Exodus: Gods and Kings opens almost immediately with Moses and Prince Ramesses leading the Egyptian army into battle against the Hittites. Chariots are tipped. Soldiers scuttle and stab. It’s one of the film’s only true action set pieces. Following the triumphant battle Moses is found to be of Hebrew descent and banished from Egypt.
Director Ridley Scott helms less a character-driven epic and more epic in the literal sense. It’s saturated in CGI spectacle, but not in a way that emits laziness. As God begins unleashing the plagues upon the lovely-rendered Egypt it becomes clear that Scott isn’t concerned with, or very interested in, the human beings of this story. Christian Bale is sombre and angry as Moses. He’s solid and serviceable, but hardly the primary focus. Exodus: Gods and Kings is much bigger than Moses. It is much bigger than the sour-pussing of Joel Edgerton’s Ramesses, and the handful of woeful miscasts. Big action scenes bookend the 150 minute film but it spends most of its time on building grandeur. It’s refreshing to see a blockbuster unfettered by the potential lack of failure that comes with leaving most human characters in the dust. Unfortunately the dust isn’t always as impressive or poignant as it wishes.
Human beings here are insignificant, small. Small both to Ridley Scott’s vision as well as the angry God of the Book of Exodus. They scurry around, often helpless, often in pain. Those who submit to the will of God are given a chance. Faith is rewarded as a virtue. Moses serves as the fleshed out human, full of doubt and hesitation. He’s the anchor that ties down a film that is otherwise howling, thrashing, and angry with biblical CGI madness.