Operation Finale

Operation Finale

By: Kevin Jordan

It is a good thing I like history.

Operation Finale is the story of how a team of Israeli Mossad agents captured Adolf Eichmann, one of the top Nazi SS officers and main organizers of the Holocaust.  Eichmann was discovered living in Argentina under a false identity, captured in 1960 and taken to Israel, where he was tried for war crimes (among other things) and executed by hanging.  Depending on how much of a history buff you are, this may be a spoiler.  Fortunately, the statute of limitations has expired on spoilers for fifty-year old stories.

While I did not know this story going into the film, it was a safe assumption that the film would end with Eichmann’s capture (an assumption I made three seconds after the characters were assigned the mission).  Knowing that, I would still recommend you watch Operation Finale because we currently live in 2018 where there are still large numbers of human garbage that will watch this film rooting for Eichmann.

If we lived in a normal world where all of our politicians and electorate still openly condemned Nazism (rather than the half that continue to sit silently as these fascist shit stains are openly supported by our President), I would tell you to skip this movie unless you are a massive history nerd who cannot get enough Ken Burns.  From the little bit of research I did after viewing Operation Finale, the actual capture of Eichmann is almost comically uninteresting.  The Israelis follow Eichmann for a while to make sure he really is Eichmann, snatch him after he gets off a bus at the end of his work day, then take him to Israel.  It could not be less eventful, and it shows in the way the screenplay tries to insert drama and suspense into the film.  It could very well be that the movie is faithful with the drama and suspense (I have not read Eichmann in My Hands by Peter Malkin), but it feels manufactured for movie reasons.  In fact, the most interesting part of the entire story might be the trial of Eichmann itself, but the film only spends a couple of minutes on it at the end.

Being a big history nerd myself, I was never bored by the movie, but I could not help noticing how inferior it was to a movie like MunichMunich is another film about Mossad agents tracking down enemies of Israel (Palestinian terrorists who kidnapped Israeli Olympians), but Munich does not shy away from the ruthlessness these agents sometimes operate with.  Conversely, Operation Finale depicts its Mossad agents as if all of the agents are rookies who needed multiple tries to pass the test.  They bumble one thing after another, perform surveillance as if they believe they are invisible, and overlook basic operational security principles like not paying their informants or in-country aides.  Perhaps the most unbelievable part is when their arranged airline delays the exfiltration flight because they want a signed letter from Eichmann confirming he is Eichmann.  This, despite the lead agent informing us that nobody knows what Eichmann’s signature looks like so they cannot forge it.  If nobody knows what it looks like, why would the airline demand it and how would they know if it was faked?  This becomes the MacGuffin and drives a relationship that develops between Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and Eichmann (Ben Kingsley).  The movie is hoping this relationship distracts you from the fact that the signature is one of the more absurd MacGuffins you will ever see in film.

However, the relationship exposes a handful of takeaways that relate to current events.  One is how Eichmann is adamant that he was just following orders when he came up with more efficient ways to exterminate the Jews during the Holocaust.  Nevermind the fact that he joined the Nazi party and SS in 1932 voluntarily.  Nevermind that he headed the department responsible for Jewish affairs through the end of World War II.  Nevermind that he could have chosen to defect or leave the country and go into hiding or disobey those orders at any time.  We heard this same bullshit excuse coming from the Department of Homeland Security and ICE when they were indiscriminately deporting immigrants (many of them legal immigrants) and separating children of asylum seekers from their families and locking them up in cages because those were there orders.  It is not hyperbole to point out how the current treatment of immigrants by the White House administration and most Republican congressmen is very similar to the treatment of Jews in Germany in the 1930s.

Another takeaway is how Argentina turned a blind eye to the Nazi war criminals hiding there and the rising number of Nazi sympathizers gathering together.  The film depicts the Argentinian police as working with Nazi groups and being led by Nazis to track down the Jewish agents in broad daylight.  While we are not quite that far here, we have high-ranking White House officials who have made no secret of their anti-Semitism and hatred of non-white people.  I know this is a movie review, but if we do not pay attention to movies like this trying to tell us something, I may not be able to write reviews in the future.

