Exodus – Gods and Kings

I went to see Exodus: Gods and Kings in the theater recently



Exodus: Gods and KingsĀ (2014) – Rated PG-13

The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.”

Follow me and you will be free. Stay and you will perish.” – Moses (doesn’t this sound just like the classic Terminator line, “Come with me if you want to live”?)

I love Ridley Scott. He makes three kinds of movies: classics, absolutely fascinating missteps, and the occasional forgettable film. His classics are Alien (spawning five sequels and a prequel), Blade Runner (an incredible adaptation of film noir sensibilities to a science fiction setting), Black Hawk Down (still the best movie ever made about modern post-WW2 combat and a true story to boot), and Thelma & Louise (still a feminist hoot).

Unfortunately, Exodus falls in the forgettable category. It is not that Exodus is bad but it does not gel very well at all. Scott tries to ground everything in realism, which is an interesting approach for a tale full of miracles. Moses’ visions are certainly open to interpretation in the movie.

Part of the reason the movie doesn’t gel well is the need to cram too many ideas into two hours and twenty minutes of film. The showpiece, the parting of the Red Sea and the crossing, is given plenty of time to breathe. The special effects are wonderful and the scene is very well-handled but it takes a large chunk out of the running time. The plagues are all jumbled together into what practically amounts to a montage sequence.

The movie comes across as a mixture of Exodus highlights together with what are supposed to be personal moments but the personal moments don’t really work. The characters are not very fleshed out and some of the roles are poorly cast, particularly Sigourney Weaver (who I normally like). On the other hand I suppose I can’t complain about casting when The Ten Commandments had Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson as Egyptian overseers.

First, I have a bone to pick with two very stupid moments in Exodus. One of the moments has a group of Hebrews trying to light a fire. They lay a line of flammable liquid and then strike tinder to some straw and touch the burning straw to the liquid. This would be all well and good but at least three of the Hebrews are carrying LIT torches.

The second is a shot of the Sphinx without a nose. There are several main theories as to when the Sphinx lost its nose. There is a hoary old chestnut about Napoleon’s artillery gunners shooting the nose off. Weather and gradual erosion may have taken it. There are also several other martial candidates who may have defaced the monument as there is quite a bit of evidence that the damage existed prior to Napoleon’s time. However all of the theories agree that the damage occurred between 1200 and 1801.

I am glad I got to see Exodus on the big screen, especially the parting of the Red Sea, but there was no emotional investment and I doubt I would revisit this film again.

Attack of the Director’s Cut!

Things only last in their pure form for a short while after they have been named. So it is with the director’s cut. The director’s cut of a film took on significance when it was substantially different from the version released by Hollywood. It did not take Hollywood long to co-opt and market the term into insignificance.

Most director’s cuts are simply a matter of a scene or two inserted into a film that does very little to change a film. The only more useless term is ‘unrated’. Unrated is used constantly on horror movies that were watered down for an all ages PG-13 release then they add back the few seconds of violence that was trimmed when it is released on home video and no longer needs a PG-13 rating.


Still there are some director’s cuts worth noting. The director’s cut of Alien does not appreciably change the film, simply changing a few takes and adding a fan favorite scene that slows down the narrative at a crucial moment. The original cut is actually better and clearly Ridley Scott should not be allowed to tinker too much as there are now, I think, five versions of Blade Runner available.

Speaking of someone who should not be allowed to touch his completed films, George Lucas actually took his original Star Wars trilogy (you know, the good one) and made it worse by cramming special effects shot after special effects shot into an already classic series of films. Since he owned the rights at the time, they weren’t even called director’s cuts. Obviously there is some hope now that since Disney owns the rights, Han will shoot first in the future.


Getting back to Aliens, James Cameron’s directors cut of Aliens is almost half an hour longer than the U.S. cut. There are some great scenes reintroduced but the overall theme of motherhood is no longer subtle but seems rather sledgehammered home. I enjoy the director’s cut more but the U.S. cut is definitely tighter.

Aliens 3, one of David Fincher’s first films, is an incomprehensible mess. The longer cut, which restores much of his work, is not an actual director’s cut as Fincher has disavowed it. It does make the film much better than it has a right to be. The basic premise of Alien 3 was a huge middle finger to those that loved Aliens. It was also made at the dawn of CGI and the CGI is just awful in many scenes.

Kingdom of Heaven

In addition to Blade Runner and Alien, there is also a director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. Ridley Scott filmed a fabulous epic of the Crusades that suffered from three faults. First, it starred Orlando Bloom who, while not bad, cannot carry the film. Second, it presents Muslim characters in a reasonable light and shows many Christian ones as fanatics. While that is historically accurate, this was too soon after 9/11 for audiences to embrace. The third fault was that the studio decided to cut it from well over three hours (epic length) to just under two and a half (summer blockbuster length). Gone were many subplots and much comprehensibility. The director’s cut restores the subplots making the film the near-classic it should have been.

Which brings us to tomorrow’s topic: the highly anticipated director’s cut of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed