Ridley Scott sure does like his historical epics. When he’s not with androids and aliens in the future or in modern day with, well, actually a lot of various people and things, he’s in a place with sand and swords and sandals and God. He’s taken viewers to a 12th Century crusade, 13th Century Nottingham, the Roman Empire for some Colosseum antics, and now he’s going back further than he’s ever gone before, to Ancient Egypt to be precise, in Exodus: Gods and Kings. It tells the story of Moses and his journey from adopted prince to freer of slaves ordained by the Almighty. That old tale.
Tuesday night, a roomful of press folk got to see several scenes from the Biblical epic, in 3D, and I have to say, it looks pretty cool. Obviously, the story isn’t a new one, with many, many films having been made about Moses and the Pharaoh Rhamses and their fraternal bond that breaks when it’s revealed that Moses is actually a Hebrew orphan, who is destined to free those people. The Ten Commandments anyone? Or, probably for people of our age, The Prince of Egypt, anyone? What Scott brings to these proceedings is the sense of the story as a giant legend, with the mysticism of the story played up and the plagues depicted using CGI (which we were told was unfinished, lest anyone find fault).
We got to see about 45 minutes worth of footage spanning many parts of the story and showcasing many of the film’s big stars, centrally Christian Bale as Moses. We get to see his early interactions with Rhamses (Joel Edgerton), Seti (John Turturro), and Tuya (Sigourney Weaver); a big battle scene wherein the Egyptians, led by Rhamses and in which Moses plays a big part, raid the Hittites; Moses’ encounter with the Hebrew leader Nun (Sir Ben Kingsley) who tells him of his destiny; a pretty tense scene in which Rhamses attempts to uncover the truth; banishment; Moses in exile; and eventually four of the ten plagues, which was certainly my favorite of the footage. From the footage, it looks as though Scott and company are attempting to marry both the history and the mythology associated with all of these events and so far it looks pretty compelling.
Now, the big question will be whether audiences care about big Biblical epics or about a bunch of white actors pretending to be Egyptian. We also got to see the trailer for the film, which I don’t think does it any favors, personally. It has the potential to be really good, but will probably also be quite long. Hey, it’s a whole huge chunk of three different religious texts, so they want to make sure they get all of it. Still, I can’t see this being any less than 3 hours.
I have to say, not really caring much about another version of a story I’ve seen a thousand times, I was legitimately impressed. It looks like a good time at the movies at the very least, and a big, diverting spectacle, which is not at all a bad thing in the holiday season. Exodus is set to hit theaters December 12, 2014. Let me know below if you plan on seeing it, and what has been your favorite non-sci-fi film by Ridley Scott?