Deliver Us
December 15, 2014 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion. It... ain't so good. Want something more artful? Look no further than The Prince of Egypt [alt], an underrated masterpiece of DreamWorks' traditional animation era. Directed by Brenda Chapman (a first for women in animation), scored to spectacular effect by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, and voiced by, among others, Voldemort, Batman, and Professor X, the ambitious film features gorgeous, striking visuals and tastefully integrated CGI in nearly every scene. It also manages the improbable feat of maturing beyond cartoon clichés while humanizing the prophet's journey from carefree scion to noble (and remorseful) liberator without offending half the planet -- while still being quite a fun ride. Already seen it? Catch the making-of documentary, or click inside for more. posted by Rhaomi (86 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Man I was pissed, even as a sproglet, when I learned the original plan for the voice of God was a shifting series of speakers, men, women, the young and the old, but it got some heat from religious groups so they just made it Val Kilmer.

Anyway! poE is a little overlooked when pele go back to the 90s 2D animation boom and deserves to be more well known. Adult art history nerd me now gets how studied and researched the Egyptian designs and outfits are.
posted by The Whelk at 3:17 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Currently streaming on Netflix, in HD.
posted by zabuni at 3:18 PM on December 15, 2014


Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion.

Gods, I am so ready for this film to fail and disappear, so I don't have to be subjected to those loud, annoying commercials anymore. A CG-fest featuring Moses as a screaming psychotic? There's nothing about the ads that would make me want to come within even a mile of any theater showing this crap.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:22 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


28%. Ouch.

I wonder how it would have fared if it, you know, wasn't so fair.
posted by Artw at 3:25 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


As I said on Twitter, "Exodus: what I did from that film after an hour."

That Angel of Death sequence is very creepy and effective--great use of the black/white/grey color palette + the gasps.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:34 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


That "Something a lot of people missed" link is pretty cool.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:40 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Prince of Egypt is an excellent movie. Very underrated so I recommend it to people all the time.
posted by girlmightlive at 3:41 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen the movie and never even watched a trailer, and even I knew, weeks ago, that this movie would suck. Ridley Scott has given us some good, even great films, but right at about Gladiator I began to peek behind the curtain a bit. That film epitomizes Scott's recent work: beautifully shot movies that trick the audience into thinking they are deep and somewhat cerebral, but in fact are pretty empty, with no real meat on their bones so to speak. Any scenes in Gladiator that weren't sweaty men trying to kill each other were trying so hard for intellectual respectability. And since it swept the Oscars I guess that trick worked.

Prometheus being the other big flop before Exodus. Prometheus apparently had two separate scripts and they were bafflingly and ineptly fused together for a mess of a story. Apparently Exodus also had many cooks in that kitchen too. The whitewashing alone was cringeworthy enough to turn me off Exodus, but even if he had hired appropriate actors, I doubt Scott's judgement when it comes to script. I'm sure Exodus looks awesome, though.
posted by zardoz at 3:50 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Death of the firstborns. Ugh.

Christ, your father is an asshole.
posted by offalark at 3:56 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


                                             X2
e|-------------------------------------------||
B|-------------------------------------------||
G|-------------------------------------------||
D|---------------9---------------------9---7-||
A|---------------7---------------------7---5-||
E|--0-0-0-0-0-----------0-0-0-0-0------------||
posted by Wolfdog at 3:58 PM on December 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


As an Egyptophile, I enjoyed The Prince of Egypt. (I also enjoyed that it was nicknamed "The Zion King.") The historicity of Exodus is -- well, it isn't, but you take what you can get if you want to see a movie about Egypt, especially an animated movie.

Nina Paley has animated an intense and blackly humorous Death of the Firstborn scene for her upcoming movie Seder-Masochism.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:58 PM on December 15, 2014 [13 favorites]


Speaking as someone who watched a video cassette recording of The Ten Commandments scores of times as a child raised in a Christian household in the 80's and 90's, I am supremely uninterested in any version of the Exodus story in which Anne Baxter ("But I am Egypt!") does not feature.

Unless they cast Amanda Peterson. Seriously. No one could make me hate Patrick Dempsey's guts quite like Amanda Peterson did.
posted by The Confessor at 4:08 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


zardoz: My favorite post-Gladiator Ridley Scott film would be a toss up between Prometheus and Black Hawk Down. And I admit my enjoyment of BHD is mostly because it's a well-done action war movie, even though like Exodus, it is a completely whitewashed/propagandized into an ONLY US viewpoint on the subject. I admit I also like it because I've watched BHD first on my own and then many years later with a non-US group of friends overseas, so got some interesting perspectives on it.

