Exodus: Gods and Kings is director Ridley Scott‘s latest swords and sandals epic, bloated in running time and soaked with unnecessary CG. Stars Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton do a fine job balancing the performances, with Bale’s coming across as much more grounded and layered, while Edgerton hams everything up and goes slightly over-the-top. Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t balance out as delicately, leaving very uneven pieces to a perhaps better film whenever Scott’s inevitable director’s cut makes its way to Blu-ray.
Exodus tells the age-old tale of Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton), fully loaded with revolt and plagues across an ancient Egypt. Director Ridley Scott shoots the film big and uses his production budget with ease, presenting a fair amount of actual backdrops and scenery, while also dipping his toes into the greatly unneeded CGI pool of spectacle. The first portion of Exodus is great, often highlighting some of Scott’s underutilized talent, such as John Turturro and Ben Kingsley, while also focusing heavily on Bale’s Moses and Edgerton’s Ramses.
The two make great co-stars, bouncing off of each other quickly and with a reasonable amount of chemistry. Bale is clearly acting in a different movie than Edgerton, keeping his performance grounded and humble. Sure, his character is mostly that, but Bale is clearly channeling something much more restrained and quiet, whereas Edgerton fully embraces the eyeliner and make-up, delivering one of his weirder, if not downright strangest performances yet. Not just because of his wardrobe, but also because of how his character chooses to carry himself, which is a cross between flamboyant and macho, with enough jealousy and paranoia to go around for a second helping.
And that’s the highest point of Exodus — its two more-than-capable leads and their commitment to creating such a strong contrast in views. Once the film separates the two and makes way for its “story”, things go off the deep end and in a hurry. Scott for some odd reason chooses to abandon his pacing and forcefully shift gears into a film that’s far less worried about its characters and more so its story, because it makes way for the film’s expensive set pieces and bigger action sequences.
This doesn’t actually advance the story as much as one would think and instead creates a rather large empty hole of nothingness. There’s lots going on in Exodus to keep your eyes entertained, but not a whole lot behind the scenes or just barely below the surface. Things happen and people die, yet fifteen minutes after the film you might find yourself quickly forgetting what you just witnessed.
That’s because Scott stretches things thin and pads Exodus with sequence after sequence of CG-rendered nonsense. The film runs for a lengthy two hours and thirty three minutes and yet most of the good stuff comes and goes at the one hour mark. The rest is just loud noise, attempting to string together tiny bits of not so awful stuff, in hopes of creating something great and grand, but actually delivering something dull and bland.
Exodus looks and feels like an epic, shot with an old-school mentality that focuses on swooping shots of the large city and all of its inhabitants, but the actual on-screen meat of the film is mostly beaten to death and flattened out far before it rightfully should have been. Scott wastes all of his time and effort glossing over the important stuff between Moses and Ramses and focusing solely on the last two acts of action and destruction, which look cool at times, but mostly feel redundant and like a distraction from what the first half of the film was capturing so well.
More Bale and Edgerton focus could have definitely helped the film limp by, but perhaps the script just doesn’t have enough material to cover or perhaps Scott is waiting yet again for a director’s cut, which will add dialogue between the two and the rest of the rather large supporting cast, which mostly go by without much notice.
Exodus: Gods and Kings had the potential to surprise this holiday season and deliver something to us that isn’t your typical Hobbit affair or awards bait, yet Ridley Scott burns most of his good graces on an attempt at a biblical epic that shoots for the stars and comes crashing down before even leaving the outer atmosphere. Scott’s continuous up-and-down body of work as of late has indicated that perhaps he really doesn’t care so much about the quality of his work and more so the quantity.
Exodus: Gods and Kings – 6/10