You could read the Book of Exodus in less time than it takes to watch Ridley Scott’s provocatively pointless big-screen version, and it would probably be more entertaining. Even at 2½ hours, this biblical blockbuster feels rushed, as if the story has been shorn of all its connective tissue. Sweeping but never stirring, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” summons an immense budget to create something curiously humdrum.

Christian Bale, a very meat-and-potatoes Moses, gets demoted from elite Egyptian general to humble shepherd-in-exile, before meeting his Maker while neck-deep in mud (don’t ask) and then becoming a leader of men. Meanwhile, the Old Testament God — that fascinating, fearful cocktail of love and caprice, forgiveness and wrath — takes the form of a petulant 11-year-old boy (Isaac Andrews). It’s the only interesting creative decision the film takes.

That aside, this is plodding, over-literal stuff. As with Scott’s equally unnecessary “Robin Hood” (2010), “Exodus: Gods and Kings” seems to assume that an often-told tale can be improved with gritty period detail and epic battle scenes. And yes, there’s much to admire on a purely technical level, whether it’s the costumes and set design, or the CGI-assisted re-creations of ancient Memphis and the parting of the Red Sea — depicted here as something closer to a tsunami.

Director Ridley Scott
Run Time 150 minutes
Language English

But verisimilitude alone doesn’t make a story more engaging. Nor does the script’s attempt to draw analogies with contemporary issues, including immigration and the Israel-Palestine conflict. When Ramses complains that liberating the enslaved Hebrews would cause problems “from an economic standpoint alone,” you’ve got to laugh.

The Japan Times has five “Exodus: Gods and Kings” T-shirts to give away. The deadline for entries is Feb. 9. For more information, visit jtimes.jp/film.

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