Exodus Gods and Kings: Bibically-inspired epic takes left field turn

Biblically-inspired 3D epic film doesn’t really sound like a very appealing genre, especially after Russell Crowe’s dud “Noah” released to much derision earlier this year.

There’s a lot of unevenness to Ridley Scott’s latest feature, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which re-imagines the Biblical story of Moses as action-adventure fodder.

Oscar-winner Christian Bale picks up sword not staff to play Moses, a highly conflicted character uncertain of what actions are morally just.

Understandably, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” might not play very well with devout Christians, who could find the liberties taken in the depiction of the plagues and God’s interaction with Moses off-putting.

In fact, if an uninformed, non-religious person watched “Exodus” with no prior knowledge of the Biblical story, religious aspects of the film could be explained away entirely as natural disasters, disease, famine and a schizophrenic man. The film is perhaps the most secular way possible of examining Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

The film, which clocks in at well over two hours, could also benefit from a couple of extraneous scenes being left on the chopping room floor.

While “Exodus” is placed heavily on Bale’s broad shoulders, the former Batman is not the true star of “Exodus.” Joel Edgerton, who plays Moses’ brother and future pharaoh Ramesses II, stands out in a thankless villain role that probably would have gone to Ben Kingsley 20 years ago.

It would be easy to simply play Ramesses in a stiff and formulaic manner, but Edgerton — whose work in “Warrior” alongside Tom Hardy is first-rate — rises above the lesser fray and gives a more well-rounded performance than other cast members.

Kingsley and “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul each appear briefly as Moses’ chief advisors, but neither actor is given much to work with.

A lot of care — and time — is taken up early in the film to develop a brotherly bond between Bale and Edgerton, giving the inevitable rift between the two real stakes.

Edgerton actually does a better job of evoking pain and conflict about Ramesses’ relationship with Moses than Bale does. Perhaps it’s the fault of Scott, who doesn’t give Bale enough to do in coming to grips with the situation, or more likely Bale himself, who doesn’t give enough credence to showing the necessary emotion to match Edgerton.

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is best enjoyed when the viewer can get past the film’s criticisms — both its Biblical flaws and lack of diversity in casting — and simply enjoy the ride.

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