Given that it is the end of August, you probably are not paying attention to new movie releases.  Ordinarily, a movie starring Kingsley and Isaac (with shout-outs to Nick Kroll, Melanie Laurent, and Haley Lu Richardson) is the kind of movie that opens closer to award season and draws critical attention, but it is opening in August for a reason.  It is the kind of movie that history fans will find some interest in, but casual fans will not because the story just is not very compelling.  The best I can tell you is that it kept my interest for reasons that had little to do with movies, a lot to do with history, and a bit to do with the sad state of current affairs.

Rating: Ask for six dollars back and always pay attention to history, or you’ll be doomed to repeat it.

The Jungle Book

By: Kevin Jordan

Your kids will have nightmares.

As I sat through the end credits of The Jungle Book, it ended in a way that I was not expecting – with a big rating block proclaiming that the movie was rated PG-13.  I wasn’t actually waiting for the rating block; I was watching the credits to confirm that Christopher Walken and Bill Murray did in fact sing their own songs (we’ll get to that in a minute).  My point is that, previous to the screening, I had read that the movie was rated PG.  The best way I can describe my surprise at the truth goes something like this – how many teenagers out there are excited to watch a movie featuring a young boy in a red diaper, running around the jungle and singing with animals?  You’re with me now, aren’t you?

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Just to be clear, I wasn’t surprised that this movie was rated PG-13 after watching it.  Swap in humans for the animals and you end up with the equivalent amount of violence as most of our superhero movies, plus of healthy dose of scares.  Though, none of our superhero movies have featured a monstrous snake about to swallow a small boy whole and, yes, there were kids in the theater crying during this scene.  It is legitimately frightening for younger viewers, and good luck ever getting those kids to go near even a garden hose any time soon.

So, who is this movie for?  If teenagers don’t give a shit and younger children will be traumatized, why did Disney spend $175 million to make a live action version of the 1967 animated classic?  Surely, they don’t think adults are going to flock to the theater for nostalgia, do they?  Maybe it’s because they have so much Star Wars and Marvel money lying around that interns were vanishing in piles of thousand dollar bills spilling out of the break rooms and OSHA made them address the problem.  I might not be able to discern the target audience for this movie, but I am sure of one thing – this movie brings nothing new to the table, and it’s a very expensive table.

(The only possible SPOILER in this movie is the end, since this movie is almost a clone of the 1967 cartoon.  And, yes, I’m going to spoil that end because it sucked.)

If you are unfamiliar with the story of The Jungle Book, it’s about a young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who is raised by wolves in the jungle, but must leave the wolves and the jungle before a tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), kills him.  It’s a simple plot and the meat of the movie is Mowgli’s journey, highlighted by run-ins with a bear, Baloo (Murray), and an orangutan, King Louie (Walken), the climactic showdown with Shere Khan, and the presence of his escort, a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), who is trying to get Mowgli to the man-village.  To answer your question – yes, I am describing the 1967 version and, yes, I am describing the 2016 version.  For $175 million, Disney made an unoriginal, 3-D, mostly CGI-animated version of a cartoon, but without any of the charm of that cartoon.

To be fair, there are a couple of differences worth noting, but none of them are good.  King Louie is roughly the size of a Pizza Hut because the tree-sized snake, Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), wasn’t scary enough for small children.  And speaking of Kaa, she gets one single scene that lasts about three minutes – just enough time to try to hypnotize and eat Mowgli before being swatted by Baloo.  What a waste.  Then, there are those songs you remember, but butchered by actors who do not have singing careers for a reason.  Maybe there was a time decades ago when Murray and Walken could hold a tune, but this was just bad.  I once heard Kevin Pollack joke that when he gets a crappy song stuck in his head, he uses Walken’s voice to help get it out by singing the song in that voice.  That’s how “I Want to Be Like You” sounded in the movie.  On the flip side, Johansson does a solid job reprising Kaa’s “Trust in Me” during the end credits, but that just makes you even more annoyed at how little screen time she got.

