I'm sorry - great special effects and some fun performances cannot… MoreI'm sorry - great special effects and some fun performances cannot save a film that is essentially filler, with nothing profound actually happening. Had the film ended with what we were promised (the desolation of Smaug via attacking Lake Town) maybe then this would've had weight. But it doesn't, all events here are entirely reliant on it's predecessor and sequel - this is the best example I can give of cash-grab filmmaking. Fun, but not great.
Since sometime last year when the first photos of Christian Bale… MoreSince sometime last year when the first photos of Christian Bale surfaced (via Entertainment Weekly) as Moses, I had been looking forward to Director Ridley Scott's version of what is arguably the most memorable story in the Old Testament - the Exodus. Moses, a prince of Egypt, comes to discover that he is of Hebrew decent - the same Hebrews that are enslaved to his Egyptian family and kingdom. Upon this and the killing of Egyptian guards after witnessing their mistreatment of a Hebrew slave, Moses is exiled and dwells in Midian, where he is called upon by God to rescue the slaves from slavery. He returns to free the slaves, and you can figure out the rest of the story. It is a timeless story that has great importance to a great many people.
That being said, Gods and Kings strives to tell a story of similar grandeur and scale. Scott's latest has a strong cast; Bale plays a complex Moses, one who struggles with his footing as the leader of God's chosen people. Opposite Bale, Joel Edgerton (familiar to me via his strong performance opposite Tom Hardy in the excellent film, Warrior) gives us an equally entertaining take on Ramses, Moses' Egyptian brother who rules the slaves with a character that is a bit deeper than a run-of-the-mill villain. The supporting roles are all filled out quite nicely as well, although a bit strange (John Turturro?), none of their performances are weak either.
Shot on Red Epic Dragon cameras, Gods and Kings is provided some beautiful cinematography by Dariusz Wolski (Prometheus, Pirates of the Caribbean) who captures the feel of an old-school Hollywood epic, ala The Ten Commandments. Filmed on location in Spain and Pinewood Studios, set design is beautiful down the last detail, with wonderful costumes, great action scenes and plenty of sweeping camera shots that get the eyes ready for visual splendor - provided in droves thanks to plenty of practical stunt work as well as well handled CGI. Wolski's photography is equally matched by the pulsating score by Alberto Iglesias (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Constant Gardener), whose orchestration reminds me of the long-gone epics of decades past. Technically, the film is fun to watch, with plenty to see, hear, and explore in the frame. Nothing short of typical for a Scott production.
But amidst all that I enjoyed with the film, it isn't without it's faults (also typical for a Scott production as of late). Typical for the director's previous efforts, the dialogue here feels stiff at times, and oddly modern. While the cast sells the wordage in their expressions and body language, one can't help but point out lines of dialogue that would be better suited to a discussion on CNN rather than a biblical epic. This leads to the film ultimately feeling cold, which can work (Kubrick and Nolan are proof of that), but not when the film is communicating that I should feel otherwise. The film wants me to be emotionally invested, it wants me to lean forward and cheer when the chariots start collapsing, when the Israelites rise up - but I can't, not when odd directorial choices of cast, dialogue, and diversions from the text get in the way, leading me to feel distracted, and at times, indifferent about Moses' plight.
I'll be the first to raise my hand and say that I do not mind diversions from the text in a film based on the Holy Word of God. The film itself is not the Word of God, and as such, it is ridiculous of me to hold the film to a standard that is one without error. That being said, some of Scott's diversions from the original text aren't bad, per say, but they don't add anything to the narrative, or say anything particularly profound or interesting. Whether it is Moses' military background, the depiction of God as a young boy, or God not a bit interested in confirming to Moses that He is actually appearing to the man, Scott's decisions leave one who is familiar with the source material asking why? Had Moses reached a point of confirmation that God was actually speaking to him, or God's decision to appear as a young boy been paid off in some metaphor about childlike faith - something, anything - then I could go with them, for the sake of experiencing the story Scott wanted to tell. But his creative license does not payoff in the narrative, so what was the point he was trying to make?
At that moment when I was walking out of the theater, taking in one last time from the film I had just experienced, I asked myself why I felt the way I did - indifferent - as I was walking into the parking lot. It was a good action film, with great set pieces and well directed sequences - it was a decent throwback with plenty of moments that reminded me of Cecil B. DeMille's defining (albeit four hour long) portrayal of Moses thanks to Charlton Heston - and yet, Gods and Kings had nothing to say once credits rolled. If anything it's greatest accomplishment is getting the world talking about the Book of Exodus again. I left feeling the same way I did before the film, the only difference being I can now say I've seen Exodus: Gods and Kings.
With the Internet reducing critic's thoughts into mere numbers, and films into either the category of amazing or terrible, Exodus: Gods and Kings is simply okay. Scott's vision of a battle-hardened Moses presents plenty of interesting interpretations on the Exodus story, but does nothing with them, wasting potential for what could've been a furiously passionate swords and sandals epic.
