In spite of a mid-December/Oscar-bait release date, Ridley Scott’s semi-secular take on the story of Moses, opened to general indifference. Less TEN COMMANDMENTS redux than Hebrew SPARTACUS/’60, it pleased neither camp. It certainly opens poorly, with a long, unconvincing prologue that all but flaunts a modern, anachronistic attitude amongst the Egyptian royals. (Scott, pushing too hard for a contemporary feel.) Physically unconvincing, too, in its CGI Egyptian megalopolis. Things improve once Moses hits the road, er . . . unbeaten desert path, but no one ever establishes a comfort zone inside the material. Certainly not Christian Bale’s Moses, reaching for Daniel Day-Lewis gravitas and missing. (Though he’s better than Joel Edgerton’s fratboy Ramses.) Ridiculous as C. B. DeMille’s '56 epic often is, he was never uncomfortable in his convictions and, in his lumbering fashion, pulls you along with his nose for story. Ah, story sense, Ridley Scott’s old Achilles’s heel, disabling the film at all key moments. Those who see MOSES as likely action film fodder will enjoy some of the spectacle and the elegant color pallette. Some CGI effects work splendidly when set in motion: the seven creeping creepy plagues, plunging chariots, a roiling Red Sea tsunami, very cool. Assuming ‘cool’ is the word that springs to mind for Old Testament texts.
DOUBLE-BILL: Burt Lancaster was MOSES THE LAWGIVER/’74, cut down from a 6 part Euro-mini-series to a 2½ hour Stateside theatrical. With a big name cast, Ennio Morricone score, Anthony Burgess co-scripting, it sounds interesting. Just don’t get your hopes up.