But, the most notable changes relate to Mowgli.  For starters, the kid knows how to solve complex engineering problems despite having grown up with wolves and never having attended even one class at MIT.  He’s adept at making ropes, pulley systems, and cutting tools, much to Baloo’s delight as Mowgli succeeds in obtaining the honeycomb that Baloo was lusting after.  Of course, as in the cartoon, Mowgli doesn’t know how to make fire (much to Louie’s dismay), which seems a little odd considering the rest of his technical knowhow, including banging rocks together to crack them into cutting tools.  Are you really telling me that not one spark flew during all that banging?

But the biggest change is the ending.  The best thing about the cartoon was how, after all of Mowgli’s resistance to going to the man-village, all it took to convince him to go was a cute girl batting her eyelashes at him.  And that’s perfect because that’s exactly how a child nearing puberty would act.  Unfortunately, Disney is hell-bent on franchising The Jungle Book (they’ve already begun work on a sequel), so the film ends in a full circle – with Mowgli running through the jungle with the wolves and nary a cute girl in sight.  Of course, for the sake of sequels they probably shouldn’t have dropped Shere Khan from a tree and burned him alive, but at least now we know what got them that PG-13 rating.

Besides Mowgli, the other large change is with Shere Kahn.  Rather than hunting Mowgli, he simply kills the wolfpack leader, Akela (Giancarlo Esposito), and tells the rest of them to spread the word that Akela is dead, assuming that Mowgli will come racing back to avenge Akela’s death.  Seriously?!  Nevermind the sheer laziness of this event – that very act, which happens early in the film, removes nearly all of the tension and drama of the film because now there isn’t an angry tiger hunting Mowgli and it’s only a matter of time before the script tells Mowgli to fulfill Khan’s assumption.  Plus, blood-thirsty tiger hunt was the only thing left to keep those teenagers interested and now they don’t even have that.

Based on early reviews, you’re going to think I’m crazy (as of 1:00pm on April 13, the movie has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but those critics are making the same mistake they made with movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and John Wick.  They are deliberately ignoring a regurgitated story (or non-existent story in those other movies), inconsistent world building, and a worse ending because of the visuals or, as The Guardian put it, the “hyperreal digital animation.”  They aren’t asking questions like “why can’t the elephants or monkeys talk, but every other animal can, including King Louie – a monkey?” or “if Shere Khan didn’t know Mowgli was in the cave when Khan killed Mowgli’s father, how does Khan know that Mowgli is that guy’s son?” or “the man-village seems to consist of a bunch of drunk idiots and a massive bonfire – how is what seems to be a Texas A&M pep rally gone bad safer than a murderous tiger?“ or even “the animals know what propaganda is, but not fire?  How creepy is it that they all refer to it as The Red Flower?  It’s a jungle – I’m sure they have actual red flowers there.”  Essentially, these critics are saying “look at the pretty colors” while lapsing into a state of stupor brought on by 3-D IMAX.

I realize this is a lot of complaining about a movie that is the very definition of the word “meh.”  It’s really not that bad of a movie, just a flawed movie lacking any creativity or something new to say about the source material.  It’s a movie that seems to have no real target audience beyond people who are enamored by shiny things.  But the real problem with this flick is that it is inferior in every way, save special effects, to a fifty-year old cartoon made for $4 million that actually is appropriate for your young children to see.

Rating: Unless your only motivation was to see a fake CGI jungle in IMAX, ask for all of your money back.  You’ll need it for your kids’ therapy.

Self/less

By: Kevin Jordan

There’s a twist coming.