I enjoyed Prometheus, but definitely more for it's visuals and certain characters (David) and details rather than for the plot itself. I didn't think it was a total piece of crap, it just felt like really half baked.
posted by FJT at 4:08 PM on December 15, 2014


You know how kids get obsessed with an animated movie and watch it over and over and over again? Prince of Egypt was that movie for me. And you know what, rewatching it as an adult, I'm still not sick of it, and I still love it. It holds up well, and I still love all of the music.

Also, lowest of bars, but in retrospect, it's pretty great that everyone in the animated Prince of Egypt looks, y'know, Egyptian or Middle Eastern or North African. Given the incredibly offensive nature of Exodus's whitewashing, I am pathetically grateful for at least one popular film version of the story of Exodus not whitewashing the hell out of it.
posted by yasaman at 4:13 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen the movie and never even watched a trailer, and even I knew, weeks ago, that this movie would suck. Ridley Scott has given us some good, even great films, but right at about Gladiator I began to peek behind the curtain a bit. That film epitomizes Scott's recent work: beautifully shot movies that trick the audience into thinking they are deep and somewhat cerebral, but in fact are pretty empty, with no real meat on their bones so to speak.

That should have been obvious way back in the 80s. This is a director whose greatest achievement is a 30 second tv commercial for Apple. His movies are 90 minute tv commercials.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:15 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Deliver Us
from Ridley Scott

He just needs to stop. He was phenomenal in his time, making movies like Alien and Blade Runner. In fact, I'll give him up through 2003 before he started down the hill, probably with 2005's Kingdom of Heaven, which should have been much better but was lacking in so many, many departments. To be honest, I felt Gladiator was a red flag, showing Scott had become overly enamored with mushy CGI.

Once you get to Prometheus, it's all a mess. That movie is so bad that I find myself declaring it as not official Alien lore. I've disowned it. It's like he had one too many lunches with Lucas or something. In fact, I hated Prometheus far more than any of the Star Wars prequels, perhaps unfairly because I held Scott on a pedestal (while I held Lucas on a kitchen step stool, maybe handing me the blender from the top shelf or something equally useful, while ultimately replaceable).

Now comes this unwanted boondoggle, and in pre-production he has Prometheus and a new Blade Runner movie. I would never pray for the death or illness of an elderly artist, but if by some chance he were not to feel up to finishing the Blade Runner project, I'd be fine with that.

Maybe Scott's problem is that he's rocking close to 80, but look at what Clint Eastwood was able to create at Scott's age. No, I think it is that Scott has run out of original ideas. He's retreading his old successes and, perhaps with this movie, trying a second run at old failures (Kingdom). He needs to take a step back and do some Indie work, or something to recapture credibility, because at this point I don't see how his name is a plus for marketing.
posted by Muddler at 4:22 PM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Note the gigantic shark at 4:45 in the Red Sea clip. Fucking awesome.
posted by odinsdream at 4:23 PM on December 15, 2014


So what, do you pour out a drop of soda for each plague? Pity the poor ushers.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:26 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is a director whose greatest achievement is a 30 second tv commercial for Apple.

LAPD 2019 blasters at dawn! My second will leave a cryptic origami animal on your doorstep with details.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:26 PM on December 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


It was weird to me that, even growing up as an Evangelical and hearing this story told in all sorts of variations, it wasn't until this movie that I'd ever seen the Angel of Death killing the Egyptian firstborn portrayed as a sort of payback/justice/karma for the slaughter of Hebrew boys from which Moses escapes at the beginning of the story.
posted by straight at 4:29 PM on December 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


Prince of Egypt is pretty amazing.
posted by corb at 4:31 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Big-budget Hollywood isn't going to make an interesting, challenging, complex, or GOOD movie about Judeo-Christian scripture for a long time. They're terrified of offending the Christian Right by showing doubt or human complexity, but too ironic/lacking in credulity to play it straight ahead like the great religious movie epics of the 50s.

You can't really split the difference. Either you tell a straight-ahead legendary epic, or you tell a messy human story that humanizes and makes specific the legendary types in scripture. You literally cannot do both at the same time.

The only good movies dealing with religion that have come out of Hollywood in the last 15 years or so that I can think of have been non-blockbusters; quirky, specific movies that deal in issues of MODERN faith and doubt ... "Saved!" jumps to mind. But "The Passion of the Christ" is just torture porn with a religious veneer; "Exodus" is ... apparently Moses has been cast in "The 300," I can't even tell. And what was that terrible one about Noah's Ark?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:35 PM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Are these religious movies the giant mechanical spiders of the current decade? I theorize that there's a highly placed movie executive who is forcing every semi-arty mainstream director to squeeze out a god picture. What's next? Guillermo Del Toro's Jericho or something?
posted by Ansible at 4:47 PM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Man I was pissed, even as a sproglet, when I learned the original plan for the voice of God was a shifting series of speakers, men, women, the young and the old, but it got some heat from religious groups so they just made it Val Kilmer.

