LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The story is very familiar, arguably one of the first bedtime tales many of us heard as children: The story of Moses from the Bible.
Hollywood has certainly utilized the telling of Exodus before, as with Cecile B. DeMille's 1957 epic "The Ten Commandments," and even an animated adaptation with DreamWorks' "The Prince of Egypt."
+ Exodus: Gods and Kings
+ Rated PG-13
+ Running Time: 150 minutes
+ Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, Maria Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley
+ 2 stars out of 4
Now, the story is being told again by Ridley Scott, the visionary director behind renowned films such as "Gladiator."
It can be assumed that Scott is certainly in his element, especially involving any period film portraying our hero riding through the desert on a shining, white horse. And though Scott's Exodus is visually impressive, what is left is a disappointing, often droll telling of this timeless epic.
The pace of the film is a mess met only with a bad script and often questionable dialogue, which is surprising given the obviously rich source material.
The film doesn't begin in the traditional telling of Moses, being set adrift as a baby down the Nile River in a basket. Instead, he is a proud warrior of Egypt under the watchful eye of Pharaoh Seti (John Turturro) alongside his brother Ramses (Joel Edgerton). But unlike his family, Moses finds pity for the Hebrew slaves who forge the Egyptian empire.
Moses comes to find he is of Hebrew blood, thus sending him into exile in an overly long trek through the desert before discovering a nomadic sheep tribe and meeting the beautiful Tzipporah (Maria Valverde), who ultimately becomes his wife. Yet his new life at peace changes when Moses is chosen by God to deliver the Hebrews out of Egypt.
Creative license is clearly used as God appears to Moses as a precocious little boy. Initially reluctant, Moses accepts God's request and returns to Egypt to plead with Ramses, now Pharaoh, to release the Hebrews from slavery.
Bale, being Bale, gives a steady performance, but his character of Moses offers little character drive. There is a small, emotional connection sensed between himself and the plight of the Hebrews, but his character arc feels forced.
The supporting cast is as well largely neglected. Ben Kingsley gives a brief visual symbol for the Hebrew people suffering under Egyptian rule, and Sigourney Weaver is really just a glorified extra, playing as Moses' adoptive Egyptian mother only reacting in the background in a Nefertiti headdress.
It's Edgerton who plays the most intriguing character, as Ramses, once ally turned tragic enemy against Moses, creating the central conflict of the film which works to some depth as he and Bale bring a chemistry to drive the story.
The ten plagues wreaking havoc across Egypt are the film's highlight. Visually, it is impressive seeing massive swarms of frogs, flies and locusts, giving a brief taste of how Ridley Scott is naturally a visually engaging storyteller. Yet the film again falls into a disappointing climax as Moses leads the Hebrews across the desert to the Red Sea. What was so grand in all other cinematic tellings of Moses, the scene is a a particular visual letdown. The waters recede, as we see Moses and the Hebrews wading waist-deep instead of the masses passing through pillars of water ascending into the sky, which is practically a visual metaphor for the film.
"Exodus" lacks any true sense of wonder, squandered in its poor script and attempt at realism as opposed to the miraculous. Many highlights from the Biblical story are intentionally ignored that cannot be explained without reason, which forfeits the natural wonder of the story of Moses. The film is a major disappointment given all the potential it has had. Unfortunately, "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is hardly an epic for the ages.
"Exodus: Gods and Kings" is now in theaters nationwide.