The movie begins with a ceremony where a priestess reads a prophecy from the entrails of a goose. Moses doesn’t seem to be convinced, in fact doesn’t appear interested in religion at all. At one point he even says, “Is it bad to grow up believing in yourself?” Moses doesn’t want anything to do with gods – that is, until the Hebrew God wants something to do with Moses.
A significant part of the plot revolves around the relationship between Moses and Ramses, but there is still plenty of emphasis on the relationship between Moses and God. Both of these relationships stir emotion. The relationship with God is best described by the definition given an Israelite “One who wrestles with God.” Moses grapples with God from his initial reluctance until the movie’s end at which point it is noted that though they often disagree they are still talking.
Like others, I was surprised to find the messenger (or was it the Lord Himself) continually appeared as a young boy. Perhaps the greatest surprise was that the young lad had an attitude that seemed something other than divine. Maybe surprise is what the movie wanted to evoke. For that matter how should one present the Creator of the universe on the big screen? Is there a best way to portray God in a movie? Nevertheless, my favorite of these appearances comes at the end of the movie as He is walking among the people of Israel.
This movie attempts to make sense of things, tries to leave room for natural causes for things like the plagues. But it also presents Pharaoh’s scientific advisor as fumbling through an explanation for the plagues. At this point it becomes clear that God is in control of things like weather, the sea, wildlife, even human life.
This Moses is a warrior. This works in the movie because that is what God claims to be looking for. So Moses, still trusting himself, develops a warrior’s strategy. Eventually however, he watches as the plan of God becomes visible. I don’t mind a warrior-like Moses, but I miss the shepherd’s staff. I kept waiting for Moses to exchange his sword for a staff, but it never happened.
I was also surprised that a Moses “slow of speech” in Exodus couldn’t seem to stop talking in the movie. Yet the words I wanted to hear from him, a bold proclamation to Pharaoh “Let my people go” never happened.
There is no lack of action in the movie, yet I found myself wanting more. The movie seemed to go more for artistry than accuracy. As we have come to expect, there are many additions to the story to fill in the gaps. Still, with all the action in the Exodus narrative, even more wow could have been added. Instead of a priestess reading from goose entrails, did anyone else miss clever midwives to start the story? Or a scene where baby Moses dangerously floats in the Nile while the Egyptian princess walks to the riverbank? Or how about a showdown where the staff of Moses swallows the Egyptian staffs? Whether you liked the additions to them or not, at least the plagues and crossing of the sea are portrayed with some of the severity they undoubtedly brought with them. Yet, when honest, we will never be satisfied with Hollywood as tellers of our stories.
As the movie Noah did for Genesis, I am grateful that this movie has helped Exodus to become a larger part of public discussion. And for all who have watched these movies – we are again reminded that the biblical storyline sets us on an adventure.