I sort of like the choice to just have it be Val Kilmer. From an article about an interview with sound designer Lon Bender:

The solution was to use the voice of actor Val Kilmer to suggest the kind of voice we hear inside our own heads in our everyday lives--as opposed to the larger than life tones with which the Creator has been endowed in prior celluloid incarnations.
posted by yasaman at 4:49 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's weird, I'm not sure if the same husband/wife duo behind Son of God was involved in this. But they were interviewed on Studio 360 awhile back and it turned out that they were pretty seriously religious. Now I haven't seen either Son of God nor Exodus, but I had kind of assumed that they were also going to be played to the hilt.

Man I am really bumming that they didn't go with the multitude of voices for God.
posted by KernalM at 4:54 PM on December 15, 2014


Every bat mitzvah I went to after Prince of Egypt came out featured "When You Believe" heavily, whether sung by the bat mitzvah girl (if she was of the theatrical bent) or played during the candle lighting part before the cake. It's a lovely song, but man, the rec room at Temple Adath Yeshurun sure comes to mind strongly when I hear it.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:01 PM on December 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


And what was that terrible one about Noah's Ark?

Whatever it was, I don't think you can characterize it as "terrified of offending the Christian Right."
posted by straight at 5:02 PM on December 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


I am so ready for this film to fail and disappear, so I don't have to be subjected to those loud, annoying commercials anymore.

I must be doing something right then, because I haven't seen one ad for it. (Not watching tv has its benefits...) Am I a recluse yet?
posted by sneebler at 5:04 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


The only version of Exodus that I want to see would be one where Moses would be played by a 1960s' Woody Allen.

I mean, just think about the burning bush scene:

YHWH: "Go forth to Egypt, Moses!"

Moses: "Eh, I don't really want to go. Can you send Aaron? He's a much better public speaker than me. What am I going to do? Mumble to the Pharaoh?"

YHWH: "I said YOU GO!"

Moses: "Are - Are you sure? I feel like I'm underqualified."

And then he goes to Egypt and stops at the inn and God tries to kill him so his wife circumcises him and claims him to herself and away from God.

That's the Exodus movie that I want to see. Much closer to the original source material.
posted by I-baLL at 5:06 PM on December 15, 2014 [12 favorites]


Now I can share my theory about Ridley Scott...

...he is actually illiterate.

He cannot actually comprehend the scripts that he films. He must rely on interpreters to convey the script to him. Give him something great and you get a great movie like Blade Runner. Give him something not so great and you get 1492: Conquest of Paradise.
posted by kokaku at 5:16 PM on December 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


Now I really want to see this film, just because I never once thought of how Moses must have felt after God explicitly killed his innocent nephew.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:18 PM on December 15, 2014


Are these religious movies the giant mechanical spiders of the current decade? I theorize that there's a highly placed movie executive who is forcing every semi-arty mainstream director to squeeze out a god picture. What's next? Guillermo Del Toro's Jericho or something?

The guys who do the Double Toasted movie reviews (formerly at Spill.com) posited that there's going to be a new spate of religious "blockbuster" movies mainly because the studios don't have to pay for the rights to the source material. (The same way there are now more movies and TV shows based on fairy tales--at least the ones Disney hasn't already locked down.)

What I don't understand is why Hollywood keeps going to the Old Testament if they're trying to draw the Christian Right the way The Passion of the Christ did. After all, the two big Christian holidays are all about the New and not the Old. I guess the main value in the OT is the opportunity to do big battle scenes.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:19 PM on December 15, 2014


"Give him something great and you get a great movie like Blade Runner."

Give him Syd Mead and you get a great movie like Blade Runner.
posted by I-baLL at 5:23 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Christian right has a pretty strong Old Testament vibe.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:25 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, I think there's an actual evangelical movie studio putting out Christian-fare in low budget releases getting wide distribution in the movie du,ping ground months? Like that insane Elvis - has-a-twin-religious -brother and it's somehow all about Isreal? Movie this summer.
posted by The Whelk at 6:02 PM on December 15, 2014


For me, the Two Ridleys are "Ridley that had a great touch for light and mood" and "CRUSH 'EM BLACKS AND DIGITALLY TONE 'EM PECS" Ridley. Once you get to the latter (Gladiator is the first one where new, horrible Ridley pops out in full bloom) all of his films seem to become dreadfully heavy, tiring, and fake. It's actually super weird to cycle between the sort of grease-on-the-lens look of, say, Legend, and the Xbox 360 look of something like Exodus. Is that really the same filmmaker?
posted by selfnoise at 6:23 PM on December 15, 2014


Also, I remember liking Prince of Egypt but the character design of that era of Dreamworks films is really creepy somehow. Road to El Dorado has the same problem... the smiles are a little too big and I feel like I'm looking at dolls with empty, evil souls inside.
posted by selfnoise at 6:25 PM on December 15, 2014


And what was that terrible one about Noah's Ark?
Evan Almighty?

