Monday, May 4, 2015

Film review: Exodus: Gods and Kings by Haniel Adhar

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Writers: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, Steven Zaillian
With Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley

The past few years, and I think it started with "Troy", religious or spiritual or "mythological" films have had the supernatural or spiritual element totally omitted from their respective stories. For instance, in "Troy", there was no mention of Achilles' being dipped in the River Styx when his mother Thetis held him by his heel, giving him invulnerability except for his one weakness, the part of him that was not touched by the River Styx's magical waters: His Heel. That's kinda an important part of the legend of Achilles, and it looks as if they wrote the script based on what they read on Wikipedia.
The same can be said about "Exodus: Gods and Kings". (A title that doesn't even make sense...). Mr Ridley Scott, a fine movie maker in his own right, clearly blew it with this rendition of the fabled Hebrew "Exodus". First off, how could you do a Biblical movie about the quintessential event in Judeo-Christian religious tradition, the singular event that which birthed the most influential spiritual tradition in the history of mankind and *leave out* a large portion of the supernatural details? Look, people may have one belief or the other, but if you are doing a biblical film, get the details right. No pillar of smoke; the "burning bush" was just some "hallucination"; "YAHWEH" is some kid who is a "messenger" (Moses never spoke to messengers, Angels, who identified themselves as "emissaries"; the bible is clear that he was speaking directly to God); Scott even got the major detail wrong about how he "Fled Egypt" after witnessing a slave being beaten; in this film, Moses pretty much just shrugs his shoulders and moves along. I could go on, but if you are going to make a movie about the biggest event in Jewish history, ya think you could mention it just ONCE in the film? I am referring to the Passover Seder, which is alluded to by the "killing of the first born" plague, but the actual ceremony is totally absent. Passover is the most important Jewish Holiday, and it was omitted from a film in which is Passover is a critical part of the story line. Bad move, Ridley. In fact, it is to the point of being offensive, and I am not even Jewish.
Maybe if you are doing a Biblical movie, it would help if the director/producer was not *a flippen Atheist*? So, you can deny that this stuff never happened, but you have no problem making money off of it?
The next critique is the casting of "Ramses" (I still do not believe that Ramses was the Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus; I think it was Thoth-mes or a follower of Thoth...). Joel Edgerton's acting was anemic. A better term would be Anorexic. Yule Brenner he is not. He was paper thin, and had mannerisms as if he was drunk or just didn't care to emote at all. He was boring, and clearly over-matched by Christian Bale, who while being horribly miscast as Moishe, he did a fantastic job playing the role he was given. Let's also not forget about the nice little "sword" that Moses wields, and totally omitting his infamous "staff" (He was a Shepard, so, a staff would make sense, eh?). Let's also not forget about the utterly pathetic casting of "white folk" as "Bedouins" and "middle eastern" people. Yeah, c'mon. Religion is bad, but white washing is OK? And...references to "decomposition" and "microorganisms" in a clear attempt at trying to "rationalize" the God of Abraham's "plagues" with science totally doesn't fit with the film's time period. There is no evidence at all that suggests that the Egyptians of 14th century BCE Egypt had any knowledge at all of "infectious diseases" caused by microorganisms, or that flies came from maggots, and so on...So, it is perfectly fine to "deny" the Jewish Tradition, because it is "not true", yet, injecting historically inaccurate anachronisms is acceptable in film making? Why don't you just portray God as an 11 year old Chav with a pathetically harsh Cockney accent? Oh, woops...
(this is another confusing part, because in one scene, the Chav kid says "I AM" when Moses asks him who he is, and in another, Moses refers to him as a "messenger". Not good script writing at all...)
Anyway, this film was much more about revisionist, secularized history than it was about the "Exodus". It comes across as self-indulgent, and reflective more of what the director wants the story to be, instead of what it really was, as written in the Torah. Now, there are those that will say "But, but, The Hobbit didn't match the book either!". Sorry, but all of Western Civilization is based in large part on the events that transpired during the Exodus. But I digress. Biblical films should follow the Biblical text at LEAST 90%, not 25%. Get it right or don't do it.
Exodus: Gods and Kings has some intense moments, mostly because of the acting of Christian Bale, while leaving out the ubiquitous "Let My People GO" line. The special effects were, as expected, brilliant, and the cinematography was top-notch. But let's face it: This was not a "modern rendition of a Biblical tale"; this was a secularized remake of one of the pinnacle moments in Judeo-Christian history, an attempt at revising or "re-envisioning" Exodus to fit what some people's personal belief structures.
And for crying out loud, there was more "religion" in Gladiator, which from the outset this film looks remarkably quite a bit like.
Verdict: if you have 2 and a half hours to kill, and really don't know anything about Judaism, then this hack job is something you may enjoy. But to the rest of us, we are wondering what would happen if Ridley Scott would make a film about Mohamed, and changed all the details to suit his own beliefs. I am sure the Islamic community would be "thrilled" about that... C+ -Haniel Adhar