The lack at the heart of Ridley Scott’s Biblical epic is faith. The film can’t decide what it believes or even if it does and this leaves the viewer unsure of what the story is about. Why is the story of Moses important? You wouldn’t know from this.
In 1956, when Charlton Heston donned the beard and the big voice, we had a clear story about the right of people to live free. The Holocaust and the founding of Israel were very recent memories, the Civil Rights movement was under way in the US and the Cold War was here. The story had context and faith. Ridley Scott’s context appears to be CGI and 3D and his faith seems supported by the box office receipts of Maximus and Frodo. All of this manifests itself in a film that resorts to religion only when there’s no other explanation (the tide being out is particularly eye rolling) giving us an underwhelming ‘God of the gaps’ feeling.
I have no faith myself but stories should and, just like Robin Hood (2010) and King Arthur (2004) before it, Scott’s film mistakes the reality of a situation for the truth of the story and throws the baby out with the bathwater.