would be the ensemble cast. Everyone performs like I’d expect them to. Christian is serious but not without emotion (unlike Russell Crowe). Joel is great as Ramses. Kingsley (although not having much of a character) is brilliant. And both Aaron and John shine. Lastly, the story. I will give this movie credit for being mostly faithful to the Bible. However, there are a few moments where the writers shoot themselves in the foot, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Alright, now the lowlights (aka why Ridley Scott is not in my Top Ten Favorite Directors). To start, the pacing is way too slow. I understand that the Book of Exodus contains a lot of information, but this film is focusing only on the stories of Moses and Ramses simultaneously. Sadly, this gives us about 30 minutes of boring filler which could have been used on the climax. Speaking of which, when the plagues arrive, the whole sequence lasts about twenty minutes. That may sound like awhile, but after building up to it and waiting so long, it feels rushed. Now I’m not saying this is very bad, it just could (and should) have been much more powerful. Back to the characters: Ramses and Seti are almost exactly how they were in the book. Unfortunately, Joshua, Aaron, and Nun are all done terribly. Nun exists to spew exposition and does nothing else. Joshua gets one pretty awesome moment, but he gets just two lines otherwise. Aaron also does nothing. Remember how in the book Aaron was necessary to the freeing of the slaves? Well here, he shouts at Moses a couple times, but that’s it. Finally, the character of Moses. He’s kind of a mixed bag for me. The first act does him justice and you begin to feel a connection, however as the film goes on, I lost almost all of my emotions for him. In the Bible, he was a man of faith, resourceful, diligent, and ready to make a sacrifice if necessary. Here, he hardly listens to and or trusts God to deliver his people. Not the best way to make me like a character writers.
As I was saying, one other boil this movie leaves me with is how whiny Moses is, and how little he actually does. In the book, it was him who conducted the power of God to bring about the plagues. In this version, he just stands by and watches, never turning his staff into a snake, never turning the Nile to blood, the best he does is say “Let My people go!” once and warn everyone of the Passover. The hammer in the coffin however is the iconic, parting of the Red Sea. It’s supposed to demonstrate the power man has through God. In this film, Moses picks up a sword he threw into the sea out of frustration and then all the water recedes to one side. Wait, what! All the water recedes to one side?! Yeah, remember when the trailers made the Red Sea scene look so awesome? There is literally, NO payoff. The CGI is cool, but it’s so underutilized here. I understand this is an adaptation (not to mention there have been other movies about Moses) and you can change things, but when you have a setup this glorious you WILL USE IT correctly and not just waste our time.
This movie has me conflicted. For every bright side, there is a dark side (obvious Star Wars joke is obvious). This is far better than Noah, and it even has a few hilarious jokes, but this could never stand a chance against true greats like: The Prince of Egypt, The Passion, or Veggie Tales’: Moe and the Big Exit. This gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a D.