What I don't understand is why Hollywood keeps going to the Old Testament if they're trying to draw the Christian Right

Because there aren't really all that many stories in the Christian Testament. There's the story of Jesus, and a bit about the Apostles, then just a bunch of letters about doctrinal issues. Then the Revelation, but that already has at least 1 terrible movie about it.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:48 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Excuse me, at least 2 terrible movies.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:49 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Post-Gladiator Ridley Scott did give us Matchstick Men and American Gangster, though. He's not a total loss.
I suppose he might be by now, though.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:34 PM on December 15, 2014


fuse theorem: "What I don't understand is why Hollywood keeps going to the Old Testament if they're trying to draw the Christian Right the way The Passion of the Christ did."

The trouble with the New Testament is a) it's SUPER SHORT, compared to the Old Testament and b) the stories are a lot less straightforward than parts of the Old Testament (I mean, nobody's making movies about the Book of Isaiah) and c) it's almost impossible to avoid wading into a theological morass in the New Testament.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are substantially the same, story-wise; John is a hot theological mess in terms of story. The letters would be excruciatingly dull filmed unless you chose to dramatize the likely stories behind them (which would involve taking a position either with modern scholarship or traditional interpretation or evangelical interpretation). And Revelation is ... nothing but symbolism. The Book of Acts could actually probably be interestingly turned into a TV miniseries (too many characters for a movie) but, again, there'd be screaming and boycotts and whatnot, and you'd have to choose an interpretive lens for your story.

With the Old Testament, the most popular stories to commit to film are pretty solidly in the myth/legend wheelhouse -- Moses, Noah, etc. -- and it is very possible to make a pretty straightforward myth movie, taking a standing-back interpretive position where you tell the straightforward mythological story and leave the interpretive business to the viewer. (See also some other great sword-and-sandals epics, and like Helen of Troy, Hercules, Oedipus Rex, etc.) While it'd be weird to make a movie out of the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah) or Minor Prophets, I think it's notable that Hollywood Biblical epics don't tend to go for Bible books of specificity and moral complexity like Judges, or Ruth, or Esther, or even Jonah. Almost all the popular pop culture topics are in Genesis (the most legendary/myth-y book) -- Adam & Eve, Noah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. Samson & Delilah is the only "later" part of the Old Testament to get frequent pop culture treatment. And Judges is FULL of interesting shit, and complicated questions, but that'd require really engaging with those complicated questions that have a lot of theological freight! There's some shots at David and Solomon especially in the 1950s and 1960s, and some seriously weak-ass attempts at Esther that have never hit it big. (COME ON HOLLYWOOD THIS IS A GREAT STORY DO IT RIGHT.) A lot of the David/Solomon/Ruth/Esther type stories also, these days, probably have some implications for the Israel/Palestine conflict and questions of "Who Is a Jew?" and that probably scares off Hollywood as well.

Anyway, there's some good stuff from the Gospels -- Jesus Christ, Superstar. The Last Temptation of Christ. Godspell. Mary, Mother of Jesus which was actually terrible and also a Nestorian copout (hello NBC! It's the 5th century over there!) but was made by a major network and featured hot Christian Bale as Very Fit Jesus AND ALSO Anakin Skywalker's mother as the Virgin Mary so that was a weird comment on ... spontaneous conception, I guess. But it's hard to imagine any of the first three being made today (Jesus Christ, Superstar, do you think you're what they say you are?), and "Mary, Mother of Jesus" is sort-of the perfect commentary on how mainstream media wants to neuter the Christ story in order to not offend anybody, while still pandering to religious conservatives.

Anyway I think there's a lot of room for some great movies that want to take on minor characters from the Gospels and do a real POV story from someone who sees Jesus and how THEY interpret him; or for movies that want to do some of these more minor -- especially woman-centered -- stories from the Old Testament, like Ruth and Esther. And like all of Judges because that is my favorite book BECAUSE IT IS BATSHIT. But is there a built-in audience for the story of Shamgar? Judges 3:31: "After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel." I feel like not. How many people know there's even a Shamgar in their Bible? But that'd be a good movie.

(PS, I saw the Last Temptation of Christ at its first screening at Notre Dame, some 20ish years after the movie originally aired and faced massive protests at Catholic campuses, and I thought it was ONE GIANT COPOUT since Jesus got to dream-live his whole not-Jesus life before deciding oh, no, wait, I'd rather be Jesus and bring salvation to the world but IT DOESN'T COUNT HE GOT TO LIVE BOTH WHOLE LIVES BEFORE DECIDING. UGH it really annoyed me as a movie and, for that matter, as a book. Not theologically, just in terms of the plot being dumb.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:38 PM on December 15, 2014 [10 favorites]


I really liked Noah. That's all.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:56 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think an Old Testament story from the perspective of the other Canaanite groups in the near east would be interesting. Nobody has ever told Goliath's story.
posted by empath at 8:15 PM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


A lot of my Christian friends appreciated Noah for being a Bible story on the screen, even if they weren't fans of some of the liberties taken with the story.

