To finish my review of the movie, I would like to begin very briefly discussing the character flaws in the movie aside from the plot atrocities (although they overlap at times).
I would actually was happy to see that the movie focused so much on character development. It seems that most blockbuster hits today have more of a “look at our cool toys” approach then a “develop a complex and beautiful story” approach. I was fearful this movie would be the latter. We know have the technology to bring the real life historical events of the Exodus plagues to real life. We can make those plagues look more real than ever. I was thinking this movie was going to be a two hour film showing off how awesome the plagues look. They did look awesome. But the movie was so much more than that. As a matter of fact, one of my criticisms was how brief and quickly the plagues happened. The issue was, the character development was not good.
Our stories protagonist was nothing like the historical Moses. This Moses was a war hero and military mind with a violent temper. Moses in the movie, was agnostic throughout most of it. The movie even ended with a half-repentance story. Not only did Moses write the Ten Commandments himself, but he had a conversation with god where god figured out that Moses doesn’t like God very much, doesn’t understand or agree with what God does, but knows that it will eventual work out and submits to God’s will regardless. That’s hardly the Moses of Scripture who loved God dearly and, although was at times stubborn, followed him gladly and willingly with faith and hope.
On top of Moses’ incredibly violent militant personality, the movie made him very selfish. God is very ambiguous with Moses. He never tells Moses to go back to Egypt for the purposes of accomplishing God’s divine decree. God simply suggests he see how bad it’s gotten. And tells Moses he will never be at peace until he does. Moses returns to Egypt to put his own restlessness and curiosity to bed. He does not go back to follow the Lord or fulfill his commandment and purpose. In fact, when Moses leaves his wife, he admits he really has no clue why he is returning. In the Bible, he knows exactly why. Moses is portrayed as a violent, stubborn, agnostic who travels alone, without Aaron, and is never used to perform one single miracle. Read Exodus, that’s all backwards. It’s a completely different Moses.
I typically hate defining God as a “character” because it connotes the idea that the Bible is a piece of fiction and human artistry. However, since the god of this movie is nothing like the God sovereign over us now, I have no problem with the word.
In the movie, god was portrayed as a young British boy. I tried to interpret that. I couldn’t. I have no idea where it comes from. It certainly doesn’t come from Exodus, and I don’t see where it comes from in light of the rest of Scriptures testimony. The only thing that came to mind was Mark 10: 15/ Luke 18:17, the “faith like a child” verses. Maybe the interpretation of God as a little child comes from Jesus’ command to receive the Kingdom “like a child” is where that comes from? Either way, it is unbiblical to portray God physically in a way that the Bible never does. It’s actually offensive. But in our society, Christians are the only group of people who are allowed to be offended. My God is not a little white British boy. And He never appeared to Moses in that way, or to anyone else for that matter.
God also seemed to be more of the open-theist God. He seemed to learn about Moses and take knowledge on. He doesn’t seem to have a plan, he reacts to situations instead of knows them ahead of time, and seemed very dependent on Moses to accomplish what He wanted. For example, Moses at first tried to take freeing the Hebrews into his own hands (since the movie went away from the biblical narrative and God never told Moses what to do and how it would play out). Moses knew he was supposed to free them but didn’t know how. Therefore, he relied on his military background and started a secret Jewish militia that hid out in the woods and trained for combat. They began sabotaging the Egyptian way of life violently, and it wasn’t working. When God complained to Moses for his actions Moses yelled back. At that point God says (roughly) “Who has been trying for 400 years and who only just now showed up?” Again. I only saw the movie once. That isn’t a direct quote. The idea was however, that God criticized Moses for being a part of the problem for all this time while God was trying for 400 years to do something. God was trying and failing? That’s our problem. God was severely blasphemed in this movie.
Pharaoh (Ramesses II):
I saved Pharaoh for last because Pharaoh had a very intriguing theological interpretation that Christians debate about and I applaud Scott for picking up on. First of all, I didn’t have too much of a problem with Pharaoh. In a post-modern world, it would be very easy to rewrite the story as Pharaoh being the good guy and the one we sympathize with. Pharaoh was clearly the bad guy in this movie. He was evil and selfish. I appreciated that. The only reason we ever sympathize with him is when his son is killed and that is because Joel Edgerton is just that good. He was phenomenal. However, Pharaoh had an interesting couple of lines. While his baby was sleeping he said, “You sleep well because you know you are loved. I have never slept well in my life.” Again, another paraphrase, but this one is very close to exact. This mght have been in reference to the films narrative which had a quasi-gladiator theme. Ramesses’ (Pharaoh to Moses) father, clearly preferred Moses over his own son. Moses was a wiser military commander and proved himself a more capable leader than Ramesses as Moses proved his military strategy over Ramesses and had to save his life in battle. Ramesses felt his father loved Moses more. However, long after Ramesses’ father was dead, and Ramesses’ son was killed by God, Ramesses’ looked at his son and said “You sleep well now because you know you are loved”. I think, Ramesses’ was never only addressing his father’s love, but the heavenly Father as well. Pharaoh never felt loved by God in the movie. This is theologically intriguing as many in-house Christian debates that center around Romans 9 do in fact discuss the issue of God’s love toward Pharaoh. I am of the particular persuasion that, in light of Romans 9, God did in fact love Moses more than Pharaoh. In the same way that He clearly (Romans 9:13) loved Jacob more than Esau.
I want to end this on a positive note. Therefore, I can find one positive thing about the movie to say. Moses’ character goes through in interesting transformation. Moses clearly represents modern day atheism. When the Egyptians do their bizarre ritualistic religious ceremonies like drink bird blood for prophetic answers and pray to different gods for answers to how and when to attack countries, Moses clearly mocks them for their superstition over reason.
However, Moses eventually abandons that mindset as he sees the reality of God.
Now, although even this was offensive because it seemed to equate the Egyptian gods to Abraham’s, I do still believe Ridley was making a point to criticize the way Christians are treated. We are treated as superstitious idiots by people like Moses. I think Ridley sees a spiritual Israel being persecuted by spiritual Egyptians today. And although he is not Christian, maybe he respects it more than others do. I might be grasping at straws, but I appreciated Moses’ humility in that regards.