“The truth is, it’s not that good a story.” This was Moses’ response to being told he was a Hebrew in the new “Exodus: Gods and Kings” movie. I found it ironic that such a quote was placed so early in the film.
As I continued watching, two things became very apparent: God’s glory is not glorious enough for Hollywood, and Kemite (the true name for Egyptian) history is not whitewashed enough to present to an American public.
“Exodus” has received its fair share of backlash for the latter half of my observation. The fact that in 2014, a movie can be made about ancient Egypt (which is in Africa), starring no people of color has caused an outrage. It reached such height that director Ridley Scott recently addressed the controversy by saying:
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”
Honestly, the whitewashing of the film did not surprise me. However, I do wish they would have opted to completely commit. Scenes where actors of color served only as voiceless props (often in roles of servitude) had far more racist undertones than if the film would have been completely white, but I digress. To put it simply, that was the smallest problem I had with the film.
The bigger issue was that I was watching a movie, based on a Biblical story, that had little to no correlation with its primary source. There are movies that take liberty with the Bible, and then there is “Exodus.”
It’s almost as if the writer, producer and the director collectively read the book of Exodus and said, “We are going to make a movie with this same title and make sure that it contradicts everything we just read.”
There were numerous times during the film where I found myself scratching my head and asking my friend (who is better versed in the Bible than most) “did this really happen?” I received a very solemn “no” every time.
Here is a list of scenes in “Exodus” that have no basis in the Bible (spoiler alert):
• The omen at the beginning of the film that foreshadows the whole plot (read Deuteronomy 18: 9-12 to see what The Bible says about omens).
• Moses being a general (history loves to debate this fact, but it is never mentioned in the Bible).
• Moses being “ousted” as a closet Hebrew.
• Moses ambushing Ramses with a sword, demanding the Hebrews’ freedom.
• Moses leading an Al Qaeda-esque training camp, teaching Hebrew slaves battle tactics to fight a rebellion against the Egyptians.
The list could go on, but for the sake of space, I will leave it at that. What bothers me the most is that numerous stories in the Bible, Exodus included, would actually make decent action films left untouched. So why is Hollywood attempting to fix what isn’t broken? The answer is rather sinister and can be found in what is possibly my biggest protest in the film: the depiction of God.
In the Bible, God revealed himself to Moses through a burning bush. In the movie, the burning bush is present, but God appears as a child who could be no more than 12 years old. I find it peculiar that Ridley Scott, an atheist, chose to depict God as an immature, temperamental baby who unleashes plagues on the Egyptians as a result of a divine temper tantrum. His depiction serves further to justify atheists’ disbelief.
It should be noted that Scott also directed “Noah,” a film based on the story of Noah’s ark that more than discreetly promoted evolutionary theory (another contrast to the Bible). It is my fear that Hollywood is rewriting the Bible for a generation more concerned with smartphones and trending tweets than they are with fact checking and spirituality.
Even with historical and biblical inaccuracies put aside, the fact is “Exodus” is not good as a film or work of art. The movie lacks any kind of flow, with scenes feeling awkward next to one another. Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton are unconvincing as Moses and Ramses, respectively. It’s just hard to take this film seriously.
After an hour in the theaters, I felt drained … as if I was watching an all day “Titanic” marathon. My advice to Ridley Scott would be two-part: First, stick to historical drama and leave the good book alone and second, get better at directing historical dramas, that way they won’t seem like hysterical blunders.
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