“Your parents never told you the truth. The year of your birth, there was a prophecy that our leader would be born to liberate us. That leader is you.”
Yes, that's basically a line from the recent “Jupiter Ascending” trailer, but no, this exact quote comes from “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” the latest Biblical epic attempting to shatter the Christmastime box office. From “Gladiator” and “The Counselor” director Ridley Scott, “Exodus” retells the classic Moses legend with ex-Batman Christian Bale as the chosen one and Joel Edgerton as Ramesses, wearing more eye-liner than Jack Nicholson's Joker. This is The Good Book as The Comic Book.
There's already controversy surrounding Scott's decision to whitewash cast – a fair and necessary conversation that could pick up steam closer to its release – but as far as white-casts-playing-Middle-Eastern-characters are concerned, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” has a mighty ensemble to amplify its CG spectacle. If you want a guy who can convincingly scream back at God, Bale is the actor at the top of the list. Edgerton lays right into the faux-Shakespeare of it all. Quick appearances by Ben Kingsley as Hebrew elder Nun, Aaron Paul as Joshua, and Sigourney Weaver as Queen Tuya indicate Scott's film should have a natural gravitas to it. Setting the trailer to Coldplay's “Midnight” doesn't help the whiteness problem, but the trailer successfully channels the Golden Age Biblical spectacle that clearly makes up Scott's sword-and-sandals vocabulary.
Will religious audiences flock to the film? At $359 million worldwide, Darren Aronofsky's creature feature “Noah” was a modest hit, less so here in the states. That film embraced the inherent fantasy of the Bible and then some, provoking many Christian voices to speak out against the film. Scott's Moses riff, written by Steven Zaillian, is equally bombastic – but how could it avoid it? Are waves of plagues and the parting of the Red Sea more or less realistic than talking stone creatures? Scott's vision appears faithful to the source material. Whether Marvel devotees and Sunday Church-goers will both flock to the movie this Winter remains to be seen.
Luckily, Bale approached Moses with the right amount of seriousness. At a special footage preview HitFix attended Tuesday night, the actor pulled back the curtain on his research. “While I was still trying to wrap my head around it I went and rented 'The Life of Brian' which is a favorite film of mine. The point being that not only do I enjoy that film a great deal, but anything you are approaching from a very earnest point of view can unintentionally be the 'Life of Brian' very quickly.” Read more of that report here.
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” arrives Dec. 12, 2014.