This movie was a total disappointment for me. After a while, I just fast-forwarded through the entire movie to at least get a sense of the rest of it, so forgive me if I've missed any key points about the movie in this review.
I don't know this for a fact, but I can't help wondering if the movie was produced by a crew that normally does high-budget porn films or R-rated Hollywood movies. It just seems like they weren't quite sure how to package the storyline for an anticipated faith-based audience, but they just thought that if they left the sex and nudity out, all the usual cinematic tricks used to create erotic tension would be okay.
Although there is no nudity, cleavage, or suggestive scenes, the movie drips of sensuality, including frequent shots of a buff King Xerxes shirtless, showing off bronze, oiled skin and lounging around in billowy bedrooms.
Another questionable scene is the one where Esther is abducted in the night by the king's men. The wrestling with a screaming Esther and the soldiers violently ripping off Esther's um, necklace, off her neck resembles a gang-rape fantasy, without there actually being a rape.
The biggest disappointment for me is the wimpy, wimpering portrayal of Queen Esther. From the biblical account, I'd admired Queen Esther because not only was she beautiful, but she struck me as a virtuous, clever, and prayerful woman, who had a strong sense of reverence for the promptings of God. She always seemed to know what was the right decision to make, always had a sense of her God-ordained destiny, and was ready to risk her life to save her people.
However, in the movie, for every situation requiring her leadership and decision-making, Queen Esther's response seems to be to scrunch up her face and cry. Then she launches into a boring monologue where she ponders the meaning of life.
Another distracting element of the film is the addition of a fictional character named Jesse, a handsome young man who apparently was a love interest of Esther's before she joined the king's harem. They are such good friends that they run off together in the night to watch the king's banquet and almost kiss.
Then Jesse gets kidnapped by the king's soldiers, is castrated, and turned into a eunuch and forced to serve the harem, wherein Jesse--surprise, surprise--runs into Esther again, with his shame of no longer having his manhood. But he still loves Esther and wants her to run away with him.
Esther, in turn, barely shows any grief or trauma over Jesse's castration, and refuses to go with him. But in keeping with the film's portrayal of a wimpy, indecisive Esther, she can't give Jesse any explanation of why she wants to stay and finish competing in this costume version of The Bachelor.
Jesse runs off, heartbroken. Several scenes later, Esther is smiling radiantly as she marries the king, is covered in jewels and crowned queen, and they kiss passionately in his luxurious bedroom. As the camera swirls off, and we are left to assume that Esther is revelling in a night of passion with the king.
The entire fictional Jesse love triangle and castration was a bad choice to slap onto the story of Esther, and particularly in this film, because it puts Esther, a Biblical character revered for her virtuousness and selflessness, in a storyline where she comes off as a shallow, gold-digging, ditz: In the film, Esther has rejected a castrated, poor man in favour of a rich, hot king with a body suitable for a Calvin Klein underwear ad, and who has the genitalia to perform the sex act.
Any woman with a non-believer husband or boyfriend is not going to be able to use this film as an evangelical tool for learning about the Bible. Many men enjoy competition, and most people have experienced being the rejected one in a love triangle. I don't think any men are going to want to watch a competition where one man gets castrated and dumped.
The only good thing about the movie are the gorgeous sets and beautiful costumes. Perhaps excerpts can be used for illustrating Biblical teaching.