Now Available on Blu-Ray — The Ten Commandments unfolds with all of the spectacle, violent human drama, and grand inspiration that have earned it its distinction as the greatest story ever told. When an oracle prophesizes ... more »that a child will become Prince of Egypt, a time of danger approaches the kingdom. The Egyptian Pharaoh (Paul Rhys, From Hell) orders the massacre of all newborn males. But one child, Moses--the son of a Hebrew slave--escapes certain death when he is set adrift on the Nile. As years pass, he is raised in a royal Egyptian household and, with no memory of his family, rises to the stature of prince. Upon discovery of his true heritage, and inspired by a fiery message from God, Moses (Dougray Scott, Mission: Impossible II) embarks upon a noble and desperate fight to reclaim his destiny as the leader and liberator of the Hebrew people. With a stellar cast that includes Mia Maestro (TV's Alias) and Golden Globe® winner Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia), The Ten Commandments is unsurpassed in its vision--both intimate and grand.« less
An uneven retelling of Moses leading the Hebrews out of bond
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/18/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In terms of adjusted box office, Cecile B. DeMille's 1956 film "The Ten Commandments" is the fifth biggest grossing movie of all time, ahead of "Titanic," but behind "Gone With the Wind," "Star Wars," "The Sound of Music," and "E.T." There was a sense in which that film, with the parting of the Red Sea sequence, was the first big special effects film. Of course, the story of how Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt had more going for it and that story is certainly worthy of further examination. Yes, "Prince of Egypt" was a musical, but it also focused more on the relationship between Moses and Ramses, who were friends growing up, rather than the rivalry we saw between Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. Now we have this 2006 mini-series. The good news is that it does try to tell us a different part of the story in its second half, but the bad news is for every step forward there are steps backwards, and on balance this version does not come out ahead.
The mini-series aired in two parts, with the end of Part 1 being the parting of the Red Sea (not a real cliffhanger). The first part moves through the story of Moses from the night he floated down the Nile in basket to that moment in front of the Red Sea at a fast clip. Moses (Dougray Scott) grows up, kills an overseer, goes off into the desert, saves Jethro's sheep and marries his daughter, sees the burning bush and is back in Egypt telling Ramses (Paul Rhys) to let the Hebrews go. The plagues of Egypt come quickly as well, and there is a clear suggestion of how the frogs, locust, etc., were related to the Nile turning to blood. This Moses is not raised alongside Ramses, but Menerith (Naveen Andrews), the natural son of the princess, and they are the brothers who are torn and who face each other at the edge of the Red Sea. Moses has enlisted his brother Aaron (Linus Roache) to speak for him, and this version deals more with the reluctance and doubts of Moses, more so as the leader than as the deliverer of the Hebrews out of bondage.
This is little in the first half of "The Ten Commandments" to justify having made the mini-series. The only things that stood out where the idea that God wants Moses to work out some things in his own mind and the scene where Moses is forced to work as a slave, which this time is after he returns to Egypt. What is important in the first part is the idea that even before their deliverance, the Hebrews challenge the leadership of Moses. However, after the conclusion of the parting of the Red Sea the rest of the second half is devoted to the period in which the Hebrews wandered in the desert before reaching the Promised Land. This is where this version of "The Ten Commandments" starts to tell a different story, for a lot happens in the hour between the Red Sea and the Golden Calf. There is manna in the wilderness and turning the slaves into an army. Above all this there is the need for Moses the Deliver to become Moses the Law Giver. However, the impetus for this transition comes from a melodramatic irony that smacks of soap opera more than scripture.
Time and time again I question what Ron Hutchinson, who won an Emmy in 1989 for writing "Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story," is doing in this story. At one point Moses is training the army and Joshua (Karim Salah) refuses because he sees being a solider as an admission of not having faith in God. Moses then tells what must be the oldest story of how God helps people; certainly it is an older version of the one Karl Malden tells to Jed Bartlett on "The West Wing." The relevance of the story to the point being made is lost because we cannot believe Moses is telling this story. However, this is a Moses who is not a cool and commanding presence. His doubts and lack of resolve are arguably the biggest reasons why the people doubt God; they have problems believing in his messenger.
I have always been bothered by the Hebrews challenging the idea that their God WAS God during the Exodus. What happened at the Red Sea should prove the point once and for all. The manna in the desert and Moses smiting a rock to bring forth water might be "minor" miracles, but they are nothing to scoff at and reminders of everything God did to get them out of bondage. Being freaked because Moses has gone up on the mountain and you think he is not coming back is one thing, but making the Golden Calf is a really bad idea. Hutchinson sticks to the book of Exodus and covers the slaughter by the sons of Levi that was the bloody aftermath of the great sin the people sinned.
