you were an atheist who wanted to ride the Bible movie craze and did
not really care about the material or the beliefs of a few billion
people, you’d make Darren Aronofsky’s Noah movie.
If you were an atheist who wanted to ride the Bible movie craze and
thought it necessary to be respectful of the beliefs of a few billion
people, you’d make Ridley Scott’s Exodus.
The movie is not without its faults. But I enjoyed it and came away a
bit disappointed from a faith perspective, but entertained and not
insulted as a movie goer. To understand why requires some mild spoilers.
If you were an atheist, or at least not a person of faith, and wanted
to do a movie about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, your movie
would look a lot like Ridley Scott’s movie. In other words, you could
not avoid God, but you’d minimize him and play up natural phenomena as
explanations for the plagues as best you could.
And that’s where the movie is interesting.
Noah, the lead character is a psychopath and the deity is a delusion
and dream. In Exodus, the lead character is a psychopath too and God
comes in the form of a boy first seen in a delusion following a rock
slide on a mountain.
But they cannot stop there. God could be a delusion for Noah, but he
cannot for Moses because of the ongoing interaction. He is minimized,
but is not the bit player as in Noah. God appears throughout the movie
as a boy. The effect is to make Him seem both juvenile and prone to
tantrum. At least that is how it starts.
But God’s hand is always present in the movie. God may not always be
seen, and he may be an abstraction, but he is there. The Passover is,
for instance, given short shrift, but it is clearly the work of a Deity
and that is not minimized. When Pharaoh confronts Moses while carrying
his dead child, he yells that only fanatics could worship a god who
kills kids. You get the sense that both actors — Joel Edgerton as
Pharaoh and Christian Bale as Moses — really believed that.
But then Moses says no Hebrew children died. And the God who’d been
being built up as some tantrum prone, vengeful child suddenly looks
like a real god worth worshipping.
I have to tell you that I was starting to check out of the movie. It
disappointed me from a faith perspective and seemed to really get stuff
wrong. But there was a moment that changed my mind. Moses laying on the
beach is the scene.
I finally realized that what I liked least about the movie was its
twist on an old tale. This is not a movie about breaking Pharaoh. This
is a movie about breaking Moses. The Prince of Egypt who believes in no
god must be broken to the point he must rely on the one true God. That
moment on the beach when Moses finally realizes God is really real and
really knows what he is doing sealed the deal for me.
I could buy in, then, to the unbelievers who made the movie using
natural forces to part the red sea because I, like Moses, had by then
bought into it being God using those natural forces.
The movie certainly left me with a sense of disappointment. God was so
much more in the real life version than He is in this movie. Moses’s
family too played a bigger role in reality than in the movie. Some of
the miracles were miracles that could not be explained by natural
forces, but Ridley Scott tried to squeeze them into that —- a person of
shallow or no faith trying to make sense of it all. And I have to
respect that because he tried very hard to not disrespect my faith.
Stepping back from the religious aspect, I think John Turturro as Seti
was terribly cast. He, the great Seti, seemed always on the verge of a
Monty Python skit breaking out. Sigourney Weaver was completely
underused. It was flat out disappointing in how little she was used. [Full