ExoduscoverGrade: C+
Entire family: No
2014, 150 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images
20th Century Fox
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Includes: Blu-ray, Digital HD
Bonus features: C-/D
Trailer/Amazon link

Last year two modernized biblical blockbusters came to the big screen: Noah, starring Russell Crowe in the title role, and Exodus: Gods and Kings, with Christian Bale playing Moses. Both films took so many liberties with the Old Testament version that if a bell rang every time they veered off-course, we’d all be deaf. But at least there are no fantastic rock monsters in Exodus, the superior of the two.

Exodus: Gods and Kings is Ridley Scott’s attempt to retell the story of Moses and the Israelites’ flight from Egypt, but it’s significantly different from Cecil B. De Mille’s The Ten Commandments, which was closer to King James.

Exodusscreen1De Mille made an epic. Scott, like Noah director Darren Aronofsky, made an action movie. There’s no wandering the desert with staff and sandals in Exodus. Scott’s Moses rides a horse across the Red Sea narrows and the wilderness to Midian, with a sword in his bedroll. This Moses wears a breastplate and fights assassins, and when the time finally comes for him to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites to freedom, there’s more talk of rebellion than there is of a “promised land.” He teaches the Israelites to fire bows and arrows and leads them on commando raids. This Moses is more military leader than prophet, and there’s not a single “And the Lord says” to be found here. “They’re Egyptians,” Moses tells Ramesses, “they should have the same rights, they should be paid.”

Much of the language is contemporary, with liberal use of contractions—something my 17-year-old son assures me will go a long way toward appealing to the younger generation. So you have the Pharaoh saying things like, “Everybody but the Viceroy, OUT!” and another ancient Egyptian saying, “I didn’t say exiled. I said DEAD.” In Midian, Moses says, “Your daughters invited me here for food. They didn’t tell me there was going to be an interrogation”—a word that didn’t exist until the late 14th century.

Maybe that’s nit-picking, since Scott manages to create a visually interesting ancient world. He also uses today’s superior technology to wow us when God sends 10 plagues to smite the Egyptians—even though the Nile turns blood red [SPOILER ALERT] because of a giant crocodile that attacks everyone like an ancient Jaws. And later, when the Red Sea rushes over the Egyptians, we briefly see sharks swirling around them in a feeding frenzy. All that too will probably go a long way toward appealing to a new generation of teens and ‘tweens who’ve grown up playing action-filled video games.   More