Ridley Scott’s retelling of the Moses story, Exodus: Gods and Kings won’t arrive in theaters until this December. However, thanks to the movie’s first official trailer being launched this week, the expected debates – revolving around the film’s treatment of the Biblical source material, the races of its cast members, and so forth – have already begun to rage online. Meanwhile, Scott has weighed in on such matters as the film’s scope, its daunting digital effects, and the reason behind why the Gods and Kings subtitle was added on (after the movie was originally dubbed simply Exodus).
Exodus had a relatively tight production schedule (74 days) for a modern-day sweeping historical epic, especially one that wasn’t just shot in controlled sound stage environments (part of filming took place in real-world locations in Spain). Then again, Scott – who turns 77 later this year – has kept on working at an extraordinary pace in the 21st century, with Exodus due to be the eighth film that he’s released over the past decade alone.
Nonetheless, for some time now Scott has promised that Exodus will be “f***ing huge” in its scope – something that the footage in the trailer very much supports – yet, at the same time, has indicated that what attracted him to retell the Moses story “isn’t the big stuff” that “everyone” is familiar with from past cinematic renditions of the tale (see: The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt). The filmmaker explained how he reconciled these seemingly contradictory approaches, when asked by Empire if Exodus is indeed his “biggest” project to date:
“Well, in terms of the metaphorical aspects, yes [this is the biggest project I’ve done]. Even budgetarily it’s probably the biggest, yeah. But I didn’t approach it as my biggest. I never do that. I always approach it from the point of view of the characters, of the story. I never realised Gladiator was going to be quite as large in terms of its scope and yet it was a very small, personal story. A revenge. A simple revenge into which we had jigsawed some characters.”
In many ways, the story for Exodus, as scripted by Oscar-winner Steve Zaillian (Scott’s collaborator on Hannibal and American Gangster), like Gladiator, boils down to a simple, brother vs. brother story – pitting Christian Bale’s Moses against his adopted sibling Rhamses (Joel Edgerton) – albeit, set against the backdrop of a larger narrative that deals with warfare, plagues, and literal acts of God. We got a tantalizing sneak peek at that in the Gods and Kings trailer (including, what appears to be the Parting of the Red Sea sequence – see above), yet Scott is promising that there’s plenty more where that came from.
“I’ve held back a bit – wait till you see the movie. You must never oversell yourself. You’ve got to wait till you’re three weeks out, then you go for it. This is a big movie. 1300 effects shots is a lot. Not compared to something like Star Wars, sure, but we’re not ‘effecty’ in that sense of the word. One of the things that has come off really well is the reality of the characters. You wouldn’t call it an effects film even though in many ways a lot of what was needed is extraordinary. There were things I couldn’t build. But in today’s world the effects are so good that it looks real, effectively.”
Lastly, although Scott feels that the Gods and Kings subtitle is appropriate given the content of the film, he’s also admitted that the only reason it was tacked onto Exodus was because of a rights issue – as opposed to, it being a more strictly creativity-motivated decision.
“Honestly, to be truthful, we’d have liked to just call this Exodus, but that was owned and nobody would give it up, so I had to use Gods And Kings. But I don’t mind Gods And Kings, because in effect that’s what we’re dealing with: a society who at one stage believed in the idea of over a thousand gods, which is of course hard to believe.”
Rounding out the cast of Exodus: Gods and Kings are such acting folk as Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Sigourney Weaver (Avatar), John Tuturro (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3), Indira Varma (Game of Thrones), and Ben Mendelsohn (The Place Beyond the Pines).
Exodus: Gods and Kings opens in U.S. theaters on December 12th, 2014.