Did anyone see the "Red Tent" adaptation on Lifetime a couple weeks ago? That's the kind of "minor character of the Bible/Gospels" adaptation that I think could be pretty successful. The source material for that one is exceptional to begin with, though, even if the miniseries got only middling reviews. Do a story on Zacchaeus or Joseph of Aramathea or Mary and Martha and Lazarus. You've got plenty of leeway to be creative there.
posted by themanwho at 8:17 PM on December 15, 2014


Excuse me, at least 2 terrible movies.

Hell, three, four even, if you count straight-to-video!

Was anybody else here as flabbergasted as I was at how abysmally shitty the Nic Cage Left Behind flick was? The laughable Kirk Cameron version was vastly more entertaining and a better adaptation of the source material. The new version failed to even proselytize effectively fer crissakes!

Still, you really have to admire the passion and intensity that Cage brought to the role of Rayford Steele
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 8:19 PM on December 15, 2014


Rayford Steele

Didn't he do a bunch of stuff for Colt Studio
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:24 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


OTOH, for all its goofiness I admired how Noah went out of its way to alienate the fundies from the get-go. I'll watch the Exodus flick because it's there, accepting that without Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner disappointment is a certainty.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 8:26 PM on December 15, 2014


RottenTomatoes' excerpt from Christopher Orr's review of Exodus in The Atlantic:
This is the first portrayal of God I've ever encountered who looked like he could use a good spanking.
So, pretty faithful to the Old Testament, then.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:30 PM on December 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Noah was excellent. Also a deliberate attempt to pull the story out of the Judeo-Christian context that it usually sits in...but maybe if you come looking for that story, you'll think you just got a really weird version of it.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 8:47 PM on December 15, 2014


er, that context. excuse me.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 8:47 PM on December 15, 2014


I'm rewatching with my kid now. And the opening makes me wonder if this was the best idea while she's sick.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:26 PM on December 15, 2014


The Last Temptation of Christ wasn't entirely successful, but as with almost all of Scorsese's "failures", it's still more compelling that most directors' successes; it takes moxie in abundance to cast Harry Dean Stanton as Paul of Tarsus. I'd also like someone to do a mash-up of TLTOC and GoodFellas: "Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a messiah", a never-ending shot of Jesus and Mary Magdalene entering the wedding at Cana, Jesus kicking a moneychanger who told him to get his shoeshine box; the Romans rounding up the apostles to the tune of "Layla."
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:47 PM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also: Jesus Christ Superstar for the book, Godspell for the score.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:50 PM on December 15, 2014


Also I am maybe not the best judge of Biblical storytelling because I think Numbers, in particular, is, FASCINATING. It's the story of how an all-powerful God who is SO CRAZY POWERFUL that he accidentally destroys humans who come to try to talk to him comes to an accommodation with his human worshippers and agrees that if they approach him in THIS fashion (like a nervous horse), he will totally do his best to not destroy them. It's the story of how Jews (and by extension, Christians) learn to have a relationship with God -- but also the story of how God learns to have a relationship with them that DOESN'T involve incinerating them on a regular basis. It's TOTALLY INTERESTING. And if you picked the right angle it'd be a great movie! But the right angle would probably tick off 90% of Christian audiences since I think mostly people read Numbers as boring rules in the desert rather than as God and the Israelites learning to live together.

The last bit of Judges would also be a really good movie, once you got past the torture porn aspect. Or if you were into the torture porn aspect. There are some female judges, blah blah blah, that you could use as the set-up, and then you have the concubine from the tribe of Levi raped to death by the tribe of Benjamin (and possibly some gay sex, it's unclear), and then her owner/father of the tribe of Levi cuts her into a dozen pieces and sends them to all the other tribes and is like "WE MUST KILL THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN" and so they go and do that because the Benjaminites won't repent their rape, but the book ends really ambivalently, with the war over and everyone going back home, and, last line of Judges 21:25, "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." Which is largely an indictment to set up the next couple books (Samuel and Kings) where the Israelites get kings even though initially God told them they couldn't have one because God was their king; the purpose of the book of Judges seems to be both recording the history of the Judges AND recording the gradual failure of a kingless society, so it has a total political agenda. It'd be a pretty dark movie (although no darker than lots of superhero movies) but with a very interesting and ambivalent message. The purpose of the story isn't "what a good idea!' but "wow, people do crazy-ass shit if you leave them to their own devices and we need better laws and stronger rulers. Like Kings, maybe. Think God would give us one?" But that's a very political and ambivalent message, especially in the wake of torturing of terror suspects in the US. I think there's a lot of movie there for someone willing to take a strong POV.

