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“Exodus: Gods and Kings” Has Nothing On “The Ten Commandments”



David Ives - published on 12/12/14 - updated on 06/08/17

The Ten Commandments lively extra-biblical love triangle for a more somber tale of two angst-ridden brothers, but fine nonetheless. But that’s not all there is to the movie.

Like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah from earlier this year, Exodus: Gods and Kings tweaks things.

The least problematic of the movie’s alterations to its source material is the decision to portray the ten plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea as naturalistic occurrences. The Nile turns red with blood because crocodiles attack everything in sight, the blood kills all the fish, the dead fish cause frogs to flee the water and overrun the city, and so on. As for the Red Sea, a meteor crashes to earth and causes the waters of the Red Sea to temporarily recede long enough for the Israelites to cross. All this could be seen as an out for those who wish to see no miracles in the events, but most religious people know that God works through nature all the time, so such a depiction isn’t really that big a deal. Besides, even Scott can’t come up with a naturalistic explanation for the final plague, the death of the firstborn of Egypt.

What he can do, though, is condemn it. Scott accomplishes this by refusing to show the event which brought Moses to Seti’s home to begin with, the slaughter of every male Hebrew child in Egypt. Oh, it gets a split-second mention when Moses first learns he was born to slaves, but that’s not the same thing as showing it on screen. With that part of the story removed, it does away with any sense of justice when the consequence of Seti’s sin falls upon his people. Instead, all we get is an impassioned plea from the unjustly maligned Ramses to Moses to explain what kind of God murders children?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer that, because Scott does it for you. As you’ve probably already heard by now, God is portrayed in Exodus: Gods and Kings by a preteen boy, and not one of those angelic moppets you find in a children’s choir. Scott’s God is a sniveling, hissy-fit throwing brat who demands his way, or else. I’m sure the idea of casting a child as God sounded interesting and daring to a lot of people during the planning stage of the film, but in execution it comes across as a blunt political cartoon and nothing more. No wonder people have a hard time following him in this movie.

Which brings us to the portrayal of Moses himself. The notion of Moses being trained as a warrior isn’t really that far of a leap since he was raised as pharaoh’s son. In fact, that idea could have lent more impact to the change in his person when God provided him his staff. Except Moses never receives that staff in this picture. Instead, he keeps his sword, which is just what that little rascal God desires. Gone is the proto-Christ shepherd figure of the Bible, and in his place stands a reluctant, skeptical general with the know-how to carry out a campaign of terror against the Egyptian people in the name of his God.

This is Moses as madman, and he’s even worse than the nutcase Noah from Aronofsky’s film. At least in Noah we had the benefit of knowing the God the protagonist was following was real. In Exodus: Gods and Kings, Moses bashes his head against a rock right before he sees the burning bush. Afterwards, it’s heavily implied that the God Moses is following is nothing more than a concussion related delusion as nobody else in the film ever hears from him.

But wait, you say, what about when God speaks to the Israelites from the mountain after they make their escape across the Red Sea? Simple, we never see it happen. Remember how a bunch of critics complained that Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic The Ten Commandments got noticeably more boring after Moses left Egypt? Well, I guess Scott took those complaints to heart, because about ten minutes after the Hebrews cross the Red Sea in Exodus: Gods and Kings the movie ends. That’s right. Three hours long, and the movie only manages to tell half the story. Forgot all that pesky God stuff that follows the special effects, who needs it?

You know, it’s been a bumpy year for the Bible at the movies.

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