Blu-ray Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

ExodusBluSTUDIO: Fox | DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott | CAST: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerston, Ben Mendolsohn, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, John Turturro
RELEASE DATE: 3/17/15 | PRICE: Blu-ray 3D $49.99; Blu-ray $39.99; DVD $29.99
BONUSES: commentary, deleted/extended scenes, Exodus Historical Guide trivia track
SPECS: PG-13 | 150 min. | Epic adventure drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Right up front, I enjoyed Ridley Scott’s (Blade Runner, Robin Hood) Exodus: Gods and Kings, the latest telling of the time-honored Biblical story of Moses leading a nation of Hebrew slaves out of Egypt and towards a new life in the promised land of Canaan. I have no comment as to why it was issued theatrically in the U.S.–to a tepid reception–two weeks before Christmas…

Scott’s latest plays like an old-fashioned Hollywood epic—big stars, gorgeous sets and costumes, sweeping storyline, enormous set pieces, and so on—served up with state-of-the-art digital effects and a contemporary, revisionist interpretation of the Old Testament. It’s certainly a much more of a two-fisted look at the Bible’s most famous tale—God (here depicted as a petulant child) wants those Egyptian oppressors to suffer, while Egyptian general turned Hebrew savior Moses is reluctant to embrace his destiny as the conduit of God’s wrath. The most “miraculous” aspects of the story—God’s plagues upon Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea—are presented here in a “realistic” context. So, the pestilence, vermin, frogs, boils, etc. are seen as possible natural occurrences that really could have went down, while the Red Sea’s parting and subsequent vanquishing of the Egyptian army are cinematically imagined to be the before-and-after results of a tsunami.

Holy Moses! Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings

Holy Moses! Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings

The pacing and performances in the film aren’t perfect—I liked Joel Edgerton’s (Animal Kingdom) boorish Ramses and John Turturro’s (The Big Lebowski) wizened pharaoh the best—but there’s simply too much to look at and take in to not enjoy the Exodus experiences. As for the digital effects, they’re simply gorgeous—dig those plagues!—though I could have done with a few less sweeping overhead shots of Memphis, the Egyptian desert, the liberated hordes, and the handful of large-scale battle sequences. As for Scott’s “whitewashing” of the cast, oh please….You try making a $140 million biblical epic without big box-office names in the cast….

Among the bonus features on the 2D Blu-ray disc (the bonus disc on the 3D edition has much, much more) are an “Exodus Historical Guide,” a pop-of track of historical tidbits that add supplementary info to the story. There are also 15 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, the most memorable featuring more of Sigourney Weaver’s (Paul) severely underused Queen Tuya, the mother of Rameses, and a short, nighttime look at the Hebrews’ celebrating of their liberation with a golden calf (bad idea…) while Moses has a pow-wow with God atop Mount Sinai.

Scott can usually be counted on to record a commentary track and Exodus is no exception. Here, he splits his time with co-screenwriter Jeffrey Caine—each was recorded separately—and offers some good insight into this directorial decisions, filming techniques and smart cost-cutting methods—which are interesting to hear described when they refer to an epic with a such a large budget. (Most notably, he points out how he re-purposed footage originally shot in the Jordan’s Wadi Rum valley for Prometheus. The same landscape was utilized for Lawrence of Arabia.) Scott is less engaged when discussing the spiritual aspects of the film, leaving that primarily for Caine to pontificate upon. But the 77-year-old filmmaker who regularly commands the biggest budgets in Hollywood remains lively and forthcoming when talking about his love of film and the crafting thereof. For my part, I loved to hear him admit that he “steals” John Ford’s opening and closing shots from The Searchers in virtually every one of his own films (including this one.)

Here’re handful of other comments made by the man on the track:

-(Comparing the depiction of the plagues to the chest-bursting scene in Alien): “You’re paying me to be gross, dude. I want to scare the living shit out of the audience. And that thing coming out of his chest will not be funny.”

-“I’m usually right on budget. And form th most part, I’m cohesive and reasonable….more of the time.

-“It’s part of the director’s job to insist. You bought the horse—let him run.”

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.