This film was so much better than the previous attempt at big box-office Biblical fare-Noah. The elements of the story, for the most part, have been left intact. One question I do have for the marketers of this production…why release it at Christmas?
This film is about Passover, as we all remember. It should really be an Easter release, but since I’m not involved in marketing for the film, I can only shrug and wonder why?
Director Ridley Scott attempts to recreate ancient Egypt as he did ancient Rome in Gladiator and the futuristic city of Los Angeles in Bladerunner. He does a credible job in portraying the building of the pyramids, complete with oppression and cruelty to the enslaved Jews. There are some slight remnants of the great and overblown The Ten Commandments (1956) found in the first part of this movie. But the pomp and spectacle never threaten to distract from the focus of the film, which is not true of the fifties VistaVision version directed by Cecil B. DeMille.
Moses is portrayed as a general and a master tactitian, a skilled negotiator who is admired by his troops and his adopted royal family. The plot then moves Moses into the desert thus setting up his initial encounter with God. His subsequent dialogue with the God of Abraham shows the Lord depicted in the guise of a young and extremely self-possessed (other critics have used the term petulant) boy. This depiction works for me, however, some may be offended with God shown in any kind of human form.
One complaint that is justified is the running time. The film runs two and ½ hours, a long time, but the film is not so terribly edited that the action seems padded or plodding and it’s not dragged down with lots of unnecessary plot points or detail.
The parting of the Red Sea is always the big highlight of any Exodus story. In this film, it’s handled extremely well. Although Moses has been depicted on screen for over one hundred years now, this version allows for the imagination of a creative director, Ridley Scott, plus the combined assets of historical and religious sources added to the creation of CGI effects all brought together to weave a narrative that mellows the histrionics found in DeMille’s spectacle and grounds the story to a semblance of reality.
To be sure, there is spectacle of sorts in this version. But the story focuses on the dialogue between Moses and God and the dynamic leadership embodied in the character of Moses. Christian Bale was a good choice, though not without controversy, as witnessed by the critics crying foul in casting a white man (again) in the role of Moses
To sum it up, this was a satisfactory depiction of a story with so many variations and fascinating elements, it would never be enough to simply tell it once. This is the first CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) depiction in a new era of expanded Biblical and historical enlightenment. I doubt this is the last retelling of the Exodus, but for now, it’ll do.