Tonight my wife and I watched Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings. I will be posting a few reflections here, so if you haven't seen it yet, *spoiler alert!*
- I'm not interested in conversations about the "historical accuracy" of a movie like this one for the same reason I wasn't interested in the "historical accuracy" of Noah: whatever the Bible is doing with these stories it is not the same thing as what modern historians are trying to do.
- Now, whether or not Scott is true to the narrative of the Bible is another thing. For the most part his order is the same. There is obviously poetic license involved just like any inter-texual, midrashic, or sermonic rendering. Moses' life in Egypt receives far more attention than in the Exodus narrative. There are small things like the lack of the pillar of cloud/fire guiding Israel (until the collapse of the Red Sea on the Egyptian army) that stood out to me. Again, this is neither here nor there because it isn't the director's intent to put the Bible to film, but to create a film inspired by the narratives of the Bible.
- If you're heard or read that the casting was conspicuous regarding racial diversity and representation, you've heard correctly. Most of the main characters are white. The support cast and background characters were diverse in representation at certain points, but there are scenes as you may have seen from screen shots where white royalty marches between black guards in such a way that seems insensitive at best, downright racist at worst. In gist, any scene where someone is royalty of some sort is usually played by a white person.
- The storytelling is very good. The movie is not boring. It kept my attention the whole time. The graphics/effects were excellent.
- Yahweh's depiction is weird. Yahweh is a young boy when talking to Moses. I'm not sure what to make of it. Is there some symbolism I'm missing?
- Moses' depiction as a proto-Enlightenment European male was problematic. Of course, Moses' clash with Yahweh ruins his worldview, but prior to this he knows reality in a way his fellow superstitious Egyptians do not.
- I will say that the scene at the end where Moses is chiseling the commandments in stone was a good one. Yahweh seems pleased that Moses didn't always agree with Yahweh and Moses is pleased that Yahweh didn't always agree with him. I think this captures something about the Hebrew Bible's depiction of God often missed by Christian readers.
- The most important thing about this movie may be what made me like Noah: for those of us familiar with these narratives it allows us to see them through fresh eyes. I remember the horror of humans drowning during the great flood in Noah and the theological questions it raised in a way that reading Genesis hadn't raised for me in a while because familiarity breeds contempt (or, apologetic dogma, or, apathy). In this movie the deaths of Egypt's first borns had the same effect. Moses' genuine desire to see Egypt submit to Yahweh rather than suffer Yahweh's judgment humanized a narrative where it is easy to dehumanize the Egyptians because of their cultural role as the oppressors.
Overall, I'd recommend the movie. If you don't want Scott to receive your money wait until it comes to Redbox or whatever, but it is definitely an in-the-theater type movie experience. We watched it in 3D, which was pretty cool, though I'm not sure I'd say necessary.