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When I saw the previews for Self/less, I was very intrigued by the concept – living forever.  Admittedly, it’s not a new concept, but the execution of the idea always seems to be new.  Vampirism.  Mutant healing powers.  Worm-excreted Spice.  Growing clones and harvesting their organs.  Space bathwater.  The immortality sub-genre is bigger and more diverse than you think.  We are drawn to these movies, because who doesn’t want to live forever?

In Self/less, immortality is achieved by connecting bodies through two interconnected MRI machines.  Think of it as a bit of a cross between The Fly and The Island and you’ll be ready to watch this flick.

(Note: I promise I will not SPOIL anything from the movie or that you haven’t already seen in the previews.)

The film begins with our main character, Damian (Ben Kingsley), staring out of the window of his opulent, high-rise home, contemplating his imminent death from cancer.  I’ll spare you the details, but we learn that Damian is a ruthless, manipulative, asshole businessman who will use his ridiculously large fortune (the man’s entire apartment is gilded in gold, including his furniture) to buy his way out of any problem, including dying.  Which brings us to the previously described MRI-body-switching process called Shedding.  Picture a snake molting and you have an apt metaphor for Damian’s situation, though the actual process depicted in the film looks a lot like the memory transplant machine in Total Recall.

After a successful transition into his new body, Ryan Reynolds takes over for Ben Kingsley as Damian and we all wonder why great actors like Kingsley and J.K. Simmons are being cast in smaller and smaller roles (what Terminator: Genisys did with Simmons was borderline criminal).  We’re also told the rules of engagement for Damian:

  • He can’t tell anyone who he really is (because his former body was very publicly dead and buried),
  • And he has to take a little red pill every day to keep from hallucinating.

After relearning how to walk, run, and do various other physical activities (hilariously, he can talk right away though), Damian takes his new body out for a spin by playing basketball, jet-boating, and having sex with a parade of female twenty-somethings.  Happy with his new body, Damian puts the rest of his devious, villainous, post-mortem plan into action…  (Which, to the chagrin of the male portion of the audience, does not involve more naked women.)

…Damian’s devious plan was to step into an executive at his company, explaining to the board that this new, young guy had been secretly groomed for the role.  The board is convinced to give this stranger a chance, and he proves his worth by securing a huge contract.  A short time later, Damian is in St. Louis when he happens across Madeline (Natalie Martinez).  Madeline recognizes Damian’s body as her husband, whom she thought had died, triggering memories in Damien’s head that do not belong to him.  Damian insists she is mistaken and retreats to New York.  The Magic MRI Machine doctor explains that they are not memories, but glitches as his consciousness adjust to the neural pathways of the new body.  The doctor doubles the dose of pills for Damian and assures him that after enough time has passed the pills will no longer be necessary.  A short while later, Madeline tracks down Damian and proves her claim by showing him pictures of her husband.  This is the catalyst for the second half of the film which consists entirely of the doctor and his men trying to capture and kill Damian and Madeline to keep them from revealing the Magic MRI Machine secrets.

(Note: this is almost completely off-topic, but the movie contains a scene that made me want to beat a Mac enthusiast to death with their own MacBook Air.  While explaining the promise of his invention, the doctor says “Imagine what the greatest minds could do with an extra fifty or sixty years.  Einstein, Edison, Steve Jobs.”  Hold on – Steve Jobs?  Are you kidding me?  The same Steve Jobs whose company changes the design of their device charger every 18 months?  That Steve Jobs?  It wouldn’t have been quite so egregious if there wasn’t a MacBook featured in almost every scene in the film.)

With the exception of the hilariously weak MRI machine body switcher, the story is pretty solid, though a bit predictable in Damian’s attempt at redemption.  It’s logical, doesn’t contradict itself, and the motivations all work, based on the character development.  There’s just one big problem that I need to mention…

…that’s not how the movie actually goes.  I made up almost all of it.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  I just M. Night Shyamalan’d you. The actual movie feels forced in just about everything that you see happening, and New Damian’s actions don’t match with Old Damian’s very brief character development.  The way Damian figures out the truth is totally contrived and none of his actions after the body switch match with a man who just spent $250 million for a second life and has an elaborately-carved cherub fountain in his dining room.  The sad thing is that it only took me a couple of hours to come up with a much more believable situation and transition for Damian than what two writers undoubtedly spent months on.

