A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Exodus: Gods and Kings is an epic retelling of the Biblical story of Moses freeing the Jewish slaves from the evil Egyptian pharaohs. There's lots of gruesome violence, particularly in the depiction of the seven plagues, with shocking amounts of blood, death, destruction, chaos, and terror. Dead children and animals are seen. There's also lots of fighting, hangings, slaves being whipped, and a terrifying tidal wave. On the other hand, sex and drinking/drugs are minimal, and language and consumerism aren't an issue. The film has drawn some criticism for "whitewashing" history by casting Caucasian actors in the roles of Middle Eastern characters. Teens who are on the fence about seeing a Biblical epic may be swayed by the movie's action factor, and Moses' story is still there -- and still worth telling and discussing, even though he's not portrayed as a saintly hero. But kids and tweens are strongly warned away; stick with either The Ten Commandments or The Prince of Egypt instead.
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What's the story?
As kids, Moses and Rhamses grew up together in the palace of Rhamses' father (John Turturro). As adults, Rhamses (Joel Edgerton) rules Egypt, with Moses (Christian Bale) as his trusted counsel. While inspecting a division of Jewish slaves, a wise man (Ben Kingsley) informs Moses that he, too, is Jewish. When Rhamses finds out, Moses is banished. He meets and marries Sefora (Maria Valverde) and starts life anew ... until God contacts him (in the form of a boy) and tells him that he must free the 600,000 people enslaved under the pharaoh. God assists by sending seven deadly plagues, but then Moses must lead the people across the Red Sea and into the promised land.
Is it any good?
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS has a somber, dreary quality, punctuated by a thrumming, droning music score. Director Ridley Scott has made some great films, but he seems drawn to huge battle epics, like Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood, which he doesn't seem particularly suited to. The mood of this film doesn't invite anything in the way of an emotional or spiritual connection.
Nor does it allow many of the actors much of anything to do. Bale is both serious and battle-ready, and several other recognizable actors appear as window dressing. Only Edgerton as Rhamses brings a little heart to his under-confident villain. Some choices, such as God appearing as a creepy kid, are simply strange. Only the plagues sequence offers a kind of distraction, but even that quickly turns disturbingly dark. Earlier Moses films (The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt, etc.) were at least campy or funny, but this one isn't even entertaining.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Exodus: Gods and Kings' violence, especially during the "seven plagues" sequence. Does the movie go too far, or is this violence necessary to convey the movie's story and themes?
Is Moses a hero in this story? What does he achieve? What does he learn? Is he a role model?
What's the appeal of Biblical epics like this one? What is the Moses story about, ultimately?
Why do you think the filmmakers choose to show God as a child? Is God fair? Wise? Cruel? What is his motivation in freeing the slaves?
- In theaters: December 12, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2015
- Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: History
- Run time: 150 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence including battle sequences and intense images
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