1. I'm not sure who ever could have thought that Exodus: Gods and Kings was a good idea. Putting aside—only for a moment—the much-discussed "whitewashing" of the cast, the movie seems almost specifically designed to appeal to absolutely no one. It's a Bible story, but it paints Old Testament God as an angry, petulant child willing to murder hundreds of thousands of people because he's impatient and bored. It's an action movie that runs 150 minutes and whose sporadic "action" scenes are so inanely computer-generated that the moments involving humans talking to each other feel more like cut-scenes from a video game. It's a grand-scale epic blown up to ridiculous size, but it never once feels awesome or expansive. In all honesty, it mostly struck me as an incredibly efficient and instantaneous way to set fire to $140 million. Perhaps Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox are re-enacting Brewster's Millions?
2. I don't mean to focus on the budget or the box office: We're writing about a movie here, not a spreadsheet. But Exodus is so catastrophically ill-advised, pretty much from the very first frame, that I found myself constantly wondering how this film ever came to exist in the first place. It deigns to tell the complete story of Exodus (the pyramids, the plagues, the parting of the seas), which is not only fraught with all sorts of sociopolitical land mines, but has also been told thousands and thousands of times already. So what does this version have to add? What is its reason for existing? I honestly can't come up any angle other than, "Let's make it BIG."
3. Thus, if you've harbored a burning desire to see actually see the Nile run red with blood, or the most impressive lesions and sores Hollywood makeup can provide, or millions of digital frogs attack a city, this is your movie. (Actually, that frog thing, they way I put it, sounds sort of enjoyable: like the zombie sheep movie Black Sheep, but with frogs. Well, it's not fun here.) I'm not sure there are really people who want to see any of that that, but somebody must've thought so. The movie is so bloated that nothing ever really registers, and it ends up feeling more like a greatest-hits version of the Old Testament. Look, there's the Pharaoh! (Played, hilariously, by a totally shaven and horrifying John Turturro.) Hey, check it out, there's Joshua: I sort of remember him! Hey, time for a 20-minute desert march! By the time Moses is whittling out the 10 Commandments, I honestly started to worry this thing was going to keep prattling on until we got a nativity scene.
4. So, about that whitewashing. Obviously, Ridley Scott's flip "Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such" line is dickish, but this movie is so far from anything resembling reality that focusing on that one issue gives Scott and company more credit than they deserve. Which is not to say that calling out this issue isn't worthy; it's just that if we're going to start pointing out all the ways that this movie is inaccurate and sloppy and stupid, we're going to be here all day. Why does everybody speak with a British accent? Why are they speaking English at all? Who grooms Moses's goatee so sharply? What in the world is Sigourney Weaver doing here? And seriously: Is that Aaron Paul? The ridiculousness is so profound that no one inaccuracy can possibly do it justice. Assuming they would have seriously thought about the racial makeup of their actors assumes they seriously thought about anything.
5. Somehow, Christian Bale almost escapes all this: He's such an intense, obsessive actor that he keeps his dignity even while everything else is collapsing in a heap all around him. He actually thinks he's in a real movie, bless his heart. Exodus: Gods and Kings asks audiences to sit still for two and a half hours and endure a poorly retold story they've already heard a thousand times, with actively bored name actors standing around looking ridiculous amid all the obviously fake digital scenery. The human being is a fascinating, complex animal, but my meager imagination simply can't fathom the idea of a single person on this vast, mysterious planet wanting to sit through this goddamned movie.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.
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