Rating: Ask for six dollars back.  It’s actually an okay movie, but one that clearly could have been much better.

Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb

By: Kevin Jordan

How is this still a thing?

Night at the Museum

I want to make it clear that I understand who this movie is for – children.  That’s why it’s rated PG.  It’s a harmless movie just trying to have a little fun and entertain the kiddos.  In fact, if you are looking for a movie to take your kids to this Christmas, you should take them to Unbroken.  Nothing says Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas like a war movie about prisoners in a Japanese internment camp.  Wait, what?  Don’t take your kids to Unbroken; that would be a terrible idea.  Take your kids to Night at the Museum 3 – a movie that goes out of its way to fit in a scene where a monkey pisses all over Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan and sends the message to kids that college is stupid and they should definitely throw parties when their parents aren’t home.  Your call on movie night, parents.

I really wasn’t expecting much out of this film, and I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s one of those movies you watch, shrug at, and an hour later, forget you ever saw it.  Really, you’re just glad you had a choice of movie that didn’t include 90-minute orc/human/elf/eagle/dwarf battle scenes, torture scenes, hospitals-filled-with-injured-people-being-bombed scenes, or God murdering thousands of innocent Egyptian children.

Secret of the Tomb has a very straightforward plot.  The golden tablet that brings everything to life is corroding and night watchman Larry (Ben Stiller) must find a way to restore it.  After consulting with the crooks from the original film, specifically Cecil (Dick van Dyke), he learns he must travel to the British Museum in London to speak with Ahkmenrah’s (Rami Malek) father, Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley), to learn the secrets of the tablet.  Like any decent adventure story, there are obstacles in the way, mostly in the form of a hydra and Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens).  Of course, the rest of the supporting characters (Attila the Hun, Teddy Roosevelt, Sacajawea, the monkey, the tiny cowboy, and the tiny Roman) are there too because this movie was way too lazy to come up with any decent new characters.

That’s not to say they didn’t come up with new characters.  Just not decent ones.  As I said, Sir Lancelot is one of the main characters, and the very first question any educated person should be asking is “what is a fictional character doing at a history museum?”  Or, “what is a fictional character’s suit of armor doing at a history museum and why would there be a wax figure inside of said armor?”  The answer to that question is that it had to be a knight of the round table so that they could justify a cameo scene with Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve performing as King Arthur and Guinevere, respectively, in a stage performance called Camelot.  Seriously, I did not make that up.  To its credit, that scene is easily the best scene in the movie (I won’t ruin why), but also (and unfortunately) highlights how much better an actor Hugh Jackman is than everyone else in this film (sorry Ben Kingsley, but have you seen your latest work?).

In addition to Lancelot and Meren-ur-whatever, the film gives ample screen time to a new caveman (also played by Ben Stiller) and a British Museum security guard (Rebel Wilson).  The caveman thing is supposed to be funny because he looks like Larry, but the movie ruins the joke by having Larry acknowledge the similarity almost immediately, rendering the caveman pointless.  Wilson’s character is even more useless, for a couple of reasons.  (1) Wilson is not funny.  She wasn’t funny in Bridesmaids (though, to be fair, nobody in that movie was funny), she wasn’t funny in Pain & Gain, and Super Fun Night was cancelled during its first season because, you guessed it, not funny.  (2) Judging by this movie, the British Museum is guarded by one single person, outside, in a guard shack with one single camera that points at the inside of an exterior door.  Let me reiterate – a museum with thousands upon thousands of priceless artifacts is guarded by a lone, short, fat woman and no video surveillance or other security measures.  Again, I realize this is a children’s movie, but COME ON!!!!

