Before I watched Exodus: Gods and Kings, I would have guessed it would take near-biblical amounts of planning to put the ten plagues on screen in way that felt boring; that Sir Ridley Scott would need to call down divine intervention to turn tsunamis and chariot battles and the dark meat of one of the world’s ur-stories into a listless, treacly mess. And yet, that is what the man has done.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is the dullest film that I can recall seeing, and I just watched Dark Star.
While, certainly, as a director, Scott has an astute knack for the construction of powerful imagery, based on his last few films (and not that few few at that), he must also have tragically little sense for story. I am honestly morose that someone with so much talent at his fingertips could so thoroughly despoil the grandeur of Exodus. That someone could fail to grasp any of the themes that pervade these verses and, instead, make the tale into a festering pile of roadkill.
There are no characters — in Exodus! — that one feels the slightest affinity for. Moses, played by Christian Bale like Batman of the Jews, manages to free his people without ever really getting to know a single one of them. That makes two of us, even though Ben Kingsley and Aaron Paul are in there. Are any of them even Jewish? Semitic, at least? I think Aaron Paul is Mormon and to find someone less Jewish than Christian Bale you’d have to dig up Dolph Lundgren.
Joel Edgerton’s Ramses is no better; in this telling, he’s a god-king that relies upon assumed privilege for unconvincing motivation. Why is he building monuments? Why does he need slaves? Why does he so quickly turn against his brother?
Better read the book if you want to know, because Exodus: Gods and Kings doesn’t have the slightest clue.
This is a film in which god takes the form of a small, petulant British boy with a slight lisp. It is a movie in which Sigourney Weaver gets two scenes, then disappears in favor of digital locusts. In Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott tries to transmogrify Moses into Russell Crowe in Gladiator — one of the worst Best Pictures of all time. He ignores one of the richest veins of theology in existence in favor of the lamest, tritest, dullest hokum.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is about brothers divided, but as both brothers are nincompoops, who cares?
The film makes the plagues and the dividing of the Red Sea into scientifically plausible occurrences, but then undercuts that with all new miracles that surely god would have performed if only there had been a few studio executives around to offer advice.
Hey god. That’s good stuff, but what if we had a pair of swords to show off, and some dream-mud, and — you’ll love this — crocodiles!
People are saying good things about The Martian, Scott’s latest film. While surely the director of Blade Runner and Alien and even Thelma and Louise has talent, I long ago ceased giving him the benefit of the doubt. This film is precisely the reason why.
One must, after enduring such consistent abuse, take seriously the idea that the vision behind Alien and Blade Runner sprang not from Scott, but from elsewhere. Dan O’Bannon, perhaps. Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. With good material, Scott can make great films — he just lacks the discernment to choose good material. How else can we explain G.I. Jane?
The Martian sounds like a clever book. Early reviews are strong. I want to see it. It’s just a shame that makes me feel like such a fool.