It’s hard to make a movie about a commonly-known story where the ending is already known and still make it exciting. Films like Valkyrie struggled with this, while Apollo 13 was able to excite and create suspense. Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings falls into the first category with its CGI-fueled, woodenly acted, 150 minute mess that someone manages to make the deadly plagues and the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt a boring hodgepodge of gratuity and filler.
The story should be familiar—Moses (Christian Bale) rises up to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt against the will of Pharoah Ramesses (Joel Edgerton.) After a somewhat preachy opening, we get caught up in a 2.5-hour-long mess that never can tell what the story is. For us going into the movie with knowledge of the story, we are all anticipating the plagues and the exodus—pretty much what was marketed in the trailers—but it is a long time before any of that actually shows up. When these events do arrive—after about two hours—they are an outrageously overdone fiasco of boorish CGI. The climactic Parting of the Red Sea goes on far too long as we are constantly cutting to different angles of the shoddy-looking tidal wave that looks less scary and more fake than the one at the end of The Perfect Storm 15 years ago.
Bale and Edgerton are the obvious spotlights here, and neither can seem to do anything with the preachy script that makes the movie feel like the actual 40 years the Hebrews spent in the desert. When God is represented by an unknown little boy who seems to get more screen time than either Ben Kingsley or Aaron Paul, there has to be something wrong here. The movie never feels exciting, as it is constantly trying to balance its realistic relational dynamics with its spirituality and spectacle-driven calamity. The character’s don’t feel realistic in the slightest, and when the supporting cast isn’t on screen, they are easily forgotten amongst the two headliners.
Exodus: Gods and Kings tries really hard to be something—I just don’t know exactly what. With its completely predictable storyline, horrendous CGI, and a script that seemed to want to be six different movies, Exodus: Gods and Kings won’t make you want to flee to the theaters, rather, just the opposite.