We’ve seen this story too many times to want yet another version if it doesn’t offer something new, and bearded Batman as the Leader of Men doesn’t really cut it. Sure Christian Bale’s intense, but that’s not the same as impassioned, and no amount of whispers and shouting will convince me that it is.
Ridley Scott has assembled a motley cast of actors for his biblical epic; almost everyone with a line is white, some parade around offensively in orange-face and eyeliner. The accents are varied and inconsistent. John Turturro looks like a drag queen during a “Walk Like an Egyptian” number. Sigourney Weaver looks lost. Aaron Paul, cast as Joshua, is hardly seen at all.
The two main characters, Moses and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) are raised as brothers but divided when one is made king of Egypt and the other declared saviour to the slaves when his Jewish ancestry is revealed. Unfortunately, the script fails utterly on both these two counts. We never see or understand Ramses’s motivation – he’s paranoid that Moses will usurp him, yet chooses exile rather than death for him based on an affection we never see proof of. Moses, meanwhile, learns that he was born into slavery rather than royalty, and that his life was spared because of a prophecy, yet we see no indication of any internal struggle, no transformation upon learning what must have been pretty shocking news.
The biggest problem is that Scott just doesn’t commit. The miracles aren’t allowed to just be miracles, they’re tempered, and rationalized, and diluted. I’m not even sure if Scott wants us to believe that Moses believes. You know, in God. Which is kind of a big detail. Even the big battle scenes are kind of blase because we’ve seen it all before, often in other Ridley Scott movies (hello, Gladiator!), and this time we just aren’t invested. I only felt bad about the horses.
The good news is, you can skip this movie quite easily, and there are better versions of the story out there. My favourite is DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt, full of joy and faith, starring a different Batman and a better-fitting cast of (nearly all-white) voice actors.