While we’re on the subject of the British Museum, I’m not sure the writers or producers or anyone involved in the making of this movie bothered to so much as Google what’s actually inside the British Museum, let alone step foot inside.  The potential for comedy and new visuals was enormous, yet the best we get is a weird little golden troll, a hydra, and some Greek statues missing some limbs.  Just one example of missed opportunity – didn’t the writers know that the Rosetta Stone is in that museum?  Wouldn’t it have been funny to include a scene with Attila, the caveman, the monkey, and Larry standing by the stone and suddenly being able to understand each other?  Kind of like the scene in Bedazzled where Brendan Fraser is a drug lord and is astounded that he can speak Spanish?  (“¡Estoy hablando Español!”)  Ye gods, did they blow that one.

Perhaps the worst part of the film is the barely-developed father-son tiff that occurs.  Larry’s son informs Larry that he doesn’t want to go to college, but wants to be a DJ in some island off the coast of Spain.  Larry harrumphs a bit, but the subject is dropped until the end of the film when Larry says he’ll support whatever and his son responds with “eh, whatever.”  What was the point of that nonsense?  Did the writers really try to include a human story in a movie featuring Owen Wilson receiving a golden shower from a monkey?

I could get into a lot of the incongruities of the film’s story and lack of continuity with the other films (the fix for the tablet and why the tablet is failing in the first place will make even the six year olds cry foul), but it’s really not worth it at this point in my review.  Suffice it to say, any rules that were established in the first film are all but forgotten this time around, but that’s not surprising considering the lack of effort that went into the story.  Just know that the alternative to Secret of the Tomb is scaring the Christmas out of them with movies featuring killing, torturing, bombing, and killing.  Merry Christmas…?

Rating:  Ask for all but three dollars back.  That’s thirteen dollars for Hugh Jackman’s scene and minus ten for the rest.

Exodus: Gods and Kings

By: Kevin Jordan

Let it go; it’s a movie.

Exodus

I was raised catholic, spent the first four years of my education attending catholic school, and attended Sunday school through my junior high years.  What that means is, during all that time, I learned next to nothing about the Old Testament of the Bible.  Oh sure, they told us about Moses, floating down the river, the burning bush, the parting of the Red Sea, leading the Israelites out of Egypt (and they purposely used the term Israelites instead of Hebrews for political reasons), Passover, and the ten commandments.  What they conveniently left out were the details that made the story more than just an anecdote to recite during the first reading at mass.  This goes for other stories like Job, Jonah, David and Goliath, Sodom and Gomorrah, and dozens of other stories that weren’t even hinted at.  Essentially, we got the Cliff’s Notes versions because the full versions make God out to be something of a vengeful, murderous dick.  I completely understand the motivation behind not telling children (whom they are trying to indoctrinate), but if they didn’t want the stories to be known, they probably shouldn’t be pretending to teach the Old Testament in the first place.

(As you might have guessed, I’m not a practicing Catholic anymore, but not for reasons as petty as the church being bad story tellers.  I’m not a practicing Catholic because I simply don’t get anything out of practicing the religion and there are far too many hypocrisies for me to ignore.  But I digress.)

Before I get into the movie itself, there’s one more thing that needs to be made clear – this movie is a work of fiction.  If you are going into this movie looking to find inconsistencies in the story as compared to what’s in the Bible, you should just stay home.  Also, stop reading this review.  Not only has the story of Moses and the Exodus been rewritten, modified, and edited dozens of times over the centuries (like everything else in the Bible and every other religious tome); the Exodus probably never happened in the first place.  Archaeologists have spent more than a century looking for evidence of the event and have found nothing.  Considering that the Bible says the Exodus was 600,000 people – not including women and children or their livestock (which puts the true number around two million) – you’d think there’d be something – bones, trash, a dreidel – left behind.  Plus, the entire population of Egypt at the time was only 3 million+; the loss of more than half their population would have destroyed the empire overnight.  My point is that you shouldn’t get worked up over a work of fiction about a (most probable) work of fiction (and there are already lots of people who are).  Besides, if you’re going to be pissed about this movie, story inaccuracies aren’t going to be the thing that boils your blood.