Jonah, as a farce, possibly a Woody Allen farce. Lots of scholars think it's mean to be read as a farce, as a spoof of Serious Prophetic Gentlemen.

Esther, from a woman's point of view. Cannot tell you how many female seminarians identify with Esther, and it is a GREAT STORY, and Hollywood has thus far totally failed to do it justice.

Among all the recent civil rights movies, there is room for a Philemon short that takes the letter to Philemon and lays it over the freeing of a black slave in the US and/or a civil rights victory in the US. MLK referred to Philemon in his letters and sermons and for someone who wants to tell a straight-up religious story, Philemon and US slavery/Jim Crow is a spectacular choice.

I had one more I was going to extol as good movie fodder but now I can't remember!

(I am excited to see Selma. You can't read MLK without reading Paul's Letters and knowing their interpretive history in mainline Protestantism and the Black Church in America, and MLK is so incredibly much richer when you see what he's doing with Paul within his tradition and the wider Protestant and Christian traditions, and from everything I hear, Selma knows that, although it's not an explicit plot point.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:56 PM on December 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


I had one more I was going to extol as good movie fodder but now I can't remember!

book of Job as a low-budget courtroom-drama type.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:10 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I loved loved loved the show Kings for taking a Biblical story and tweaking it into a modernized setting. Unfortunately, it wasn't popular enough and only lasted the first season.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:18 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Huh. I actually enjoy most of Ridley Scott's historical epics. Liked Gladiator. Tremendously enjoyed the director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven (the theatrical release was, well. I think they chose to cut the wrong scenes, really). And Robin Hood is in my top ten, and unlikely to be unseated.

This one, though. I mean, I wasn't looking forward to Prometheus the way other folks were, but now I sort of understand the disappointment that a lot of folks felt with that film. Something that could have been quite fresh and fascinating, and wasn't.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:43 AM on December 16, 2014


I've enjoyed Prince of Egypt.

But when I've listened to it, I have a fantasy where I'm an executive in a position to pass on notes. The song 'Sovereign Prince of Egypt' (don't know if this is it's actual title) ends on the line "All I've ever wanted", repeated three times.

I'd recommend that line be repeated twice, followed by "All I've ever known".

Play it that way in your head — it's better.

Other than that, it's a perfect film. This was Dreamwork's premiere — it's apparent they were pulling out all of the stops to show they could play in the same league as Disney (apologies for the mixed organ playing/baseball metaphor).
posted by rochrobbb at 3:35 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think an Old Testament story from the perspective of the other Canaanite groups in the near east would be interesting.

Well, we did get to see what was supposed to happen to the enemies of the Hebrews in Raiders of the Lost Ark...
posted by zombieflanders at 4:22 AM on December 16, 2014


I think this is an interesting situation, because a lot of the Christian right has been determined to like this film, mostly to spite the "liberals" who are upset over the extreme racism of a cast full of white people (please note, that as part of the Christian left, plenty of us found this offensive and have tried to express why it matters within our churches). I have a former pastor who was posting on social media about how excited he was for it, with a sort of "take that political correctness!" vibe.

But when they actually see it, so many of the elements seem designed to deeply upset them, that I'm curious to see if there will be any sort of blowback.

I was mostly irritated that the movie apparently sends Moses into exile because his brother is worried about who will ascend the throne, rather than the biblical reason, Moses being a rage-aholic who just straight up murders a dude and is shocked when the Jews are repulsed by him instead of thrilled by his moxie. Moses being a continual failboat who gets chosen anyway is his best quality, and getting sent into exile in an extended form of "go sit in the corner, BAD rescued baby, BAD," is way more interesting to me than royal rivalries.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:41 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


What I don't understand is why Hollywood keeps going to the Old Testament if they're trying to draw the Christian Right the way The Passion of the Christ did. After all, the two big Christian holidays are all about the New and not the Old.

The Christian right only really leans on the New Testament when they need to shame others...The whole "he died for your sins" thing. As far as their actual world-view and how they treat others, they're pretty solidly an Old Testament crowd. If you look at most of their big bugaboos, you'll see that most of their reasoning for hating is couched in Old Testament books, and not the words and deeds of Jesus.

There's also the fact that, a strictly New Testament movie would have a much more limited audience, being a pretty much "Christian" story, whereas an Old Testament story has a much wider potential audience. And, honestly, the Old Testament lends itself far more to big-ass spectacle than does the New.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:57 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


All this "Ridley Scott is awful now" talk is making me sad, because I really, really want The Martian to be a great movie.
posted by otters walk among us at 5:59 AM on December 16, 2014


The Christian right only really leans on the New Testament when they need to shame others

Literally every church I have ever attended has focused on the OT as a series of stories about how humans constantly mess up but God loves them anyway. I know it is fun to pretend every religious person is an evil Dobson, but that's frankly just as out of touch with reality as Dobson himself is.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:01 AM on December 16, 2014


I have to admit I am a bit struck as to why it is suddenly a requirement that this movie be "good." The public standard of mass market movies, particularly historical epics, seems to be that the film give us an impressive recreation of the historical cities, some good action sequences, and possibly a love story. At least, that worked for "Gladiator."
posted by deanc at 6:29 AM on December 16, 2014


All this "Ridley Scott is awful now" talk is making me sad

I know. He used to make amazing stuff.

