Exodus: Gods and Kings
I think I have said this before, but I will say it again I am not a religious man. I have however read the bible and know the story’s reasonably well. Moses and the freedom of the Jews is one of the most famous in the bible and one of the most interesting. I confess that before seeing the new version I had quite a bit of trepidation because why remake something that was in my opinion done so well before. I think the Ten Commandments was a brilliant film with brilliant performances by Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner. The passion of Heston as Moses was in great contrast to the cold steel of Brenner as Rameses. I imagined that the only reason that Ridley Scott made the new version was that he wanted to put a new slant on it. My thoughts were correct aided by the recent articles which condemned the films inaccuracies. This was clearly a film made by a man who didn’t really believe in the power of god and miracles.
The first big difference between the new version and The Ten Commandments is where it starts. Exodus starts its tale late on with Moses being a full grown adult and a very well respected one at that. An Egyptian until proven otherwise and cousin to Rameses. It is not long until Moses realizes that he is not an Egyptian but a Hebrew rescued at birth by the pharaohs sister after finding him in a basket on the river. Rameses soon casts Moses out although clearly still has a bond with the man he was brought up with. This s when the not so godly tone comes into play. Moses finds a wife and continues life without faith and encourages his son to find his own path even if it means he to has no faith. This is until a walk up the mountain leads to a bump on the head, which then leads to a vision of the fiery bush and a young boy telling Moses to free the slaves. Is this young boy god? We don’t really find out although I presume it is. The whole episode is treated as a feverish illusion rather than a vision from god which is how the bible portrays it.
The vision sets Moses on the path back to Egypt to confront Rameses and force him to free the slaves. Moses does not however choose to put all his faith in god and trains a small army to conquer the Egyptians. The plan is to starve the Egyptians and to attack the channels which feed the mighty empire. God or boy has no patience for this and wants things done yesterday and sends the famous plagues whilst Moses waits in the background. At this point Scott is trying to apply logic to the plagues and find a way fo explain them without the power of god behind them, but at the same time showing the slaves faith that this is not natural disaster, but a an almighty powerful being helping them. This is fine, I myself believe that if the plagues did occur then there must be a logical reason? But then this disappears when the first born Egyptian is brought to death as this is shown in a more supernatural way. The parting of the red sea which for many is the most amazing and memorable miracle is explained in earthquakes and twisters.
Moses is shown as a mad man who sees things and battles’ with the boy god. It seems as though Moses has no real plan or any idea what he is doing. Is he just hallucinating? I know a bump on the head has never made me get up and create revolution? Are we seeing an early example of mental ill health in the bible? Either way I feel the story is far better as it is written. Whether you have faith or not it is a great story and one that in my opinion shouldn’t be tampered with. I said the same about the recent adaption of Noah, which was absolutely ridiculous. I understand what Scott was trying to do but I think he should have left well alone.
I think Christian Bale is one of the best actors around, but this was a dull performance from him, which lacked passion. Joe Edgerton as Pharaoh was a good choice and he did bring a sensitive side to Rameses and you could feel the bond between his character and Moses, but I prefer Brenner in this role any day of the week. Some of the accents sounded pretty ridiculous too as we hear the sounds of Scotland coming from one Egyptian. There were clearly many nations involved leading to a mix of voice, which didn’t quite work. The scenes were breathtaking and inspiring and this tale definitely gained from CGI effects which were not around all those years ago. In saying this I wouldn’t say that it was superior to the 50’s version because the sets were excellent back then and reakl, Those that do not know the story may enjoy this more than me and those that like the fact there God is not a major force, but an entity explained by coincidence and natural disaster may prefer this to the 50’s version. I am a traditionalist and prefer the story how it is written.