Exodus: Gods and Kings Review and Blu-ray Features
Exodus: Gods and Kings
12 Dec 2014
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Preparation for the role
To prepare for his role as Moses, Christian Bale quickly surpassed Sunday school basics and delved into scripture and literary works. He read the first five books of the Bible, the Koran, as well as Louis Ginzberg’s classic, “Legends of the Jews” and Jonathan Kirsch’s “Moses, A Life.”
Views from Director
In an interview with Esquire magazine, Ridley Scott called religion “the biggest source of evil”, explaining, “Everyone is tearing each other apart in the name of their personal god. And the irony is, by definition, they’re probably worshiping the same god”. In another interview, Scott claimed that being an agnostic was a good quality for directing a Biblical story “because I’ve got to convince myself the story works.
Great Sphinx of Gaza
The Great Sphinx of Giza is visible in one scene. It is the world’s oldest known monumental statue, having been built roughly 1200 years prior to Moses’ birth.
Charlton Heston vs Christian Bale – who was the better Moses?
Now that Exodus has been out for quite some time, we should compare which of the actors portrayed Moses better? I think Heston will forever remain the most iconic Moses, mostly in part because The Ten Commandments is such a great film (Exodus isn’t) and Heston has such an iconic booming voice. However, I think I preferred Bale’s interpretation of Moses more. Heston played Moses as very clean cut and one dimensional. Bale I thought brought real humanity and self doubt to the role of Moses. When he meets God (or God’s messenger to be accurate) I really bought into the fact that he had seen something beyond the extraordinary
Q&A with Cast and Director
Ridley Scott: [The boy is] not the figure of God. Malak means “messenger.” Malak is the messenger of God. A more popular word might be “angel,” but I didn’t like the idea of “angel,” associated with wings. I wanted the whole film to be very reality-based. I think I felt what we needed was an exchange with God as often as made sense — not too often — and, therefore, the angel, the malak character, was the perfect example: a child who, at the end of the film, you realize never ages, so that makes him special.
But there’s no halos, no magical appearances or disappearances. If you’re watching very closely, you’ll see that whenever the two are witnessed from a distance — Joshua does a lot of sneaking up over rocks and seeing what’s going on — he can’t see anything. He just thinks his leader has lost his mind, because he’s talking to himself. When you are in close, then you see who Moses is talking to.
Christian Bale: I’m always interested in asking other people’s opinions on it. How would you have represented God, if you were in Ridley’s position? It can be very easy to pick apart someone’s choice for a depiction of God. But if you are put in Ridley’s shoes, it’s an immensely difficult thing. How on earth do you do that? You know Moses had to wear a veil for the rest of his life, because people couldn’t even look on him after he witnessed God with his own eyes. So how would you represent him?
Joel Edgerton: You’re talking about taking something that’s owned by everybody — everybody who has faith, who has a connection with that story in the Bible… A man like Ridley has to take his imagination and create a movie; then it’s a visual language that has to be created. In The Ten Commandments [God] was depicted as a voice. Where do you go if you want to take a more visual stance on that?
SDG: Ridley, you have something in common with many filmmakers who have made some of my favorite movies about faith themes, which is that you don’t yourself identify as a believer. I’m thinking of Darren Aronofsky, who just made Noah, Marc Rothemund, who made Sophie Scholl: The Final Days; Rossellini, Pasolini … I wonder if you …
Scott: Pasolini is pretty out there.
Bale: You’re a fan of Pasolini?
SDG: Yes… I wonder if you would be willing to speak to the challenges and interest of engaging in this subject matter from the perspective of standing outside of [faith] and if that gives you any advantages, any handicaps, if it challenged you in any way.
Scott: I think it helps. The shallow parallel is that I never liked science fiction as a child, until Stanley [Kubrick] did2001. Then I thought, “Aha. Here’s the threshold; here’s the doorway.” [Then I saw] Star Wars, which was seminal — a milestone; those two science fictions [movies] are head and shoulders above anything else. So, thereafter, I was converted, and I knew how to do a science fiction [film]. And, lo and behold, I was offered this pretty savage thing called Alien, and away you go.
Religion is a little bit like that. You start off in Sunday school. I went for about four or five years as a kid. I used to go to meet the guys — and as I got older, to meet some girls. I must have taken a lot in, because, once I got into my early teens and fundamentally said “That’s enough of that,” I forgot about it — except you never do. I challenge most people that they are really, deep down, kind of part believers. It stayed with me forever; it never left me. Even if it comes in the form of guilt … it’s memory; it’s paying attention to right and wrong. There’s all kinds of things that still lie very deep in me from the rule book [of faith]. So it has never gone away.
