Exodus: Gods and Kings (2/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 140 minutes.
OK for children.
Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
One would think that a major studio would learn from history, especially
its own history! In 1962, Darryl Zanuck of Fox brainstormed and
bankrolled a similar period film, Cleopatra. Burdened by
notorious publicity of a rampaging affair between Elizabeth Taylor, who
was at the time the wife of crooner Eddie Fisher, and British actor
Richard Burton, and shot in Europe, it was the victim of outrageous cost
overruns. When it was finally released, it bombed, even though the first
half that featured Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar was actually pretty
good. But when the second half came on, featuring Liz and Dick, it was a
horror and fans stayed away in droves, driving Fox to the brink of
bankruptcy. What saved the studio was the fantastic success of another
film shot in Europe two years later, The Sound of Music.
But apparently the present denizens of Fox aren’t aware of its past
because they have committed an estimated $140 million to yet another
costume drama, a retelling of the story of Moses and Pharaoh Ramses II.
This has been done several times before, most recently with Charlton
Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Ramses. This time Fox gives us
Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as Ramses.
The question is, why? Not why the actors, but why the movie? First of
all, this is all fiction. While there might have been a Moses, there’s
no historical record of him outside of The Bible. There is also no
historical record of the presence of Jews in Egypt in the second
millennium BC outside of the Bible, either, much less 400,000 of them as
slaves for 400 years.
This movie shows Moses leaving Egypt as a young man and returning 9
years later. Exodus, however, says that Moses was an 80 year old man
when he returned to get his people (if director Ridley Scott wanted to
be accurate, then, Christopher Plummer would have been better cast as
Moses than Bale). So it’s unlikely that the story that Moses and Ramses
were raised close enough to be brothers and that Ramses was still on the
throne when Moses returned has any validity. In fact, Exodus never
identifies the Pharaoh by name, so saying it was Ramses II is sheer
conjecture. Since Moses is only mentioned in Exodus and in no other
contemporary document, everything in the movie is just totally made up.
If you want to believe this movie, though, there is some breaking news.
The first is that God appears as a little boy to Moses throughout his
life, and has an English accent and a speech impediment.
Second, all Exodus says about Moses is that he married and lived as a
shepherd for 40 years after he left Egypt. But this film breaks new
ground in that after leading his people across the Red Sea, he takes
time out to return to his wife and little boy (around 10 years old) to
see if she wanted to accompany him on his trek leading his 400,000
people to their promised land. Even Exodus doesn’t tell us that. Moses
was one hell of an octogenarian.
Let’s get something out of the way. This is a biblical story, based on
Jewish-Christian tradition and Bible. But Scott starts the film with a
graphic that the year is 1300 BCE. “BCE” is a politically correct
term coined by secularists who were offended by the fact that years are
measured from the date of the birth of Jesus Christ. “BCE” means “before
the common era.” As almost everyone knows, “BC” means “Before Christ”
and AD is Latin for Anno Domini, "year of our lord", years as
measured after the birth of Christ. This dating system was devised in AD
525 and has been in common use since AD 800. Secularists want to deny
this, but the fact is that time is measured from the supposed date of
Christ’s birth (most scholars believe Jesus was born somewhere in 6-4 BC
since the Bible says he was born during the reign of Herod The Great,
who died in 4 BC). When I wrote the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bridge
my publisher tried to change dates from “BC,” as I had it, to “BCE” and
I refused to let them do it. Like it or not, deal with it, but don’t
invent definitions for terms that deny what they have meant for over
As to the entertainment value of the movie, this is the best 3D I’ve
ever seen. Usually the perception that it’s in 3D disappears right after
the beginning. But this is so well done that the depth is almost always
apparent and it’s enjoyable and adds to the movie, and, believe me, this
movie needs something to get through it.
Regarding the content, though, it’s agonizing to sit through all the
plagues. They seem unending.
Director Scott has no feel for common sense or reason and gives little
credit to his audience for even minimum intelligence. While trekking to
The Red Sea, two scouts rush in to tell Moses that Ramses’ force is four
days behind “if they don’t stop to rest their horses.” If they don’t
stop to rest their horses? These horses can run at full speed for at
least four days without falling over dead after about 15 minutes pulling
chariots at the speed of a chariot race? What horses they had in those
Then, after an avalanche destroys what seems like his entire army, in
the very next scene Ramses still has all his troops behind him so they
can be drowned in The Red Sea.
But Scott saves the worst for last. As The Red Sea is roaring back after
the Jews have crossed, Moses tarries behind to meet Ramses in the middle
of the sea as they are engulfed by the water. Not to worry, though.
These guys are both big stars. They can’t die.
This is one of the silliest movies of all time. If you really feel
compelled to see a bad Fox movie, rent Cleopatra; at least the
first half is good.