Personally, I am not a fan of movies like Facing the Giants, God’s Not Dead, etc. I am just not willing to waste money or time to see these low budget movies with sub-par acting simply because they are produced for/by Christians. I appreciate their intentions and many of my friends enjoy them. They’re just not my cup of tea.
However, as a Christian, I can deeply enjoy recent blockbuster movies like Exodus and Noah that stray from the Biblical narratives in many ways because they are done with excellence, and it’s a movie. I expect to be entertained. I want to see what liberties and interpretations the director takes. If you want something that’s 100% accurate, you cannot even enjoy Charleston Heston as Moses in the wildly popular Ten Commandments (1956) which tells an exodus story that is almost 90% fabrication. (See: Noah: Movie Review)
- Christian Bale is an awesome Moses. Bale really tried to connect with what Moses would have felt and thought during all the crazy stuff that Moses did and experienced. The film is highly emotional and Bale portrays, in some ways, a very realistic Moses, one that has doubts and could have grown up as a functional agnostic. Moses’ faith in God, as it develops, seems like it is hanging on by a string that almost snaps a few times.
- The movie is much more Biblically accurate than Noah. While there are definitely some interesting deviations from the Biblical text, Ridley Scott seemed very focused on adhering to the text when he felt able. The overarching narrative is preserved: God enlists Moses to help free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and lead them on their journey toward the Promised Land.
- Joel Edgerton, an Australian, plays a great Ramses. An interesting casting choice but it works. Ramses is portrayed as this evolving character who moves from a playful general who laughs off many of his father’s leadership decisions to a brutal, punishing dictator who embodies the mantra: absolute power corrupts absolutely. When Moses returns to the ancient capital of Egypt after years in the desert, the city looks like Tolkien’s Mordor, as the corpses of dead Hebrew slaves burning all day and night.
- Diversity? I am not the first one to point this out but there sure are a lot of white people playing Egyptians and Israelites. An Australiam Ramses? Sigourney Weaver laughably attempts to play an Egyptian queen. Ridley Scott’s only response when pressed about the incredibly lack of racial diversity, “get a life.”
- The Plagues – The film’s representation of the plagues is fantastic, bone-chilling at times, which is probably what it was like to endure them. I appreciated how much time Scott spent on conveying just how inconvenient and eventually, lethal, that plagues were. However, they never find their firm source in God. They are all explainable and even presented for most of the film as related natural disasters/phenomenon.
- The End – There’s no extra-Biblical plot twist at the end like in Noah. But the ending seems really rushed and tacked on. Moses escapes Pharoah, receives the 10 commandments and grows very old in about 3 minutes. But the film is plenty long enough as is so the rushed ending is not the end of the world. I personally just did not care for it.
- The 8-year old God. The movie portrays God as an 8-year old boy, the same age as Moses’s son at this point in his life. It is an interesting take but we obviously do not think of God in this way. But this raised some questions for me. Why am I more comfortable with an older, more James Earl Jones-esque personification of God than I am with an 8-year old British boy God. The theology of this 8-year old boy God is pretty consistent with the God of Scripture. He promises to be with Moses. He is clearly in control and he has fierce affections for the Israelites and desperately wants to free them from slavery.
- The brotherhood of Moses and Ramses is the main story. Right after the movie finishes a tribute briefly pops up, “For my brother, Tony Scott.” Ridley Scott’s brother, Tony, was also a very successful Hollywood director (Top Gun) who committed suicide in 2012. This is a great reminder of how our theology is greatly impacted by our experience. Ridley Scott spends aa great amount of time building a story not out of an overarching narrative of God rescuing his people but of Moses and Ramses in conflict. The main story and battle lies between them. One cannot help but see his personal connection to the personal connection Moses must have shared with Ramses.
- Moses doesn’t seem to know he’s Hebrew. This was fascinating, and in my opinion, a fair and Biblical option. The Bible never fully reveals what Moses does and does not know about his childhood in his early years. Even when he kills the Egyptian slave master for hurting “one of his own people” (Exodus 2:11) the reader does not know if Moses is aware that the person being beat was his own people of if the narrator simply lets the reader know that which Moses does not yet know.
This review is far from exhaustive and it is not intended to be. I appreciated the virtual absence of bad language and zero nudity. However, the violence is definitely there to make it earn it’s PG-13 rating, yet as my friend Frank Gil notes, it pales in comparison to the violence in today’s video games.
I hope you see this movie if this type of movie interests you. I think it can spark great conversation and cause more and more people to turn to examine the God of the Bible and hopefully decide to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)