Friday, December 12, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings -- A Pastor's Review

Our local theater recently did a huge remodel. Last night was the first time I've had the chance to go see a movie in the new digs, and they are really something. It's like a brand new building -- new carpet, new lighting, new sound. Even the outside of the building is totally different.

And let me tell you about the seats. Recliners. I'm talking full-on leather La-Z-Boys with cup-holders and an electronic recline feature. Okay, they're not actually La-Z-Boys as in the brand, but they might as well have been. As far as a theater experience goes, it's the most comfortable I've ever been.

I sat in a single seat. They also have recliner couches. You can lift the arm-rest and stretch out if you want to. I'd love to go back and take my wife with me so we can cuddle up and watch a movie together. The B&B Gem in Junction City has become a really great theater.

And that's the most positive I'm going to be with this review because the film I went to go see was a turd. Exodus: Gods and Kings is a pointless film for any movie-goer. Comparing the movie to the story of Moses straight out of the first 14 chapters of Exodus, it's even worse. In every way that atheist director Ridley Scott could manipulate the story, he did.

What we have are a bunch of characters that share names with the Exodus narrative but only barely match any of the events and don't share any of the dialogue whatsoever. It's almost so far from Exodus, they could have changed the characters, called the film something else entirely, and someone would have watched it and said, "Hey, this is kind of like the story of Moses," yet knew that it wasn't.

This? I'm not so sure the average church-goer will know the difference, nor will they care. Why do I think that? For two reasons: 1) Because the film is called Exodus, and 2) Because they haven't actually read Exodus. I pointed out in a blog a few weeks ago that although the average American has at least 3 Bibles in their home, only 37 percent claim to read it regularly.

Most Christian leaders reflect the church's increasingly blase attitude about God's Word. Do you remember earlier this year when Noah came out, also directed by an atheist (Darren Aronofsky)? That story was just as far from the biblical narrative. Yet Brian Houston of Hillsong church fame called the movie "Brilliant," Jim Daly of Focus On the Family put his stamp of approval on it, and even the American Bible Society said they enjoyed it.

Let me tell you a personal experience story here, and then I'll get back to the review (if you actually want to know more than just it being a "turd"). In May, I participated in a National Day of Prayer event with about a dozen other pastors in my community. Each one of us was designated to pray before the congregation over a particular subject or issue. (Mine was for the media. I was appointed that because of my background in radio. I posted my prayer here.)

Before taking the stage, we realized that a pastor had not yet been appointed to close with the Lord's Prayer. One pastor was approached, and he declined: "No, I don't have it memorized," he said. He straight-up admitted that like it was no big thing. Another pastor was asked. Same thing. "I don't do anything without a script," he said. Open your Bible then? Another pastor said, "There's just so many versions of it -- you know, trespasses, debts and debtors -- I'd rather not."

Pastors. Who either couldn't or wouldn't recite the Lord's prayer. And that was funny to them. They stood in their circle and laughed about not having it memorized.

God, help us.

So no, the average three-Bible carrying church-goer is not automatically going to understand the difference between Exodus and Exodus. Not when Christian leaders are calling the Bible movies of atheist filmmakers "Brilliant." Take my word for it though and avoid this film. Do not waste your money. (Fortunately, I didn't waste mine, either. I'll share how that worked out at the end.)

The Burning Bush

The first third of the movie really wasn't so bad. There were a few historical inaccuracies and the writers took some liberties with the story, which was to be expected. According to the film, Moses didn't actually know he was a Hebrew, he never knew his mother or that Miriam was his sister, and he killed two Egyptians because they thought he was a slave. None of that is biblically accurate.

Also according to the movie, Moses ended up in the house of Pharaoh because a prophesy was made about a savior who would rise up from the Hebrews. In order to prevent that from happening, Pharaoh ordered that every Hebrew baby be killed. Except that's not in the Bible. Pharaoh ordered Hebrews to be killed because they were growing in number and he feared an insurrection. But whatever. Dramatic liberties. I get it.

