Exodus: Gods and Kings: Risks and Costs?

Get ready for another biblically-inspired film, y’all. In fact, it’s yet another rendition of the story of Exodus. Ridley Scott is well-known for his historical epics. Gladiator is one of the best of such films, and a Best Picture winner. But Ridley Scott is well known for other great films like Alien and Blade Runner. He is also notoriously inconsistent. Where will Exodus: Gods and Kings fall?

First it must be said, and I’m not the first to notice, that this film features a scandalously white-washed cast. Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton lead the cast and both are superb actors, but are modern audiences really able to suspend their disbelief enough to believe that two UK guys can pass for ancient people of the Middle East?

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Sure we’ve got makeup artists and the like who can do wonders with face painting, and Bale can cultivate a biblical beard, but we’ve already seen this with Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. Of course one would want to cast capable actors, and perhaps quality acting can trump realism now and then, but this film seems a bit excessive. There is a wealth of skilled actors of color, and I think this film was a missed opportunity to showcase them.

Besides, it isn’t the racism-rampant 1950s anymore. This film risks looking out of touch as well as out of place.

Ridley Scott is a great director, and he has an eclectic body of work that reflects his versatility. Alien is a classic in both sci-fi and horror, and Gladiator proved that sword and sandal flicks don’t have to be religious to be successful.

On the other hand, Kingdom of Heaven proved that a film about the Crusades can be more boring than a history book about them, and Prometheus exposed the possibility that maybe some of Ridley’s past successes were strikes of lightning that don’t always happen twice.

Ridley Scott is great at assembling elements like story and cast and direction, but he doesn’t always execute things well. It’s almost like he relies too much on the elements themselves, but his vision isn’t always clear on how to tie it all together.

What I question about Exodus: Gods and Kings is its purpose. Why is he making this film? What will this film provide us that hasn’t been produced before? If this film is merely an attempt to use modern technology to retell a film classic, then fine. There’s nothing really wrong with that, even if that is a lackluster motive. I certainly wouldn’t be impressed if a modern architect wanted to rebuild The Parthenon using modern tools. Been there, done that. Try something new.

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This film will undeniably be compared to its predecessors, the aforementioned The Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypt. The latter is animated, has a gorgeous musical soundtrack, and even entertains an atheist like me. What can this new film bring to the table?

Surely, Exodus will make gobs of money. Religious movie goers will be relatively easy to please, even if Ridley Scott is going for a more “realistic” approach regarding the mystical plagues of Egypt. (Realistic plagues, but not a realistic cast?)

What seems to be happening is a bit of scraping from the bottom of the barrel on this one. The film is derivative, Hollywood-ized, whitewashed, and unoriginal. What about a film from Ramses’ perspective?  Or even an original love story between an Egyptian soldier and Hebrew slave, with the events of the exodus as a back drop?

There are so many angles one could take other than the same old same old.

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