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Exodus; Gods and Kings

January 4, 2015

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I decided that the new Exodus; Gods and Kings movie was one that I had to watch on the big screen, so despite needing to be up at 4.30am the next morning I went for the evening showing at my local cinema on New Years day.

I wasn’t too sure if I was going to write a blog about this movie, film reviews are not something I’m really any good at but with it being a bible based movie I thought it would be worth covering, as I did with the recent version of Noah (click here to read).

As expected there’s a lot of online discussion around this new movie with views ranging from the movie being a huge success to it being the activity of the anti-Christ.

The main concerns about this movie surround the fact that Ridley Scott changes or misrepresents various elements of the biblical account of the Exodus narrative, and that’s what most of this blog will address.

First of all, I think it’s worth highlighting that if you’re going to attempt to translate a bible story onto the big screen then you’re always going to be faced with the challenge of creating something worthwhile whilst at the same time remaining 100% true to the biblical narrative – I don’t think anyone has ever achieved this tension… ever!

If what you’re looking for is a movie that communicates nothing other than the biblical text then you’re always going to be disappointed, there are always slight amendments made and they are made for one or all of the following reasons:

  1. There are gaps in the storymoses_and_the_sea_by_firelusion-d5114of

As with most biblical stories some detail is omitted and when that happens, writers often fill in the gaps to help bring the story to life a bit more. Creative license at this point can often lead the writer to include some pretty daft details that clearly aren’t anywhere near the truth, but every so often the added detail can cause you to really consider the reality of the story even if the additions are not based in any truth.

A good example of this could be Christian Bale’s inner turmoil as he dialogued with God over the severity of the plagues. Moses is presented at odds with God at various points, which whilst being an addition to the storyline and therefore not necessarily based in any truth, does cause you to reconsider the reality of what Moses went through. It’s easy to read our bibles too quickly. What Moses went through was far from easy and Ridley Scott helps remind us of this.

Inevitably there are moments when Ridley uses creative licence with great success and moments where perhaps he misses the mark somewhat. A good example of him missing the mark could be the decision to include a more military minded Moses, who attempts to overthrow Pharaoh by training up a small Israelite army which only ends in failure – although it did help to emphasise the point that Moses’ efforts were successful only when he trusts in what God says, which obviously is what he later neglects to remember at his own downfall.

Another moment sure to split opinion is the inclusion of some 8 year old child to portray the voice of God – I’m still uncertain as to what I think about this, there were moments where I felt uncomfortable as God seemed to be more like a belligerent school boy but also moments where it was a touch of genius as it highlighted God’s innocence and His raw passion, either way I applaud Ridley for taking such a creative risk – we need more risk takers in cinema.

  1. It’s not good cinema

cinemaProbably most of the changes made in this movie are simply because Ridley Scott didn’t consider the truth interesting enough for cinema.

For example, this movie portrays Ramesses 2nd as the Pharaoh reigning at the time of the Exodus, which isn’t accurate. Whilst there is some debate over which Pharaoh was in power during the exodus (as his name is ironically not mentioned in the text) it’s pretty much a given that Ramesses didn’t come to power for another century or so. It’s also unlikely that there was such a close relationship between Moses and the Pharaoh in power during the exodus – but again the truth is slightly less exciting for Ridley’s plans to create a blockbuster movie.

Another amendment is that of Moses’ character. According to the biblical narrative Moses lives in Midian for about 40 years before his humble return to Egypt, where he is a different man altogether, however the Moses we see in the movie is more of an agnostic rather than a believing Hebrew. He’s also not a very humble character – in fact he’s somewhat defiant, of God as well as Pharaoh, but again never let the truth get in the way of a good story eh Ridders!?

  1. The bias of the people behind the movieRidley Scott, DGA Quarterly, October 1, 2010

It would be naïve to ignore that there is always a bias behind the movies we watch – there are always messages and certain ideologies that leak through what you’re watching but that being said it seems a lot of people go a bit over the top when it comes to the so-called “evils of Hollywood”.

I’ve heard a lot of people tell me about Ridley’s evil agenda but if you actually watch the film there are clearly moments when he seems to communicate with confidence the miraculous elements of the story that many secular directors might have been tempted to explain away, although that being said I’m still confused by the significantly underwhelming parting of the red sea – definite let down in the movie plot.

If we are going to get over-excited about the evils of Hollywood then let us turn our attention to more genuine concerns, such as those movies with more subtle ideologies that affect our way of thinking. In my humble opinion movies that are obviously about God that make bold statements are never as dangerous as films conveying more subtle ideologies.

The very real danger we face when we jump on “controversy band wagons” chatting about Ridley’s evil plans and the Illuminati etc is that we stop believing that God is able to use popular culture to make a difference in people’s lives. I’m not for a second thinking that Ridley is hoping to preach the gospel in his directing career, as far as I can see he wants to make good movies and probably a good living – but the truth is God can use his efforts just like He can yours to make a difference. Therefore if there’s an opportunity for us to engage with our unbelieving friends – like there is with any biblical blockbuster then why wouldn’t you want to grab it as a conversation starter?

If God can use Balaam’s donkey to get a message across I’m sure He can use Ridley Scott.

Let me close with this… if you’re going to make a judgement on the movie at the very least make sure you watch it first – after all as Jesus reminds us in Mark chapter 7 it’s not what goes into you that defiles you – it’s what comes out from your heart.

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