Saturday, December 13, 2014

Moses Supposes his Toeses are Roses...

...but Moses supposes erroneously.  That's a line from a song in a movie I wish I had seen instead of "Exodus: Gods and Kings" today. Since everyone else seems to be reviewing it I thought I would too.

Upon the "curtain going up", we experienced 35 full minutes of trailers for other movies, some good, some horrible, all of which I wish I had seen instead of...well, you get the idea. I had skipped "Noah" after reading reviews that said it was wonky, but decided to give "Exodus" a chance after reading that it was boring because it didn't reinterpret the original story enough. Sounds like an endorsement to me!

However, I discovered that the people who said that the movie didn't reinterpret the Bible story enough probably never read the Bible. "Exodus" is a completely secular tale, and a bad one at that. One of my favorite Sci Fi movies, "Contact" has more religion in it than "Exodus." Both movies have a character who has a private encounter with the unknown which may or may not have been real, but at least "Contact" has a person in it who believes in God, and one who realizes that the world is much richer than she imagined. "Exodus" makes it clear that Moses is an atheist, and nobody in the movie experiences any change.

Spoiler alert. Well, there shouldn't really be any spoilers because we all know the ending, but here goes anyway. Note that I'm leaving out a lot, but I wanted to highlight some things that go terribly terribly wrong.

You may wonder how they pull the story off with Moses as an atheist. You see, Moses doesn't believe in the Egyptian gods (OK), but he also doesn't believe in the Hebrew God. He makes that clear when he climbs the mountain God has forbidden men to climb. Up there, he hits his head on a rock and starts talking to a "petulant" child (quotes are because that's what every other reviewer calls the depiction of the angel) who nobody else can see. Is it all in his head? Probably.

So Moses goes back to Egypt and becomes a guerrilla fighter for the oppressed, Che Guevara style. It is here that we discover that ancient Egyptian buildings were filled with high explosives, and that almost everything in the ancient world was apparently soaked in gasoline and would burst into flame at the slightest spark.

What is he fighting for? Religious freedom? No, he wants Pharaoh to pay the workers a living wage and grant them citizenship (ala President Obama). Pharaoh says this will cause economic chaos (are you listening, Mr. President?) and offers to do it, but over the course of a generation. God says He can't wait, and Moses is tossed aside as a failure.

How 'bout them plagues? Well, you see some giant CGI crocodiles stirred up some red mud, which made the water look like blood and killed the fish, and chased the frogs onto the land, where they died and bred flies, which bred disease. At least that's the scientific explanation given by Scotty - I mean the Egyptian scientist (who has a Scottish accent for some reason).

Of course Moses is mad at God because all these plagues are affecting the Hebrews too (what?). So God sends locusts and hail (or maybe it's all just natural phenomena, we're not sure) and Pharaoh says "I'm a god and I'm going to kill all the Hebrew children not yet walking." Strong words from someone who's just finished cutting down his own starving people in cold blood because they tried to steal his grain (which of course bursts into flame at the first spark).

So Moses tells the Hebrews to put lamb's blood on the door posts (nothing about eating the flesh of the lamb, of course - that would be too Catholic), and all the Egyptian children die, but none of the Hebrew children. Well, perhaps there is a God, you might think, but note that it is all children, not first born - soooo could be some natural phenomenon once again.

Pharaoh goes out to the Hebrews and gives Moses a somewhat ironic speech about how can the Hebrews worship a God that would kill innocent children (hellooooo Pharaoh - didn't you hear yourself the day before when you said the same thing?). So Pharaoh says "go" and they go.

Moses leads the people out to go to the Red Sea, which he found a way to cross at low tide on his earlier adventures, but Pharaoh has changed his mind and now wants to kill the Hebrews (Moses knows this because his riders spotted the Egyptian army's chariots just behind them). So bumbling Moses takes them by a shortcut to escape the army and gets them lost. They wind up at the Red Sea, but in the wrong place to cross.

Moses prays, but nothing happens and they all lie down on the beach to await death. But wait! The next morning the water is all rushing to one end of the Red Sea and they can cross!

Meanwhile Pharaoh has been riding his chariot at a gallop for two full days (and all night - they try to tell him to rest the horses, but he says "no"). After two full days of galloping the horses are almost in sight of the 400,000 men women and children on foot (with all their animals). But as luck would have it, the path that the 400,000 men women and children plus animals crossed is too fragile for chariots, and collapses, destroying 90% of Pharaoh's forces. The other 10% push on!

Apparently the Red Sea is only a few hundred feet wide, by the way, because Moses turns with a small group to fight the Egyptians, just as the water comes rolling back in. He sends his troops back to the far side as Pharaoh's troops abandon him for the near side. The Hebrews all make it, while the Egyptians all drown (probably because the horses were tired from 2 days of full gallop). Moses and Pharaoh are caught together in the middle, and both are swept to their respective sides alive.

The movie ends with Moses back on the mountain, watching the Hebrews worshipping a golden calf while talking to his imaginary friend, while chipping the Ten Commandments into stone tablets. After all, the written law will replace human leadership, or so sayeth God.

Obviously this is a very abridged synopsis, but I think it gives the feel of the overarching story, which sadly takes pains to avoid mentioning God, or any belief that He actually exists outside Moses' imagination.

I won't comment on the lack of acting, unfulfilled subplots, etc. that all the other reviewers have spoken of. They are correct, but I wanted to focus here on how a Biblical story can be so unbiblical. Yes, I have heard all the theories about the plagues and natural disasters. That's not what bugs me. It's that in a Biblical story, at least the people involved should themselves believe in God, even if we, the viewers, are led to a different conclusion. In removing that aspect of the story, nothing Moses does seems genuine or believable, and the story is, like all works without faith (or faith without works), dead.


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