When the director of Gladiator signs up to take on one of the most gripping stories in the Bible and casts Batman in the lead role as Moses, you know it’s going to be epic.
In terms of scale, action and budget at the very least!
But does it have any accuracy? For all the thrills and spills, is it worth it? Can it add to my faith? I had a lot of questions going into it, but afterwards I only had more.
The film lasts the best part of the three hours and attempts to feature everything from Moses’ prominent position in Pharaoh’s palace to the giving of the Ten Commandments. In Bible terms, that’s about 20 chapters. A lot of ground to cover.
And I think this is one of the film’s biggest weaknesses. It tries to do too much and in the process, focuses on completely the wrong thing.
Now I know this is Hollywood and crafting a narrative based around the rivalry of two “brothers” in Pharaoh Rameses and Moses appeals to a broader audience. Similarly, Moses’ mission to save God’s people the Israelites coming at the expense of his family is given high priority in terms of time and emphasis.
However, to me this doesn’t work because it misses the point of the Exodus narrative and I’d have thought even the point of the title of the film!
The question set up by Exodus is: who is in charge? Pharaoh, the man who thinks he is God, or Yahweh, the God of Israel who has promised to rescue his people from their slavery in Egypt. From the film’s title, Gods and Kings, it seems to suggest these two will be up against each other in furious rivalry.
Unfortunately, the question set up by the film is still who is in charge but this time it’s not the right protagonists. Is Pharaoh in control, or the proud, dismissive Moses who was kicked out of the palace, does not really believe in God and has little compassion for his people?
In fact, Yahweh, the LORD Almighty, is reduced to a bit-part role, played by a vindictive and petulant child who seems only concerned with maximising the suffering of others. The plagues are duly shocking and the emotional pull of these is well done; however, there is little due paid to Pharaoh’s furious and fixated disobedience and his continued hard heart towards God and his people. It almost goes so far as to portray Pharaoh as a victim of God’s violent and appalling judgements…that’s not the God of the Bible.
And as for Moses, his pride and lack of faith are really quite ugly in this film. In the Bible story, he lacks confidence and is by no means a perfect hero but, by God’s grace and with the help of his brother Aaron, he is empowered to stand up to the mighty Pharaoh. Aaron barely features in the film!
So to sum up, the film has many, many flaws and I’m glad we managed to get some kind of deal with our TV provider to watch it for free. It was more palatable than Noah (which isn’t saying much) and, if you take it as a story, it was quite fun to watch, but biblically speaking I was disappointed.
Not a film for Exodus experts!