With Exodus: Gods and Kings, director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) is attempting to retell the biblical story of Moses leading the Israelites on the exodus out of Egyptian slavery; a story that has been told and re-told cinematically each and every Easter, in the form of the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments.
In this new version of the story, actors Christian Bale (Dark Knight) and Joel Edgerton (Warrior) take over the roles of Moses and Rameses II, which were famously played by Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner in Ten Commandments. If you’ve seen that older film (or any of the previous trailers for this film), then you know the basic layout of the story is still the same: Moses and Rameses start out as brothers; Moses learns he is destined to be leader of the Israelites; God delivers prophecies of Israelite freedom and Egyptian doom; Moses tries to warn an unheeding Rameses; slowly but surely, God makes good on all his promises.
Visually, the production design of Gods and Kings is fittingly epic and scale, and the iconic imagery (of The Plagues, or the parting of the Red Sea) is all there, designed for what seems like a pretty eye-catching and immersive 3D viewing experience.
As always, though, the casting of the principal leads seems a little off-base – especially with Edgerton shaved down, tanned, and looking slightly drag-queenie in his makeup. Sure, Heston was an all-American midwestern boy and Brynner was an exotic-looking Russian (there’s a fitting meta-meaning in there somewhere) – actors don’t have to play to their exact ethnicity – but the Bale/Edgerton casting still feels weird for some reason. Maybe it’s the eye-liner?
Whatever the case, Scott will definitely have people’s attention as the film nears theaters; after the divisive reactions to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah earlier this year, there really is no telling how biblical films are going to play with today’s global audience.
Exodus: Gods and Kings will be in theaters on December 12, 2014.