It vexes me. I'm terribly vexed.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:48 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I kinda like the idea of Moses as an Egyptian partisan of Akhenaten, the Pharoah that introduced monotheism to egypt, and was then wiped from their historical records after his death. As the theory goes, Moses is either exiled or abandoned his post in the administration and puts together a group of semitic slaves and die-hard Egyptian Aten worshippers and creates a syncretic religion between Aten and the volcano god Yahweh before leading them away from Egypt (or perhaps they were exiled for heresy). Once there, the new religious community eventually merges Yahweh/Aten with the local Canaanite god, El.

I think that's a more interesting, more human story, and more in line with the stories of syncretic religious invention that people are familiar with from the historical record, such as the creation of Islam and Mormonism.
posted by empath at 7:58 AM on December 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


The Prince of Egypt is incredible for a number of reasons. First, it's one of the first, and perhaps only, religion-based animation that isn't terrible or just barely rising above terrible. It's pretty great, really. Second, it's really the first superior film put out by Dreamworks animation (okay, so it was their second film - so it wasn't a long wait), but it remains one of their best. It's a studio that has definitely improved in the last few years, but for the longest time, survived on a roller coaster of entertaining to middling films. Not many truly good films, and in that same time period, Pixar was simply knocking one film out of the park after another. Third, it's one of the last great hand drawn (with CGI added) films of the 1990s and pretty much most of the 2000s.

I consider the animation and direction in the film pretty great, and the music is definitely not bad for a non-Disney production (most non-Disney productions don't even bother...).

The fact I do not have a copy of it in my movie library is actually shameful. Doh.
posted by Atreides at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Argh. It's not available on Blu-ray yet? That might be one reason.
posted by Atreides at 8:04 AM on December 16, 2014


I really loved Last Temptation of Christ, both as a book and as a movie (best soundtrack ever). It gets even better when you know that it pissed off the Greek Orthodox church so much they tried to excommunicate Kazantzakis (and the Catholics put it on their forbidden book list). Any book that riles up the powers that be to that degree is a book worth reading, imo.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:47 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Last Temptation of Christ really is the biggest mulligan in Jesus related filmography and pretty much the best example of knee-jerk reactions by people who have never bothered to watch and understand the premise. I forgot to mention earlier, but I love that someone found a way to drop a reference to the Nestorians in this thread. NICE.
posted by Atreides at 9:54 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I loved loved loved the show Kings for taking a Biblical story and tweaking it into a modernized setting. Unfortunately, it wasn't popular enough and only lasted the first season.

Hey, let's take this Jewish story about Jews in Israel and add Christianity to it!

I thought it had great promise, but I checked out after a bit because of that.
posted by jeather at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Have you ever seen Moses' shit in action? The man was phenomininal! He laid some heavy action on us, plagues n'shit . . . and as if that weren't enough, he split the Red Sea in half! I mean zip! down the middle, cover quick and no excuses. . . "
 
posted by Herodios at 10:38 AM on December 16, 2014


Third, it's one of the last great hand drawn (with CGI added) films of the 1990s and pretty much most of the 2000s.

Watching the Making Of clip in the FPP was like witnessing actual magic. It reminded me of Scotty programming a 3D model on some piece-of-shit ancient technology.
posted by odinsdream at 10:53 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


It reminded me of Scotty programming a 3D model on some piece-of-shit ancient technology.

You've heard the story behind that, right? That the crew of Star Trek IV wanted to use the Amiga because they were familiar with it from FX work, but when Commodore found out what they wanted it for, they absolutely refused to sell them one, because someone in their marketing department was afraid they might possibly make their product look bad? Whereas, when the crew contacted Apple, not only did they get a Macintosh for free, but Apple also sent a tech to make sure that the computer did whatever Leonard Nimoy wanted it to do? I love that story.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:52 AM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Kings literally quoted...the Book of Kings. I found it pretty fascinating, but didn't notice any type of injection of Christianity into the show. How was that?

It also suffered by not being on the best night. At the time, one of the best tv nights was Sunday night. NBC did not put it on Sunday. A show about King David apparently did not belong on that one day of the week. Go figure.
posted by Atreides at 11:52 AM on December 16, 2014


it's apparent they were pulling out all of the stops to show they could play in the same league as Disney (apologies for the mixed organ playing/baseball metaphor).