This becomes the final act before the denouement where Moses sees the Promised Land but is not allowed to cross over. Hutchinson does play with Biblical chronology, because the battles they fought are covered in Numbers. However, my final complaint is not about chronology but rather that the story essentially ends with the slaying of the three thousand men, and not as Exodus does with the construction of the tabernacle and the ark, symbolizing the renewal of the covenant, which I find to be the more important part of the story. I would have preferred seeing this version of "The Ten Commandments" be restricted to what happened after they crossed the Red Seas; after all, the Hebrews forget the evidence of the power of God. The other half of the min-series could have covered the history of Numbers and Deuteronomy, the part of the Exodus that remains to be told in such a format."
Compelling, but not completely accurate
Kirby L. Wallace | Tulsa, OK USA | 09/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I understand that compressing five very detailed books of the Bible into one 3-hour movie is going to require some "simplification." But, strangely, PART 1 follows the text of the books very closely, but then PART 2 almost completely departs from the text. Admittedly, this is because Part 1 (fully half of the movie) takes from 1/2 of one book (out of five), and Part 2 then attempts to cover the remaining 4 1/2 books.
Part 1 adds some "dramatic effect" which I don't completely object - mainly stuff that makes sense: Moses has a certain affinity for his Egyptian "brother" with whom he was raised. I can understand that. And Part 1's treatment of how God talks with Moses is really good.
But by Part 2, God has become an "eerie inner voice" or a "spectral influence" that leaves you wondering, "perhaps it's all in Moeses' head?"
But the Books of Moses, in the Bible, show God as a very present, driving force. It says that God spoke to Moses face to face as a man talks with his friend. But Part 2 has Moses thinking he is hearing voices whispering in the wind.
And all throughout the scenes of Part 2, in every instance where Moses has some inner strife about what he is doing, in the Books of Moses it is very clear that God is speaking to him plainly all the time, telling him exactly and precisely what to do.
At one point, God is so much a figment of Moses imagination, that he says "they have to win this victory themselves" and "they have to travel through the dessert without him (God)" to prove themselves. This is, of course, nonsense. God was with them at every step. They were in the desert in the first place because God led them there.
Apart from that, there are the very many parts that just have to be left out to get it crammed into a 3 hour slot. But it seems to me that some of these are important parts. And it seems that, unfortunately, a lot of truth is sacrificed in order to accomplish this.
For instance, a lot of the times where people are punished, it appears that Moses has, under pressure, made a judgement when actually, in the text, GOD made a judgement and instructed Moses to carry it out.
Even in Part 1 there was the beginnings of this treatment. All of the plagues that visited Pharoh, God had told Moses specifically what was going to happen, and WHY! And He specifically instructed Moses what to say to Pharoh. But you can miss that with this movie.
Ultimately, this movie is about WWMD, not WWGD or WWJD.
Overall, though, worth watching. Just realize that for the full story, you really need to READ THE BOOK.
Mixed results: A morose Moses but sensational special eff
moviemusicbuff | Walnut, CA United States | 09/22/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"There are good and not-so-good aspects in this retelling.
The good aspects:
a) The best thing about this retelling of Moses' story are the great special effects. The 10 Plagues features cool CG effects so that Pharaoh's bedroom is filled with frogs, there is a hail shower which bursts into flames, etc. (The naturalistic explanation of the Nile turning into blood as the result of red silt is mentioned.) The parting of the Red Sea was done very well with the new special effects -- the naturalistic explanation of the Red Sea parting is implied with the showing of an underground eruption / earthquake which causes the waves to part. The shot with the Israelites walking through the Red Sea and the Egyptian cavalry pursuing them was breathtaking. Furthermore, the depiction of God's presence through the pillar of fire / cloud and the writing of the 10 commandments was very well done. These special effects lead you to appreciate the power and awesome work of God who victoriously challenged the gods of Egypt through Moses.
b) Another good addition is the more prominent roles of Aaron and Miriam. Linus Roache does a great job of portraying Aaron as Moses' assertive spokesman; The actress does a good job of portraying Miriam as a gifted prophetess who struggles with jealousy. (However, Moses' wife is not given much of a prominent role)
c) The portrayals of God's cleansing of the bitter waters and the provision of manna. This version shows the hardships of living out in the desert and depicts how God came through repeatedly to provide for His people in marvelous ways. Through Moses, God cleanses the poisoned waters for the people to drink and He provides manna from heaven. As far as I know, this is the only movie about Moses that show these events.
