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Exodus: Gods and Kings (Blu-ray Review)

19 Mar, 2015 By: John Latchem

Box Office $65.01 million
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 3D Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for violence including battle sequences and intense images.
Stars Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, María Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley.

Director Ridley Scott’s modern reinterpretation of the Biblical story of Moses is heavy on action and visual splendor but light on any sense of wonder. The script rushes through the bullet points of Moses’ story, like an abridged version of the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille classic The Ten Commandments, which hewed much closer to the Biblical text and other supporting documents.

It begins with Moses (Christian Bale) already an adult and serving as a trusted advisor to the Pharaoh (John Turturro). After Moses learns he is actually a Hebrew slave who was hidden at birth, the Pharaoh dies, and his son Ramesses (Joel Edgerton) banishes Moses into the wilderness.

Then the film takes a decidedly secular turn once Moses tries to make a new life for himself. Moses hits his head in a storm on the mountain, then awakes to have a vision of the burning bush, and a child appears to him to tell him he is needed to lead the Hebrews out of bondage. The child then reappears from time to time to instruct Moses, who is the only one who can see him.

Moses joins forces with Joshua (Aaron Paul) to train the slaves to fight back. Then the famed plagues begin to strike Egypt until the Hebrews are freed, but here the film tries to have it both ways, toeing the line between secular and spiritual. Clearly, Scott is trying to structure the film to leave it up to the viewer to decide if Moses’ actions are truly inspired by God or if he is merely delusional. This message is slightly undercut by the fact that most of the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea are presented as bizarre natural disasters, but the death of the firstborn is depicted entirely as a supernatural occurrence.

There’s also the little matter of how Moses, were he not actually in contact with God, would be able to intuit when all these natural disasters would plague Egypt without it being a huge coincidence.

The confluence between religious and secular is a major topic of discussion for a commentary track with Scott and co-writer Jeffrey Caine. Each was recorded separately so there’s no cross-discussion, but generally Scott talks about production aspects such as acting and visual effects, while Caine delves into the scholarly inspiration for the direction the film took.

The Blu-ray also includes a “historical guide” viewing mode with interesting pop-up text containing background information about Moses’ story from the Bible and other research.

Lastly, the single-disc Blu-ray contains several deleted scenes, available in both 2D and 3D options. The scenes don’t contain finished visual effects but offer some interesting insights about how the filmmakers envisioned fleshing out the story. The 3D version contains a bonus disc with additional featurettes.

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