Metropolis: Analysis and Review
In an age where literally every… MoreMetropolis: Analysis and Review
In an age where literally every summer we are desensitized by multiple films in the science fiction genre, sometimes it's good to take a step back in time to enjoy what many consider to be the true grandfather of all science fiction masterpieces. The film I'm referring to of course is 1927's Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang.
Not only is this motion picture a prime example of German expressionism at it's best, but Metropolis screams in your face the definition of pure science fiction.
In Metropolis, a young lad by the name of Joh Frederson, roams the world of his father's empire. Here, under the command of Freder Sr., workers slave over machinery to give energy and purpose to an epic city, reminiscent of what my mind would see as a boy when someone would mention the ancient cities of Babylon and Jerusalem. But all is not well in Metropolis, as Freder seeks to find the woman he and Rotwang loved, Hel. Hel, being dead, has been sort-of brought back in the form of a disturbingly elegant robot, which was built by Rotwang after a long sense of loneliness had driven him to do so. The robot takes to the likeness of Joh's love interest, Maria, and heads to the streets. The workers of Metropolis soon follow this lovely woman's every command that could potentially lead to the destruction of their very city. Only Joh and Maria can save the workers now, who are all trapped in this enslavement, in this Metropolis.
One of the first things that struck me during Metropolis, was it's relentless imagery and symbolism, at times dripping from every corner of the frame. Lang's usage of a city representing the corruption of mankind is as disturbing as it is beautiful, highlighted by ascending skyscrapers and workshops filled with steam and iron.
Without the film ever directly mentioning it, the audience easily understands that this world is built in a hierarchical fashion; buildings echoing the pyramids and factory workers pulling and turning levers on machinery that ascends to the sky. Staircases are in almost every shot, always leading the eye upward to the next level. An idea of the sensual love of man versus the sacred love of man is also always present; the Garden of Pleasure with it's beautiful women and large, overflowing fountains, symbolize lust, fertility, and harmony with the body.
Something Fritz Lang demonstrates here is his great ability to paint the film with a number of different allegories pointing to Scripture. For instance, there is a direct reference in the film to the Tower of Babel, shown in flashback to the viewer. The seven deadly sins are physically personified by seven horrid looking men, and the robot prances around as a false prophet, complete with a halo, known as "the false Maria". In Rotwang's lab where the false Maria was built, (based upon Rotwang's lost lover, Hel, and there's no hiding what her name reminds you of) there is a large pentagram on the wall, an obvious nod to Rotwang being evil, and satanic. In the final act of the film, Lang shoes Joh, our hero, saving children from a flood, which is not only a reference to the great flood described in Genesis, but an allegory to Christ saving the children of God from death. It is the adults who have been fooled by the false Maria, and only the children who demonstrated pure faith, just as Christ teaches his followers to have, were saved sooner rather than later.
After the children have been saved, there are a few more instances of biblical allusion in the film that I could spot out; the first is the final battle between Rotwang and Joh, which is in front of a large crowd, similar to how the crucifixion of Christ was a very public event. At one point, the hero and our villain climb atop a roof, where they fight right next to a cross - the imagery is obvious but fascinating at the same time. When the battle is won by Joh (like Christ defeated Satan), we see the redemption of his sinful father, who recognizes his mistakes and agrees to make peace with the workers, this could be seen as his "salvation". And finally, but this may be a stretch, when a train is passing through the elevated streets of the city, it zips by a billboard that simply reads "Davidson" which I took as saying "David's son" referring again to Christ who is also known as the Son of David.
Many classic science fiction themes resound in the film, such as the sins of the father, the idea of true redemption, and the never-ending struggle of man versus machine. But to me, what really shines through is a theme that isn't just exclusive to science fiction: love conquers all. Maria and Joh's love for one another helps to conquer the machine (robot), and it's creator (Rotwang), and to place the city in a peaceful place, not just in the heart of it's leader, but in the hearts of it's people. This film serves as a very clear warning to the dangers of over-reliance on machinery, and the dangers of artificial intelligence.
Overall, Metropolis is a seminal movie event that has stood the test of time for good reason. After years of hearing about it's legacy and impact, it feels good to of finally seen it and to of been so thoroughly satisfied. Due to the nature of the film and the limitations of when it was made, it obviously cannot reach the same emotional heights that some later films achieved, but for 1927 silent piece, it did a fantastic job and giving me chills, drawing me in to it's story, and really making me care about the struggles of Joh and his father's city.
The acting here is overdone, but that for the time is appropriate, and it is nothing short of entertaining. There was not a moment in the film where I found myself to be bored, and that's due in part to literally every shot featuring some new element, whether it be an expression on an actor's face or a piece of architecture off in the distance. This is a beautiful film, even with it's film grain and shakiness in parts.
Fritz Lang has made a masterwork, Metropolis is a milestone. 4.5/5