As with most tellings of Exodus, Moses grows up a buddy of the future Pharaoh he would eventually have to oppose. In this case, they're cousins. They're also both agnostics making fun of the weird polytheist and omen-ways of their fellow Egyptians. Though Moses eventually comes to faith in the Hebrew God, Pharaoh maintains his agnosticism throughout. (It's kind of hard to overlook that Scott considers him a sympathetic character.)

One way that's inaccurate is that Pharaoh considered himself a god. He does make that claim at one point in the movie, but it's in a moment of contestation -- as if to say he's a better god than God himself. He's not actually claiming to be a god. The movie emphasizes his agnosticism further when it's revealed that Pharaoh had not yet begun work on his own tomb which was an utmost priority for an Egyptian king, establishing himself in the afterlife.

After Moses is banished from Egypt, he finds himself in Midian, marries Zipporah, and that's when things get really off. First, the movie suggests that only 10 years have passed between Moses's banishment and the events that took place at the burning bush, but that number is actually 40 years. Moses was 40 when he fled Egypt, and 80 when he was told to go back.

And let me just be straight about that burning bush sequence -- it's really stupid. Seriously, it's the worst burning bush scene ever. The only thing remotely close to the movie and the actual story in Exodus 3 is that there's a bush on fire that isn't consumed. That's it. Everything else is stupid.

God is portrayed by a 10-year-old boy. No, not the voice of God. No voice comes from the burning bush. There's this little boy who shows up and identifies himself as "I am," though he never actually calls himself God. He does in Exodus 3:6, but not in the film, which makes Moses out like he has mistaken him for God but he's not really God. And (g)od never tells Moses what to do. He just suggests that he should go check out what's going on with the Israelites.

Moses then abandons his family, which also isn't how that goes in Exodus. Moses's family went with him. In the film, Zipporah even says, "What kind of (g)od tells a man to leave his family?" Not the Great I Am, that's for sure. See 1 Timothy 5:8. (I really pray that any Christian who sees this knows that none of the crap in the movie is actually in the Bible.)

He gives up his staff to his son to remember him by which is also inaccurate. The staff is the thing God told Moses to use to show all of his signs and wonders in Egypt (Exodus 4:17). But like I said, Scott tries at every turn to change the story, even relieving Moses of his staff.

Moses goes back to the Hebrews and trains them to start an uprising. Yup, not how that goes in Exodus either. He sneaks up on Pharaoh one night, puts a knife to his throat, and says that the Hebrew people are going to be free. Pharaoh calmly and rationally asks Moses who he's been listening to, and then a wild-eyed, delusional Moses (yes, the movie suggests that Moses might be delusional) says that he's listening to (g)od. To which Pharaoh replies, "Which one?"

The Plagues

Okay, on to the plagues. First of all, there's no clear indication, even to Moses, that the plagues are from (g)od. They could all be explained naturally. The Nile turning to blood is just a bunch of crocodiles that show up to kill Egyptians and each other filling the Nile up with blood. Then the frogs rise up out of the Nile, then they die and from them come the flies, and from the flies come the boils.

It's all just one plague after another. Moses never goes to Pharaoh and says "Let my people go." In the Exodus account of the burning bush, God tells Moses that he will be like God to Pharaoh and the people of Israel, and Aaron will be his mouthpiece. Well Aaron plays no role in the story whatsoever. It's all a very psychologically unstable Moses who was hit in the face by a rock.

The (g)od of Ridley Scott's imagination is a self-centered brat. Listen, it's downright blasphemous the way this film portrays God. And Moses never has any idea what (g)od is up to. He tells (g)od at one point that he's unimpressed. When (g)od is ready to unleash the last plague, which is the death of the firstborn (I don't think they ever actually specify that though), Moses tries to talk him out of it.

