Exodus: Gods and Kings and Unnecessary Biblical Reinterpretations

I saw Exodus: Gods and Kings yesterday with Emily. I wanted to like it. I always enjoy movies about Biblical mythology. Well, not always.

Mostly it was a monologue by Moses talking to whoever was within earshot. The second main character, his Egyptian brother and Pharaoh-in-waiting Ramses, played a distant secondary role at best, mainly to be Moses’ foil.

Exodus_MosesAndRamses

The other main characters from the Biblical narrative—Aaron, Miriam, Joshua—had about a dozen lines among them, none memorable with the exception of Miriam’s refusal to admit that Moses was her brother to save his identity. John Turturro—usually one of my favorite actors—was unconvincing as Moses’ Egyptian father, not because of bad acting but because he looked more like he would be Moses’ brother.

A selection of famous Biblical landmark scenes that were played down or disregarded or totally altered for the movie without improving the story line:

  1. Moses talked to Ramses on his own without brother Aaron’s aid, a necessity according to the Biblical narrative because of Moses’ famous speech impediment, caused when the child Moses chose the burning lump of coal instead of the diamond and put it in his mouth, a sign of his future leadership role among the slaves—though today I have to think that adults who place a lump of burning coal within a child’s reach and then watch as he puts it in his mouth would need a good lawyer to have those pesky child abuse charges dropped, and I’m pretty sure Moses would have struggled with trust issues throughout his life and probably run like hell from the burning bush instead of bowing down in front of it or else become a pyromaniac in a perverted attempt to overcome his fear of fire.
  2. The burning bush was only in the background as Moses spoke instead to a God that was played by a child rather than the traditional old man (actually an interesting twist; think Macauley Culkin in Home Alone; do not think George Burns in O God or Morgan Freeman in Evan Almighty).
  3. Moses does not flee Egypt after killing an Egyptian guard who is beating a Hebrew slave. Rather, he makes a sarcastic comment to the guard about the uselessness of whipping the Hebrew since the Hebrew is still, according to Moses, smiling even as he is being whipped, but otherwise does nothing. Later, after talking to Joshua’s father Nun [I know their relationship because of the old riddle, “Q. Which Biblical character didn’t have a father? A. Joshua. He was the son of Nun”], an irate Moses storms out of Nun’s shack and attacks, for no apparent reason, someone who I think was an Israeli, unaware that two other Israelis have overheard the conversation between Nun and Moses and are about to turn him in. As a result of their traitorous act, and not because of Moses’ own self-preservation instinct, Moses is carried into the desert by Ramses’ guards and left to die.

Exodus_MosesAndNun

Meanwhile, the sign that flashed on the screen at the beginning of the movie to tell us where the story was taking place said, and I’m not kidding: “King’s Palace, Memphis.” Did anyone not think we were watching an Elvis movie?

As I watched the Israelis slaughtering a lamb per household so they could paint a red “X” over each doorpost, I couldn’t help noticing that one lamb had enough blood to cover at least a complete street. A lot of lambs could have been spared if they had been less wasteful. I hope the Hebrews at least all had lamb for dinner that night, which makes me wonder why Jews don’t eat lamb for Passover as a reminder of the lambs’ sacrifice instead of just putting a shank bone on the Seder plate.

Christian Bale did a decent job as Moses. I look forward to seeing the upcoming “Resurrection: The Second Time’s the Charm” starring Jew Balestein.

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