Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Exodus: Gods and Kings ★★1/2

    Ridley Scott's "Exodus: Gods and Kings," a film whose subject matter has been beaten to death over the course of cinema history, provides nothing remotely fresh to the story of Moses, and seems intent on fashioning a Hollywood blockbuster around a box-office star in Christian Bale, than anything else. One look at the trailer, and you may have just seen the sum of the picture's aim for yourself.

    As one might expect, the narrative is relatively consistent with that of the Old Testament, except, of course, a minuscule alteration here and there. (For example, instead of God speaking directly to Moses, it is a young boy, who Moses later deems as a "messenger.")

    The Egyptian royalty becomes aware of Moses' heritage, and he is therefore banned from the kingdom. Eventually, there is enlightenment, and redemption, all of which leads to a rather pedestrian climax, where the just triumphs over the malevolent. Naturally, this is the theme of every Bible tale (along with that of salvation), however, "Exodus" does very little to expand such notions, and opts instead, to simply tell an already repetitive account of Christian lore.

    Scott, a director who surely knows the intricacies of quality film-making, provides adequate direction and indulges in numerous techniques to ensure success from each element of the production. High camera angles are sufficiently utilized, to not only diminish the importance of figures such as Ramses, but to give us an objective, and nearly scientific, examination of a constantly re-building Egypt.

    Natural lighting is employed to do what it does best, and that is to provide a genuine atmosphere, for a picture that relies on plausibility without exception. Action scenes, although uneventful, and far and few between, are acutely fashioned with several director's interpretive points of view, including the viewpoint of a carriage driver, as the vehicle is thrust into the air, and the utilization of slow motion, to intensify the moment at hand.

     Despite the favorable outcome of such tactics, however, most of the film is hampered by the overbearing presence of computer generated imaging, which much like the plague in which it is used to depict, becomes nothing more than a tiresome display of repetitiveness.(Instead of delving into the proclivities of God or any intellectual thought rich in introspection, we are bombarded with a half hour exhibition of killer crocodiles and insects.)

    In order to overcome the dreariness of yet another big budget picture, with little to offer besides essentially a re-telling of a set of events, there must be a strong outing from our primary actor. Bale, one of the finest impersonating actors left in Hollywood, once again sheds his personality, in order to don that of a historical figure in Moses. Although Bale does show glimpses of brilliance, in an exceptionally difficult role, it is not enough to prevail over the shortcomings of the film as a whole. 

    One of the most important aspects--when portraying a prominent figure--is to not upset our preconceived beliefs as to how that character will act, and maybe even more vital, as to how that individual appears. Bale certainly exceeds in each of these facets and does his best to give this persona a sense of humanness and a chance to relate to a father in the modern world. 

    Above all, however, it would seem that Bale is quite vulnerable in this performance (not to say that all actors do not have an air of vulnerability, considering they are vulnerable creatures by nature), and this is what makes it so compelling. His conversations with God (or God's messenger if you will) are certainly the chief dialogue in the picture, yet they come off as inadequate, considering we have no earthly idea as to the deliberateness of the actions in discussion. 

    The issue with "Exodus: Gods and Kings," along with every other film that touches on the subject of God, is one that can be attributed to reality, and the philosophical complication that has troubled some of the most brilliant minds on record. We are to believe that this entity is omnibenevolent, yet it would seem as if his actions were nothing short of vengeful. (Case in point: many innocent lives, namely children, are taken for the actions of an arrogant king.) Until some ample explanations are given, these pictures will only slip further into a realm of obscurity. 

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