You're fine because baseball stadiums have organists (or used to). I'm sure there have actually been organists who literally pulled out all the stops in order to show that they could play in the big leagues.
posted by straight at 12:17 PM on December 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


"After him came Shamgar the son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel." I feel like not. How many people know there's even a Shamgar in their Bible? But that'd be a good movie.

Shamgar...wow!
posted by straight at 12:18 PM on December 16, 2014


Prince of Egypt is awesome. My husband and I watch it every year around Passover.

Also, while we're talking about Bible adaptations... does anyone else remember/miss God, the Devil and Bob? It was basically the book of Job retold as an animated sitcom set in the modern day. (Well, in the year 2000 anyway.) It was hilarious and - of course - cancelled after less than a season because of the outcry from conservative Catholics. But it's on DVD now, so we can all bask in what might have been.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 12:27 PM on December 16, 2014


Offhand, I remember the addition of the pastor (instead of a rabbi) and just the way that religion was looked at was more Christian than Jewish. Despite what people think (not you specifically, people in general), there are more differences in the religions than just "believes in Jesus/doesn't". Questions of faith vs practice are different, questions of how one interacts with god, getting around rules, studying, etc.

It would probably have been a more interesting show had they not sanitized the religion down.
posted by jeather at 1:19 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


does anyone else remember/miss God, the Devil and Bob?

omg that theme song is buried in a dark corner of my brain, and you just coaxed it out of its cave.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 1:21 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


You're welcome.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 1:28 PM on December 16, 2014


Now I can share my theory about Ridley Scott...

...he is actually illiterate.


No, just an old drunk. I often tell the story of attending the premiere of the Director's Cut of Blade Runner. Ridley Scott came out to answer questions after the screening. He was so drunk he could barely speak intelligible words.

He cannot actually comprehend the scripts that he films. He must rely on interpreters to convey the script to him. Give him something great and you get a great movie like Blade Runner. Give him something not so great and you get 1492: Conquest of Paradise.

Oh god I forgot all about that horrible film. I saw that during its first run in theaters. Well I saw the first half, I walked out in the middle. I didn't even know it was an RS production but it figures.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:57 PM on December 16, 2014


The Whelk: "Man I was pissed, even as a sproglet, when I learned the original plan for the voice of God was a shifting series of speakers, men, women, the young and the old, but it got some heat from religious groups so they just made it Val Kilmer. "

Not just that, but all the voices of people he knew from his life, speaking together. It was a little disappointing they dropped it for sensitivity reasons -- too pantheistic! -- but the idea of God speaking to him in his own voice (with a coterie of angelic whispers and sighs) is almost as good. As is everything else about that scene -- the elemental nature of the underground fire that sounds like air and casts light like water, the ripples in the sand, the way the bush blossoms throughout, Zimmer's fantastic music. Best portrayal of God in film, IMHO.

As for the original voice of God idea, you can hear some of that concept in the plagues scene, where a chorus of unseen voices calls out the plagues together as one.

Also, I totally forgot to check TVTropes for this post -- here are some interesting tidbits:

  • In Exodus, Moses and Aaron are 80 and 83 years old, respectively, at the time of the plagues. While Moses is shown to have spent at least several years as a shepherd, he is still very much a young man when he confronts Ramses here.
  • Moses had Aaron actually deal with Pharaoh in the original story and also perform most of the miracles, in this version he does it all himself.
  • When Tzipporah is offered to Rameses by the priests she tries to bite his hand and Moses teases him: "Not much of a snake charmer, are you?" When Moses shows up at the palace for the first time and tells Rameses to "let his people go" and then transforms his staff into a snake, Rameses smirks and says "Hotep, Huy, show this snake charmer our answer".
  • When the Israelites are finally leaving Egypt, a song of praise to God is being sung by children in the background. In Hebrew, no less. The song in question, Mi Chamocha, was supposedly composed by Miriam during the Exodus itself.
  • The silhouette of a whale shark is seen behind the watery walls of the Red Sea passage, which does connect to the habitat range of the species.
  • The credits end with quotes from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Qur'an stating how important Moses was as a prophet.
I was also sad to learn that singer Ofra Haza (Yocheved) died just two years after the film was released, at age 42, of complications from AIDS transmitted via a blood transfusion.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:04 PM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's the version of the Prometheus script from when it still had the Aliens tag: Aliens: Engineers - it makes a lot more sense than the one they shot, though it's missing a couple of the better David moments.
posted by Artw at 7:59 PM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll stick to "Life of Brian", still my favourite biblical flick, while I await a film adaptation of Eduardo Mendoza's "El asombroso viaje de Pomponio Flato"
posted by abakua at 6:40 AM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nina Paley has animated an intense yt and blackly humorous Death of the Firstborn scene for her upcoming movie Seder-Masochism.

Nina Paley continues to be awesome.
posted by homunculus at 1:45 PM on December 22, 2014


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