On the heels of the abysmal and unscriptural Noah comes a new movie from famed director Ridley Scott, Exodus: Gods and Kings which opens on December 12th. It has a budget of $140MM after tax credits from Spain.
The movie has not been without its controversy. Right off the bat, those involved have been criticized for casting white actors in the roles to which director Ridley Scott has replied, “I say, get a life”. (He also said that this movie will be “expletive-deleted huge”. That doesn’t bode well.) It amazes me that people are urging boycotts of the movie because of the white actors, but those same people probably couldn’t care less about the accuracy of the movie. I would go a step further and lodge a protest that the film is in English rather than Arabic and that it is shot in Spain rather than in Egypt.
An article in Variety by Scott Foundas speaks of Ridley Scott’s fascination with Moses as “a nonbeliever like himself who only gradually comes to accept the circumstances of his birth and prophesied destiny, and even then finds himself actively questioning God’s plans and his own role in them”. Scott was an atheist (may now be agnostic), as was Aronofsky, director of the Noah movie. Why would we expect atheists and agnostics to make a faithful Bible movie? For the life of me, after Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, I do not see any evidence of Moses’ questioning God’s plans.
Foundas states, “So there is something incongruous about the image of Scott, dressed in a plain black T-shirt and khaki trousers, calmly sipping coffee at the London hotel on a recent Sunday morning, the day even God (another prominent character in Exodus) found fit for a little R&R”. Hmmm. God is just another “prominent character”? And He rested on Sunday? Is the author saying Scott is like God? What is really incongruous is that the director of a movie about the Exodus is sitting in a London hotel on a Sunday morning rather than in a congregation of the Lord’s people.
Christian Bale plays Moses. I cannot wrap my head around that one. Batman plays Moses. (Shades of that raspy “I’m Moses” play in my head.) He was very self-deprecating as the choice to play Moses and then said that he “did some research and just found it to be too fascinating to pass it up”. Research? Does that mean at some point that he actually read Exodus? Evidently not. Such a statement does not bode well. Actually, his research was “the Torah, the Koran, and Jonathan Kirsch’s life of Moses” [Moses: A Life]. Look up the description of that work on Amazon, and you’ll understand Bale’s remarks when he said, “I think the man [Moses] was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life”. Shades of Noah.
Also from the article, the movie is “a serious-minded moral drama that renders Moses’ journey in more complex emotional and psychological terms (and arguably more in line with the actual biblical version of Moses) than any prior screen version of the tale”. Didn’t we hear something similar about the most recent depiction of Noah? Further, ‘Butwhere [Mel] Gibson’s film [The Passion] was a story of Christian martyrdom made by a true believer for a like-minded public, Exodus attempts something riskier and more ambitious: to render, in the most plausible historical terms possible, the life of a man who occupies a vaunted place in each of the world’s three major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam”. I worry about that term, “plausible”. To whom? Why, to the makers of the movie of course. I imagine the creative team sitting around a table tossing out ideas. “Well, then God parts the Red Sea”, someone says. Another replies, “No, that is just not plausible. We’ll have to come up with some other idea. Check the scientific research and see what they say could have caused the parting”. I’m not too far out. “For the most celebrated episode of Exodus lore [?] — Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea — Scott imagined a kind of uber-tsunami, inspired by actual evidence of a massive underwater earthquake off the coast of Italy circa 3000 BC”. It may be that God did use an underwater earthquake to accomplish the parting; however, there is a fundamental problem with the assumption that the one who spoke this creation into existence needs an earthquake to part a sea.
It is, after all, the accuracy of the thing that we care about. Noah was a casualty of its own disastrous re-write of the Biblical narrative. Scott seems to have a similar idea in making a “big movie” with lots of effects. Has he re-written Biblical narrative as well?
The Pharaoh in Scott’s movie, is as in previous depictions, Ramses, though the Bible does not tell us who the Pharaoh was. Evidence suggests it may have been Ramses, but it may also have been Thutmose II or Thutmose III.
Pharaoh’s sister, in the movie, had found both Moses and his sister and reared them but not as brother and sister. Moses’ return to Egypt is as a freedom fighter who blows up granaries and burns ships, but God wants the exodus of the Israelites accomplished faster and so takes matters into His own hands. Moses, though, is not happy with God’s ways of going about it.
There is ‘the addition, at Scott’s suggestion, of Malak (the Hebrew word for angel or messenger), a young boy (played by 11-year-old British actor Isaac Andrews) in whose form God appears to Moses — a bold and potentially controversial decision that allowed the director to avoid depicting the Almighty as “voices from the rocks with thunderous clouds and lightning”‘. Again, hmmm. I understand dramatic license, but is it more dramatic to have God’s voice booming from amidst clouds and lightning or in the form of an 11 year old boy? The Israelites thought it was the former, I’m sure, Exodus 20:18-19. Forbes’ reviewer also praises the choice and says, “Andrews plays God as a p****d-off, impatient, and petulant child”. I assume they think they nailed that one. The dramatic license in this movie, if removed, it seems, could make another movie.
Looking at the trailers, Bale looks more like a Roman gladiator than an Egyptian and more like a freedom fighter than a prophet of God. There is an awful lot of swordplay, even from Moses after he visits Pharaoh. The movie feels like Gladiator meets the Pharaoh, possibly because that film was also from Ridley Scott.
Many reviewers have noted that the effort is to craft a religious blockbuster, thereby capturing two audiences. (This is, in fact, the “reason” offered for the “racist” casting as no big money doners would finance a big-budget movie with no-name foreign actors.) As with Noah, therefore, Christians have no reason to expect a reverent treatment of the material. Sadly, Scott is saying that he wants to do a film about King David and his reign. I suggest the Rock for the lead role and that we all just stay home. If you go to see Exodus: Gods And Kings and find it to be a horrible alteration of the Biblical narrative, don’t blame me. You have had plenty of warning.