Action Adventure

Blu-ray Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

March 20, 2015Ben MK

New movie, same Old Testament...

The story of how Moses led Egypt's Hebrew population out of slavery and into the promised land is one that has been retold time and again. Cinematically, the most famous example is, of course, Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic, The Ten Commandments, which starred Charlton Heston as Moses. And now, nearly six decades later, it's director Ridley Scott's turn to bring the Biblical Exodus to the big screen, this time with Batman himself, Christian Bale, in the lead role. Yes, it's an Exodus for a new generation. In fact, you can just think of it as "Moses Begins."


The Film Just the latest in a string of recent big budget Bible-themed films aimed at mainstream audiences, Exodus: Gods and Kings follows in the footsteps of movies like Noah and Son of God. But unlike director Darren Aronofsky's controversial adaptation of the story of Noah's ark, Scott's take on the Book of Exodus feels less rooted in fantasy, instead playing more like a historical epic in the vein of Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven.

Events unfold in 1300 B.C.E., where we meet Moses (Bale), a prince of Egypt who has grown up unaware of his Hebrew heritage. Raised like a brother alongside the future Pharaoh, Ramses (Joel Edgerton), he has become Ramses' closest ally. But their relationship quickly sours in the wake of the revelation of Moses' true identity, when Ramses exiles Moses from the kingdom. From there, Moses wanders the desert and reconnects with his roots, finally returning to the Egyptian capital nine years later, not only a changed man, but also tasked with a mission from God.

Of course — as most viewers will already know — that mission is to liberate Egypt's 400,000 Hebrew slaves from 400 years of oppression. And when Ramses refuses to bend to Moses' demands, the ramifications are swift and brutal. There's no doubt that Scott excels at creating spectacle; and the series of plagues that follow are the indisputable proof of his prowess, as each new wave of death, destruction and pestilence to strike Egypt is brought to life through jaw-dropping, state-of-the-art visual effects, the caliber of which DeMille could only dream of.

When it comes to backing that up with an equally impactful story, however, the screenplay by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian isn't nearly as effective. The film boasts an all-star cast that includes the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley and Aaron Paul; yet for the most part, characters are thinly drawn, making for a clear emotional disconnect between the audience and the on-screen drama. Nevertheless, Bale does bring gravitas to his portrayal; and though the central relationship between his Moses and Edgerton's Ramses isn't very compelling, there's just enough substance to keep audiences reasonably engaged between action sequences.

Audio/Visual Fidelity While Exodus: Gods and Kings may not resonate as one of Ridley Scott's most indelible works, the film certainly makes a lasting impression on Blu-ray, with outstanding image quality and a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack to match. Videophiles will be left awestruck by the picture's razor-sharp level of detail and the vibrancy of the film's gold, blue and earth-toned color palette, not to mention the inkiness of the black levels. Meanwhile, audiophiles will find their home theater systems put through their paces by the film's enveloping sound design, especially when they're surrounded by the sounds of the thrashing waves and galloping hooves that fill the air during the film's climax.

Special Features Twentieth Century Fox has made Exodus: Gods and Kings available on Blu-ray in two different versions. The first is a one-disc standard release (reviewed here) that contains the 2D version of the film plus an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy; and the second is a deluxe three-disc set that also bundles in a 3D Blu-ray, as well as an entire second Blu-ray disc full of extras. As it stands, the one-disc release includes only the following three extras: The Exodus Historical Guide, which is a text-only subtitle track that displays factoids about Moses, Egypt and the Book of Exodus as the film plays; 15 minutes of Deleted and Extended Scenes, numbering nine in total; and a Commentary by Ridley Scott and Jeffrey Caine, in which the director and the screenwriter each take turns providing viewers with insight into the screenplay, the production, the visual effects and more.

The Bottom Line Heavy on spectacle but light on drama, Exodus: Gods and Kings is far from perfect. But if you're curious to see what Ridley Scott and a deluge of cutting-edge visual effects can do for the epic story of Moses, the film still merits checking out. As for Fox's 2D Blu-ray release, its superb audio/video encode makes it an easy disc to recommend. Be forewarned, however: if you want access to the full assortment of extras, you'll have to spring for the deluxe 3D set.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

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