I made the mistake of saying I was an atheist at one point, when I was doing Kingdom of Heaven. The writer I chose to polish [the Kingdom of Heaven screenplay] said you couldn’t have asked a worse person to do it, because [he was] a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. And I said, on the contrary, it’s a bit like science fiction: Because I never believed in it, I had to convince myself every step of the way what made sense and what didn’t make sense, what I could reject and accept …
[Noah’s] rock men really should be part of [the world of] the hobbits. I think [Aronofsky] is a great director, but rock men? Come on. I could never get past that. The film immediately kicked off as a fantasy. I’m just telling you what I think… Russell Crowe is a good friend of mine; I know I’m going to get a horrible email from him this afternoon! But it’s hard enough [to say], “I’m going to build a boat, and on it is going to go creatures two by two … ” and make that credible. But that’s what we do for a living.
So I have to part the Dead Sea [sic] — but I’m not going to part the Dead Sea, because I don’t believe I can part the Dead Sea and keep shimmering water on each side. I’m a very practical person. So I was always thinking of science-based elements. Plagues come from natural order or disorder — or it could come from the hand of God, whichever way you want to play that. With a sweep of his hand, he could demolish Egypt with massive plagues of locusts or frogs or whatever or make the river go red…
I watch a lot of National Geographic. Right there, you’re seeing God at play, allowing his creatures to survive or not survive in the program of nature. So I think any liberties I may have taken in how I show this stuff is on pretty safe ground, because I was going from the basis of reality, never fantasy. This is not Harry Potter. It’s real.
SDG: [The death of the firstborn] is a key moment, because, there, the relationship between the faith interpretations of events and the scientific explanation of events is decisively resolved. It’s an all-out supernatural moment.
Bale: [Ridley] has said it’s the one he couldn’t find any other way to tell it. It just had to be told in that fashion.
Edgerton: The movie has a sensitivity to science, yet at the end of the day, the real explanation of the movie, the reason the movie even exists, is because of the religious basis for which it’s told. I think, definitely, [that shows in] the death of the children — there’s no science book for that.
SDG: How do you think that God comes off in the movie?
Edgerton: Well, it’s interesting… It’s eye for an eye, isn’t it? The reason Moses even exists, and why he was sent down the river in a basket, is because the previous pharaoh had decided to cull the workforce and to kill the firstborn male children. So there’s the eye for an eye. And, later, in the story … Rameses declares that every Hebrew child will be drowned in the Nile. And the mouthpiece of God, the messenger of God, is saying that Rameses has spoken, and that’s what he’s going to get. It’s wrathful.
Bale: Part of what I find so fascinating about the Torah is that [Moses and God] have this contentious relationship throughout. He truly does wrestle with him, and then God ultimately doesn’t allow him into the Promised Land. Moses’ end is a tragic one… He is able to assist others, and Joshua obviously takes over and leads them on, but Moses never does get to Canaan.
SDG: What was the most difficult or challenging thing about approaching your characters?
Bale: For me, it was the wave of expectation, initially, knowing just how beyond important Moses is to so many people. First, reading the Torah, and then starting to have conversations with friends of mine — whether they be Jewish or Christian, various faith leaders, people I arranged meetings with — and being told in a very adamant fashion exactly how Moses must be played.
I kept finding that people weren’t making suggestions to me. They were telling me in a demanding fashion: “Christian, you must portray him this way.” And then I would speak with somebody else, and he would say, “You must portray him this way” — and it would be a very different portrayal. Ultimately, I had to find my own way under [Ridley]’s guidance in the context of our film, but with absolute respect to the Torah in its entirety.
Edgerton: The most difficult thing for me was striking a balance with the tyrannical, villainous aspects I knew needed to exist in the character of Rameses. The intention in the latter half of the story is that he’s there to be a villain. I think the difficult thing was how much you allow yourself to humanize or find that human connection and empathy and milk a little empathy out of a character who really is a fascist and holds what is the opposite [of the] ethical point of view that a person on earth, and particularly a leader of people on earth, should take.
Bale: I also felt that Moses, being a man of compassion — how can he not feel immense guilt over the death of what is essentially his nephew by bond? How can he not feel absolutely torn asunder internally looking at his army, who he used to command, second only to Rameses, knowing all of those men who were willing to give their lives for him have lost their children as well?
In comparison with, for instance, Charlton Heston’s wonderful portrayal — which I sometimes felt almost like he was going to levitate and sort of fly over — for this version, I wanted to feel the full weight of that emotional burden. This guy is really trying to lift mountains and having a very tough time doing so.
