Swarms of arrows fly and fields of swords clash in Exodus: Gods and Kings, director Ridley Scott’s reimagining of the Biblical conflict between brothers turned enemies Moses (Christian Bale) and the god-king Ramses (Joel Edgerton), set against an epic backdrop of revolution.
Fox screened 37 minutes of footage for a group of journalists, with Bale on hand for a Q&A session. The film’s latest trailer provides a glimpse of some of the scenes the studio unveiled:
While the footage is technically impressive, with sweeping aerial shots of ancient landscapes and military camps (all CGI), it remains to be seen why director Scott, who went down this epic road twice before with Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, felt compelled to make a third trip.
What isn’t in question, however, is the film’s emphasis on character – especially Bale’s Moses. During the Q&A, the actor revealed that Moses quickly finds himself in a “very tumultuous” place when he’s chosen to be the savior for a people he doesn’t yet know by a God he doesn’t quite believe in.
The first footage screened establishes young Moses’ relationship with Ramses. Their father (John Turturro) bestows upon each brother a sword -- as symbols of their devotion to protect one another -- moments before the brothers ride off on chariots into battle. For a sequence we were told was still “in progress,” it looked near-finalized. Few directors are able to wrangle both the emotional and physical geography a battle scene like this requires, and Scott does it effortlessly, as Moses struggles to defeat enemy hordes and save his disadvantaged brother from attack.
Honoring the scale needed to tell the story of Moses wasn’t the difficult part; It was determining how much story to tell.
Bale, who received the Exodus script while shooting American Hustle, said there was enough material to satisfy an eight-hour movie. But writer Steven Zallian (Schindler’s List) helped narrow that focus when he centered on a core theme.
“Steve felt it was really a story about revolution,” the Oscar-winning actor revealed.
We got a tease of that revolution between brothers in a scene in which Moses, having been banished from his homeland, returns to convince his brother one last time to free the Israelites. When Ramses refuses, Moses warns that something terrible – something Moses can’t control – is coming.
Comprising the final minutes of the screened footage, four to the 10 plagues arrive, with dead fish bobbing and rotting atop a river turned to blood. And from those bloody waters, thousands of frogs emerge and overcome Ramses’ kingdom, which is later besieged by swarms of flies and locusts.
While too early to tell if these well-executed scenes add up to a satisfying whole, the footage indicates that Exodus marks a return to the Cecil B. DeMille approach. Bale even acknowledged the long shadow of DeMille’s classic The Ten Commandments.
“You can’t out-Heston Charlton Heston,” he said in regard to his performance.
Opening Dec. 12, Exodus: Gods and Kings also stars Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and Aaron Paul.