Exodus: Gods and Kings: What to do when Hollywood gets the story “wrong”?

The new film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” will be released December 12, 2014 (watch the trailer below).

I obviously, haven’t seen it, but I know what’s going to happen (spoiler alert: the Israelites are freed). But I also can predict what Christians will say. Based on responses to numerous previous screen portrayals of Scripture, most notably to the recent Noah film (2014), there will two reactions among the Christian community.

1) Some will say, “Hollywood is making a movie about the Bible. That’s awesome! I can’t wait to see how big they make the walls of water of the Red Sea. I’ll definitely see it.”

2) Others will say, “Hollywood never gets the Bible right. Look what happened to the Noah movie. I’ve already heard bad things about the new Exodus film. They change the story. I definitely won’t see it.”

I personally identify more naturally with the first group, but I understand the second group.

I am frequently in situations where people don’t get the biblical story right (perhaps some of those times I was listening to some of you). But before I jump into biblical scholar mode, I recall it’s not my job to correct every minor detail. Christians who say, “Hollywood got the story wrong” come across like the person in high school that corrected everyone else’s grammar. You don’t want to be that person (like you don’t want to be the creepy Rob Lowe).

I would hope that both groups would remember that this film is just an interpretation of the story (like Renaissance art portrayals of biblical scenes). The Bible reinterprets the story of the Exodus in different ways, emphasizing different things.  Some of these interpretations seem contradictory.

Check out these two versions in the Psalms of the complaining in the wilderness (Exo. 16-17):

“They asked, and he brought quails,
and gave them food in abundance.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out” (Psalm 105:40-41a).

“But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert” (Psalm 106:14).

Psalm 105 frames their complaining positively.  They asked, he gave.

Psalm 106 describes it a bit more negatively (“wanton craving”, testing God).

If Scripture itself can retell the story it such divergent ways, perhaps we should cut some slack to these screen interpretations.

The story of the Exodus is an amazing story, re-told more than any other story in Scripture. I’m glad Hollywood is retelling the story. I’ll see the film and tell you what I think about it next month (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Maybe I’ll see you at the theater (save me the aisle seat).

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5 comments

  1. I’m mostly fall into the second group. With the exception of the animated movies “The Prince of Egypt” and “Joseph: King of Dreams.” I thought those were great because they really captured the *spirit* of the characters, the story, and the character of God. My husband and I, both Christians, saw this trailer and were like, “We don’t remember Moses with a sword!” When we think of Moses we picture him as this timid/bumbling guy who used a staff/rod. I’m not so concerned with the minor details of inaccuracy (I understand creative license) and I could even live with Hollywood making a profit off of these epic stories if they actually stuck with the *point* of these biblical stories. Btw, perhaps I need to see the movie Noah before I make this judgment. I don’t feel as if I’m being overly religious I can’t bring myself to do it.

    1. Yeah, I just re-watched Prince of Egypt. It’s great. Saw things I hadn’t seen before. Yes, the Moses with a sword is strange. Unless somehow that comes from his early years, like what Prince of Egypt did with Moses with a chariot at the beginning. We’ll see. The thing about Noah, yes, they change things, but they portrayed the pain of the flood much more realistically than most children’s stories do.

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