Here’s my non-review of the new Ridley Scott Moses film “Exodus: God and Kings”. It’s a non-review because I haven’t seen it, and don’t have any intention of going to see it unless loads of my young people go and watch it. If you want a real review that talks about the film’s problems you can read one here.
If I was a cheap hack1, then the obvious place to start would be comparing Christian Bale’s Moses to Christian Bale’s Batman. And why not? Moses’ origin story is pretty superhero. A child of the persecuted slave people, rescued by miraculous providence and raised in the house of his enemies. He grows strong and well educated and then when he’s in the peak of his strength he sees his people being abused and chooses to side with them in secret. I think that at this stage of his life Moses has the Batman narrative going through his head. He shall become the secret protector of the people, hidden in the shadows, working to overcome the oppressive corrupt government and liberate the people. Except of course, he immediately fails. He’s seen avenging the Israelites, neither they nor the Egyptians take kindly to his actions. and he runs away to live in the desert as a shepherd for forty years. All of a sudden it’s no longer a superhero film.
Okay, so maybe that’s a false start to his superhero origin. The actual start to his superhero career really happens forty years later, when a lowly shepherd with a mysterious past finds a burning bush in the middle of the desert, a bush that gives him supernatural guidance and power, but at what cost? Oh wait, that’s not what happens either. What happens is God meets him in the desert and Moses attempts to coward his way out of God’s plan. He does go back to Egypt, but it’s not in awe and thundering terror. It’s in timidity and fear. He strides into Pharaoh’s court and booms “Let my people go”. Except with less striding and more fearful approaching. And with less booming and more standing behind his brother Aaron and getting him to speak instead. It’s not very superhero, or even just regular hero, and that’s because Moses isn’t the hero of the story.
You’re never going to tell the story of the Bible right if you make it so the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are the heroes. They’re never the true hero of the story. It’s always God who is the hero. To be more precise, it’s always Christ who is the hero. He is the one who sends the darkness, who strikes down the first born, who parts the waters (Psalm 105:25-45). He’s the one who brings His people up out of Egypt by crushing Pharaoh. Moses is not the hero, Christ is.
This is perhaps, why so many bible films struggle to be any good. God essential to the story, so they put him in, but the god they want in the story inevitably doesn’t look like Christ. And once God doesn’t look like Christ, you’ve left the biblical story far behind. Imagine a race of aliens creating an artificial earth and going “this sun looks pretty important, so let’s put a similarly sized object in the sky” and as their artificial earth orbits this sun-sized lump of rock, they wonder why it can’t sustain life. Make a film of the Bible where you get the triune God right, then you can worry about the rest of the characters motivation.
1 Alright, if I was a cheap hack who was writing a review for an actual publication.