It is only then that Moses finally appears before Pharaoh amidst all this plaguing, and it's more to warn him rather than command him to release the Hebrews. Then he goes to the Hebrews and tells them to slaughter a lamb and smear the blood on the door posts. When asked why, Moses says, "Pity the lambs if I am wrong. If I am right, we will bless them for all eternity." (Is it really worth going into how off all these inaccuracies are? Each one could be an individual blog post.)

After Pharaoh's son dies, he brings him to Moses and says, "Is this your (g)od? Killer of children? Who would worship such a (g)od?" Moses doesn't bring up how many Hebrews Pharaoh has killed. Rather, he just looks a little messed up having been a party to the death of "innocent" children. Pharaoh then demands the Hebrews leave Egypt.

The Red Sea

Moses shows the Hebrews where they're going to go based on a map that he drew. God doesn't tell him where to go. There's no pillar of fire or cloud guiding their way. Moses just knows where they need to go to escape. And when the Hebrews leave, it's like they really don't care. There's no joy having just been released from 400 years of slavery. They also get wrong the number of slaves in the Exodus.

During their flee, Moses gets confused about which way to go. One of the Hebrews asks him, "What does (g)od tell you?" And Moses says, "That way." The movie means to suggest that God really wasn't telling Moses anything. Moses was just guessing. He ultimately gets lost and has to pray, "Show me where to go." Of course, (g)od doesn't answer, and Moses blames him for not caring.

They come to the Red Sea and are trapped. The people bicker and Moses has no idea which way to go. They camp out that night and the next day, the water has begun to recede. The Bible actually says Moses raised his staff (oops, the script-writers took that from him already) and a strong east wind blew all night long and divided the waters.

The scripture then specifically says that when they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, there was a wall of water to the left and to the right of them (Exodus 14:22). In the movie, the waters have completely receded and disappeared. The Hebrews cross on this huge plain that's basically the dry bed of the Red Sea.

But honestly, I didn't get to see the rest of the movie from that point on. No, I didn't get up and leave. Rather, the movie froze. The manager came in and told us that the projector locked up and we would have our tickets refunded. Thankfully, I didn't actually have to pay to see this atrocity of a Bible epic -- with anything other than my time, anyway.

The last line I heard Moses deliver was right before he led them "through" the Red Sea. He said, "You have honored me with your trust. Now I honor you with my faith." Oh, boy. Your faith which you use to talk to ten-year-old boy-gods. Thanks, crazy Moses.

I'm sure there was a Ten Commandments sequence, but thank heavens I didn't have to stick around and watch the filmmakers show how Moses went up to Mount Sinai and started tripping on some burning bush weed before he slipped and fell into a piece of rock and chiseled out ten basic laws for this new nomadic government he was going to establish with his Egyptian knowledge.

Conclusion

Have you ever seen Jesus Christ Superstar? If not, don't watch that one either. Anyway, in that movie/musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber's version of Jesus, who actually isn't the Son of God in his script, also gets mad at (g)od because he won't tell Jesus exactly what he wants him to do.

This is how atheists believe God to be. And yes, every atheist believes in God (Romans 1:19-21). Scott, Webber, and Aronofsky's version of God is exactly the same -- he's a magic sky-dude, a self-indulgent megalomaniac, who doesn't properly communicate with anyone who he is or what he wants. But they only see God that way because their foolish hearts are darkened, and they think they know better than God.

Our Lord has told us exactly who he is, just as he told Moses. We know through his clear and consistent Holy Word that he loves us having displayed that love first by creating us in his image, then when we desecrated that image with our sin, he died for us so that we might be reformed in the image of the Son (Romans 8:28-30).

Moses was supposed to be a foreshadowing of Christ. Just as Moses interceded for Israel, Christ Jesus intercedes for us before the Father. It's ironic that Scott's version of Moses is a picture of Webber's version of Christ. I saw them as being exactly the same. They're even both musical (Christian Bale, who played Moses, was in Newsies).

Alright, so in conclusion, just read your Bible. And no more Bible movies made by atheists, okay?