The movie begins much like Gladiator – with a battle scene.  Moses (Christian Bale) and his brother (well, Moses was adopted, so adopted brother), Ramses (Joel Edgerton) are generals in the Egyptian army and leading them into a battle with the Hittittes.  Ramses is also the son of the Pharoah Seti (John Turturro), making Moses a prince of Egypt.  Just before the battle, Seti’s seer gives a prophecy about the battle that one leader will be saved and that the savior will become a leader.  Okay – so the prophecy is a little more than blunt foreshadowing, but whatever.  They fight, they win, Moses saves Ramses’ life, and the religious people in the audience are already uncomfortable because Moses just killed a whole bunch of people.

Some time passes and Moses goes to the city of Pithum (which, over the course of the movie, somehow migrates closer to Memphis to the point where it’s a suburb) to investigate suspected thievery on the part of the governor.  While there, Moses meets an elder named Nun (Ben Kingsley) who tells Moses about his true ancestry – that he’s actually a Hebrew saved by his sister when the Egyptians slaughtered all the first-born Hebrew children because of a prophecy (always a prophecy).  The story gets to Ramses (who is now Pharoah) and Ramses confronts Moses about it.  For me, this was the weakest part of the story because no evidence is provided, the story came from the corrupt governor, and Moses only admits to it to stop Ramses from cutting off his sister’s arm (whose true identity isn’t even known to Moses and Ramses).  In addition, Bithia (a relative of the Pharoah), has a little Hebrew band that belonged to Moses that easily could have been the evidence and brought logic to the scene, but I guess threatening to mutilate people is good enough.

Anyway, Moses is exiled and the movie slogs through for a while.  During this time, it sets up later parts of the movie, as well as what Moses ends up sacrificing for God, but it’s a pretty dull part of the film.  When it gets interesting is when you see God for the first time – as an angry child.  No doubt the religious folks in the audience experienced a collective jaw drop at this image.  It’s also a very apt characterization of the Old Testament God and makes a lot of sense.  Maybe God’s not just a vengeful dick, but a petulant child.  It would explain how quick God is to smite people and whole towns.

The rest of the film is the rest of the Cliff’s Notes with some very good special effects.  No, not the 3-D (again, completely useless), but the imagery itself.  Obviously, the parting of the Red Sea is awesome, but the ten plagues are something to behold.  Between the frogs, the flies, the maggots, the locusts, and the boils, you can feel your own skin crawling as if they are on you as well.

But aside from all that, the Passover is the thing that hits hardest in this film.  Again, it’s a story that kind of gets glossed over in church.  They really try not to emphasize that God killed thousands of children.  In fact, Ramses will specifically confront Moses with that after it happens.  He says “How can you worship a God who murders children?” and Moses responds with “No Hebrew child died.”  Can you really blame Ramses for wanting to kill the Hebrews after that?

By the time the movie was over, the historian in me was very pleased, even though I know perfectly well the movie was fiction.  For me, it was getting a chance to see a true interpretation of the Exodus, sans religious censorship.  From a film standpoint, I’d say the movie was a little better than decent.  For all of the epic-ness that director Ridley Scott was going for, he forgot to make the movie compelling.  It just doesn’t emotionally draw the audience in the way a movie like Gladiator does.  It’s almost clinical in its storytelling, an example being the plagues.  Sure, they look fantastic, but they come and go a little too quickly, barely showing their effects.  Also, Moses is always outside of the plight of the Hebrew slaves, so you never really feel sympathetic towards him.  Had the movie spent more time on the characters themselves and the plight of the slaves, it would have been, well, more compelling and drawn the audience further into the story.  But it sure beats Sunday school.

Rating: Ask for a couple of dollars back and some of that time you spent in mass.