The main deficiencies of this version are the following:
a) The portrayal of Moses -- Dougray Scott portrays Moses as a very gloomy guy who is given to bouts of uncertainty and impulsive anger. In earlier scenes of Moses as a slave, Moses seems to stare into space as though he is on drugs. Overall, he seems to be very morose. There is a scene after the Red Sea parting when Moses is supposed to be celebrating in victory but he is grieving over the loss of his Egyptian friend who perished in the Red Sea. As I watched Scott's depiction of Moses, I kept wondering to myself whether anyone would have followed him. I prefer the charismatic and assertive "Charlton Heston" version any day.
b) The over-emphasis in the added storyline of Moses' Egyptian "mom" and "brother" -- This is a plus and minus. Pharaoh's daughter, who saved Moses and raised him up, is given more of a role in this movie. It is interesting to speculate how Moses dealt with Pharaoh's daughter, and whether they had a close relationship. This retelling shows that there was some heartbreak on the part of Pharaoh's daughter as she sees Moses challenge the Pharaoh and unleash all the plagues upon Egypt. There is also Moses' "brother" who later becomes the Pharaoh's guard. This added narrative Moses' relationship with his "brother" is where this movie adds too much to the biblical version of Moses' life (in the book of Exodus). The Bible does not mention anything of Moses' relationship with Pharaoh's daughter or his Egyptian "brother" , yet this version emphasizes these relationships as key main storylines in Moses' life. This detracts from a biblically faithful depiction of Moses.
c) This movie implied that God was a harsh and cruel God who punished the Egyptians with great severity. Why did God allow the Pharaoh's daughter and Moses' Egyptian brother (simply because they were Egyptians) to suffer when they repeatedly showed their affection to Moses? Moses seems caught between a rock and hard place -- he wants to save his Egyptian friends but he is called by God to proclaim God's message and unleash God's judgments upon Egypt due to the hardened response by Pharaoh. His friends have to deal with God, not him.
d) The main storyline is weaker than the original "10 Commandments"
I preferred the Charlton Heston version because the script and storyline was much more compelling overall (exception: we could do without the original's overemphasis on Moses' relationship with Ramses' wife). There were several scenes in the original that I really loved:
a) Moses' selection of Zipporah as his wife b) Moses' respect for Pharaoh's daughter whom he treats like his mother c) Moses' selection of Joshua and his preparation for the people to enter the Promised Land at the end d) Its reverent portrait of God, who is the real center of the story of Moses
I agree with the other reviewer that this version ends with a very bleak note with the judgment of the enemies of Moses. This version should have ended with Moses preparing the people to enter into the Promised Land. This would be much more in keeping with the theme of "freedom" that runs throughout this movie. God freed the Israelites so they could be their own nation under God and enter into the Promised Land.
Therefore, there are pluses and minuses to this retelling. Overall, I prefer original version due to its better storytelling and script, and Heston's assertive portrayal of Moses. The main attraction of this version is the updating of the special effects -- you really see God's power and glory demonstrated in the 10 Plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and the giving of the 10 Commandments.
In spite of these reservations, I recommend you all to watch this movie and make your own comparison. It is a worthwhile way to spend 3 hours in a meaningful and wholesome way. This movie helped me to appreciate the power of God in using an ordinary man to lead the Israelites out of freedom from slavery from Egypt to be His covenant people."
Gordon Gharis | Logansport, IN USA | 01/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I find that this movie was more realistic than any previous movie on the life of Moses and the issuing of GOD's Ten Commandments. The special effects were so well done. You can tell that ALOT of time and effort went into this production. There was some "straying" here and there from the Holy Scriptures, but, it mostly was on Target. Paul Rhys did such a fantastic portrayal of the Pharoah. He made the egyptian king arrogant and proud as he really was, but, had him exhibit human feelings and emotions as well. If you enjoyed Cecil B. DeMille's presentation with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynnar, you'll enjoy this new one also. It goes into more detail than the earlier one."
Mediocre [2.5 stars]
S. Zayas | Detroit | 04/03/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The acting's mediocre. The casting was fair to poor. Why can't biblical figures be played by middle-easterners rather than Brits? This baffles me.
The special effects -- the reason why I rented this movie instead of Heston's classic -- are good but nothing stellar. They could have been much much better.
There are elements of this movie that make it worthwhile. So few movie adaptations of Bible stories turn out particularly well. This one does a nice job of showing the misery of the Hebrews while in bondage and also of frustration and torment of "wandering" in the "wilderness" for decades. Short of that, this movie's typical of most biblical films, i.e. it's rather bland."