I generally dislike movies about the Bible (at least anything done in the last 30 years). I dislike movies about the Bible because the production value is so low, the acting is so bad, and the script writing is so terrible, that the movies are fodder for jokes and ridicule rather than being vehicles for delivering biblical content to the population.
That’s why I’m always interested when a major studio greenlights a Bible movie that has a decent budget, a good director, and a terrific cast. I was intrigued when I saw the first trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings. The cast included Christian Bale, Ben Kingsley, and Sigourney Weaver. It was from the director of Gladiator (one of my favorite movies of all time)! It was going to be epic.
But then I watched it last night. Ridley Scott put together an epic film, to be sure. It was 2 hours and 30 minutes and was really action-packed. And, while it contained characters who shared names with biblical characters and had a similar story to the biblical story, it was clearly a movie “based on the biblical story” rather than a movie version of the Bible.
I was surprised at how much the movie differed from the Bible. While some stories (like Noah) are relatively short in the Bible, the Exodus story as told in the movie is covered by TWENTY (20) chapters in the Bible. The biblical narrative contains narration, dialogue, intrigue, drama, death, you name it! There is really no need to change the story to make it compelling – it already is.
In a nutshell, some of my specific problems with the film:
God is represented by a tantrum-throwing 10-year-old.
Faith and the supernatural is present but is downplayed.
Moses is portrayed as a warrior general instead of the biblical version of a man who describes himself as “slow of speech and tongue.” Instead, we’re given a leader like Gladiator’s Maximus. -.-
Moses’s encounters with God occur after he’s in an accident and receives a serious blow to the head, calling into question the validity of his visions.
All in all the film was entertaining. It CERTAINLY wasn’t the Bible. If you do watch it, don’t go in thinking it represents the biblical story. It could, though, be a good entry point for engaging non-believers in conversation about God, faith, and the Bible.
Just read the first 20 chapters of Exodus in the Bible before you watch the film and you’re good to go. 🙂
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.