Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Seven Places Where Exodus-Gods and Kings Got it Wrong
By Ken Spiro

Ridley Scott, who is better known for movies like Alien and Gladiator, has decided to take a shot at The Book of Books-The Bible. His new movie Exodus: Gods and Kings is the fourth attempt to re-create this Biblical Epic. Cecil B. DeMille made two version in 1923 (a silent movie) and 1956, The Ten Commandments, and DreamWorks did the animated version, Prince of Egypt, in 1998.

It seems that each new remake of the classic Bible story gets further and further away from the “original script.” So here’s a list of seven places where Ridley got it wrong:

1-God:  There is no disembodied voice of God anywhere in the movie -not even speaking from the burning bush! The only character who speaks on behalf of God is a petulant pre-adolescent boy.  I always thought that if God had a voice He would sound more like James Earl Jones.  I have no idea where the boy came from but he inspires very little awe.

In The Book God is always talking to Moses and never appears in any human-like form but always as a disembodied voice. The very notion of God taking a human form goes completely against the incorporeal nature of the infinite Creator of the universe that Judaism so strongly affirms.

2-Moses:  Moses is played by a very intense and often sulking Christian Bales.  While Bales is a first-class actor there are certainly enough Jewish actors in Hollywood so I have no idea why Scott didn't use one of them or at least pick someone who looks a little Jewish! Scott’s Moses has no idea he is Jewish until confronted by a band of Hebrew slaves including his brother Aaron.

 In The Book Moses, who is raised by Pharaoh’s daughter (Scott got that one right), has his mother, Yochevet, as his wet-nurse (I guess he only wants “kosher milk ;-) and therefore always knows that he is Jewish. The fact that he stays loyal and connected to the Jewish people despite their lowly position and his exalted status is a testament to his greatness and his commitment.
In the movie, Moses gets his calling 9 years after he has fled from Egypt.

  In The Book he spends decades in Median and only has his first prophetic encounter with the burning bush at the ripe old age of 79. Jewish tradition tells us that he dies when he’s 120 just prior to the Jews entering the Land of Israel and after 40 years of wandering in the desert.

3-Pharoah: Scott’s Ramses is Jealous of Moses’ special relationship with daddy (The Pharaoh Seti) and throughout the movie has only a few direct encounters with Moses and  is given only a bare minimum of opportunities to relent and allow the enslaved Hebrews to leave Egypt.

In The Book there is no indication of step-sibling rivalry and Moses constantly pops into the palace, before and a between each plague where he gives Pharaoh numerous chances to end the suffering of Egypt, but Pharaoh hardens his heart and doesn't relent.

4-Plagues: While I will admit that Scott’s CGI special effects are pretty impressive (In my opinion, the best part of the movie) there are also some inaccuracies here.  He misses a few plagues: lice and wild beasts (unless you count the crocodiles at the beginning which are NOT mentioned in the Bible) and he also seems to hint that many of the plagues could possibly have natural explanations.  They also seem to take place over a fairly short time span…a few weeks or so.

In The Book there are ten altogether and they take place over a period of about a year.  In addition the Bible makes it clear that these plagues are truly supernatural complete violations of the laws of nature:  Hail that is also on fire and darkness so thick that you couldn't move in it. The point of all of these plagues was to demonstrate that idolatry is an illusion and that God has absolute power over all the forces of nature. This idea of one, all-powerful God was really radical and totally different from all the other polytheistic religions of the ancient world.

5-Prophecy: Starting with Moses’ first revelation at the Burning Bush and continuing throughout the film, Scott gets it all wrong.  In the movie Moses gets caught in a storm on the mountain, gets hit on the head with a rock and then buried in a mudslide.  The implication is the whole burning bush episode could be the by-product of a delusion caused by a head injury.  He also doesn't seem to have a very good prophetic connection to the Almighty and is left to the mercy of the random appearance of the petulant-pre-adolescent who speaks on behalf of God.

In The Book Moses wanders into a cave and has the very powerful and fully conscious burning-bush prophetic experience.  The Bible also makes it clear that Moses reaches the highest level of prophecy humanly possible and throughout his prophetic career had constant access and a clear connection to the Almighty. It is precisely due to this uniquely clear nature of Moses’ prophecy that his word has a unique status in Judaism and is the foundation of all Jewish law.

6-Guerrilla Warfare: Now here’s a bit that Scott seems to pull completely out of nowhere.  Before all the plagues start Moses organizes and trains the Hebrew slaves into a guerrilla army to sabotage Egypt and force pharaoh’s hand.  Only when this fails does the petulant pre-teen appear and tell Moses to stand aside and he’ll take it from here.
In The Book there is no mention of civil insurrection or guerrilla warfare.  The Jews are on the sidelines from the beginning and God runs the show from the get go.

7-Splitting of the Sea:  As I mentioned before –The CGI sea-splitting scene is really cool but again Scott embellishes this final dramatic climax to the story.  As a tsunami-like monster-of a wave rushes toward the fleeing Egyptian army, Moses and Pharaoh charge toward each other intent on engaging in a Troy-like, one-on-one, fight-to-the death scene.  Weather conditions don’t allow for that to take place and the scene ends with Pharaoh, the sole survivor of the Egyptian army, standing on the Egyptian shore, gazing off into the distance toward the freed slaves who have escaped his wrath.

In The Book no such dramatic final show down takes place nor is there any indication in the Bible that Pharaoh returned to his shattered kingdom to resume his rule.  In any case, going back to Egypt would probably not have been the smartest move on Pharaoh’s part as one could imagine that his popularity ratings would probably have been pretty low upon his return.

There are actually many more inaccuracies in the movie but it’s pretty clear that Exodus: Gods and Kings, while certainly being and entertaining and exciting epic of a movie, once again proves the The Book is always better than the movie.

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