RT/Meta Critic Review
Spectacular cinematography and CGI, with a daringly unconventional performance by Christian Bale. This is an fantastic and fresh retelling of a well-worn story. If you’re looking for biblical fidelity or a romanticized version of Old Testament characters, this isn’t likely to be a film you’d enjoy. However, if you’re looking for an exciting period action movie with characters acting like real people rather than idealistic martyrs, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is miraculous. (Christian C/RT)
Another major Biblical epic with dazzling visuals released in 2014, and like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah it also understands that the God depicted in the Old Testament is, well, a cruel and sadistic murderer, only this time Moses follows the opposite path, from reluctant to believe to religious fanatic.(Carlos Magalhães/RT)
As a fictional, big-budget, 3-D, epic interpretation of Moses’ journey, Exodus: Gods and Kings is spectacular(Click here to see)
Exodus: Gods and Kings is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment with both an AVC (2D) and MVC (3D) encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1 on separate discs. Digitally shot with a variety of Red Epic cameras,Exodus: Gods and Kings is an often breathtaking visual experience in high definition. Scott’s always assured and stunning visual sense is perfectly realized by his frequent collaborator, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski. The film offers a nicely interwoven selection of CGI effects, and Scott wisely frequently uses these for huge panoramic shots that instantly deliver depth and scale, but are far enough away so that pernsickety sorts won’t be wondering whether every individual has defined facial characteristics. The image is wonderfully clear and sharp throughout this presentation, despite a huge array of lighting conditions and elements like color grading. Color grading is in fact (once again) very much in evidence, with (once again) blue and yellow the preferred shades. Detail and fine detail are both exceptional despite the somewhat rather aggressive accretion of various hues (look at screenshot 4 for one of the more extreme examples, one which also offers a good look at shadow detail). In brightly lit environments under relatively normal lighting conditions, fine detail is superb, offering clear delineation of elements like the crags around Turturro’s eyes or the tufted fabrics of some of the royal outfits. While the bitrates aren’t overly impressive, there are no problematic issues with artifacts or image instability.
Exodus: Gods and Kings‘ 3D presentation is often very impressive, but it’s also curiously restrained, especially for a director of Scott’s visual acuity. There’s almost always significant depth of field, achieved both through placement of foreground objects but also by establishing clear planes within the frame, but there are very few if any typical “in your face” elements, despite the opportunity for same in some of the battle sequences or scenes like the parting of the Red Sea. Even in sequences bathed in deep blue hues, there’s clear dimensionality and depth. My display had one very brief instance of crosstalk early in the film when Moses and Ramesses are gallivanting around the palace, but otherwise this was a problem free presentation.
Exodus: Gods and Kings offers a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio presentation which is in its own way as impressive as the visual element. Surround activity is near constant and is not entirely reliant on the film’s big set pieces, though elements like the early battle where Moses saves Ramesses to, later, the huge sequences involving the Red Sea, offer the audiophile a really immersive, all encompassing aural experience. Even quieter scenes, like a little heart to heart between Seti and Moses on a kind of outside veranda of the Pharoah’s palace, offer great placement of ambient environmental effects which immediately help to establish a sense of space and ambience. Dialogue is presented very cleanly, and the film’s enjoyable score (by Alberto Iglesias) is also well positioned throughout the surrounds. Fidelity is top notch, dynamic range is extremely wide, and there are no problems to report.
This three disc set includes the 3D version of Exodus: Gods and Kings on its own disc which contains no supplements. This set also includes the 2D disc which is also available as a standalone release (with the supplements included on that disc), as well as a third bonus disc of additional supplemental material.
Exodus: Gods and Kings 2D Disc:
- The Exodus Historical Guide is a “trivia track” of sorts, though calling events this epochal “trivia” seems a little odd.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (1080p; 14:57) are available in both 2D and 3D (even on this standalone 2D disc), and also contain some unfinished picture and sound elements.
- Commentary by Ridley Scott and Jeffrey Caine is an interesting and often quite philosophical set of ruminations by Scott and co- writer Caine. There are optional subtitles for the commentary available.
- Keepers of the Covenant: Making Exodus: Gods and Kings (1080p; 2:33:15) is a fantastically in depth and informative seven part look at virtually every aspect of the pre-production, shooting and post-production of this epic. Making this even more of a treasure trove for fans is the so-called “Enhancement Mode,” which provides portals to other “pods” (as they term it) of information.
- Enhancement Pods (1080p; 48:07) offers direct and separate access to the “pods” mentioned in the above supplement, a variety of often fascinating featurettes that cover a wealth of historical and other data.
- The Lawgiver’s Legacy: Moses Throughout History (1080p; 23:14) unfortunately spends too much time on pointless interviews with the cast and crew and too little on the actual history.
- The Gods and Kings Archive includes:
- Ridleygrams (1080p; 11:10) is a series of storyboards with Scott’s notes. This is available either in auto advance or manual advance mode (the timing is for the auto advance option).
- The Art of Exodus: Gods and Kings (1080p; 32:42) is a set of galleries covering items like Costume Design. This is again available with either auto or manual advance options (the timing indicates the auto advance option).
- Ridleyvision (1080p; 13:28) features Scott’s “adventures” with Google Glass while filming.
- Unit Photography (1080p; 34:12) offers some great behind the scenes peeks, and is again available in either auto or manual advance mode.
- Post-Production and Release:
- Promotional Featurettes (1080p; 20:03) offers both domestic and foreign skewed pieces.
- HBO First Look (1080p; 12:14) is a glorified EPK.
- Marketing Gallery:
- Trailers (1080p; 10:07)
- TV Spots (1080p; 6:25)
- Social Media (1080p; 13:10) is a photo gallery, available in either auto or manual advance mode.