If I wanted to sum up, in a single word, the experience of wasting more than two hours of my life viewing Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), “boring” would be it.
This film is a testament – actually a monument – to the supposition that special effects are not effective by themselves! It’s essential to have story, characters, and audience involvement in order for special effects to truly be special.
Consider this film’s inevitable comparison to 1956’s classic The Ten Commandments. Using technology that is more than 50 years old, Cecil B. DeMille and company created a fun, campy, huge, epic, stirring, and ultimately very satisfying biblical extravaganza. With this update from Ridley Scott, we’ve got a yawn-fest.
Because it appears (at least to me) that Cecil B. DeMille believed in its own story. And I think because of that, we get pulled into the incredibly-over-the-top world that DeMille created – and we buy into it. Hook, line, and sinker.
By contrast, Ridley Scott (at least from what I’ve read) wanted to rationalize his story. And I think because of that, we’re presented with nothing to latch on to. There’s no sense of outrage, no heroics, no anger, no joy. Even the multiple plagues and the red sea doin’ its thang – in all their ho-hum CG glory – couldn’t inspire or impress…
What is impressive (but not in a good way) is that while the original is more than an hour longer than the new version, it’s the new version that seems longer. Much longer. I suspect that if I had a dollar for each time I let out a yawn during the eternity in which this film ran, I’d be rich; however, there was something, some morbid curiosity perhaps, that kept compelling me to see this ordeal to its bitter end.
Kinda makes me want to quote Nietzsche…
When summing up the two versions of the exodus tale, it’s clear to me that in Cecil B’s version, his god is God. At the same time, if we assume that part of what a director is meant to do is help build a world in which the audience can live for a while, then it makes me want to ask of Mr. Scott: “Are you a master builder, or a master butcher?”
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As an end to this frothing-at-the-mouth review (and to introduce a lighter note), I’d like to take a moment to wish any of you who happen to be of the Jewish faith a very happy Hanukkah.