Exodus: Gods and Kings (Blu-ray) (2014)
Audio Commentary-director Ridley Scott and co-writer Jeffrey Caine
On-Screen Information Track-The Exodus Historical Guide
|Year Of Production||2014|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Ridley Scott|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Exodus: Gods and Kings commences with captions indicating that it is 1300 BC and that the Hebrews have been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. It then quickly introduces the action at the Battle of Kadesh between the Egyptians and Hittites where Ramses (Joel Edgerton) is saved from death by his “brother” and fellow commander Moses (Christian Bale). Later, when visiting a town and quarry where the Hebrew slaves labour, and die, to build the monuments to Egypt’s greatness, Moses is told the true story of his birth by Nun (Ben Kingsley) and that he is a Hebrew, not an Egyptian, although Moses remains sceptical. Shortly after Ramses’ father, Pharaoh Seti I (John Turturro), dies and Ramses becomes Pharaoh with Moses as his Chief Advisor. But when Ramses is informed that Moses is a Hebrew, Moses is exiled although Ramses’ mother Tuya (Sigourney Weaver), wants him killed. In exile Moses wanders the wilderness, crosses the Red Sea, meets and marries Zipporah (Maria Valverde) and fathers a son. Then one night in a storm he is called by God to return to Egypt and free his people.
Moses retraces his steps to Egypt but Ramses will not free the Hebrew slaves upon which the wealth of his kingdom depends. Moses and the Hebrews resort to guerrilla warfare until God takes a hand; plagues of frogs and locusts blight Memphis, violent storms occur, animals die and the Nile runs red. Finally, after the massacre of innocent children during the Passover, Moses is allowed to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt although later Ramses pursues and the Red Sea first parts, then engulfs the Egyptians.
It is surprising that Exodus: Gods and Kings did not make more of a splash on release given that it was helmed by Ridley Scott, arguably the best present day director of epics, and based on a story that is bigger than Ben-Hur. The film did make money in excess of its budget, but both audiences and critics were lukewarm.
Certainly, many of Scott’s signatures are present in Exodus: Gods and Kings, including a chaotic opening battle, a score which includes voices and epic sets, even if much of them are CGI. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski is no stranger to epic filmmaking either, having lensed all the Pirates of the Caribbean films as well as Prometheus (2012) for Scott, and the set pieces such as the quarry, the battle, the plagues, the flight from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, are spectacular and help the film’s 150 minute running time to speed by. The spectacle, however, tends to overwhelm the human element of the story, a result of trying to fit a time frame of decades into a 150 minute film plus some not totally successful casting and acting choices.
The 1956 Cecile B. DeMille version of the story, The Ten Commandments, ran for 220 minutes, some of which were quite dull as a result of trying to stay close to the source material. To try to address this Scott and his four screenwriters skip the story of Moses and the bulrushes and go straight to the adult Moses and his relationship with Ramses. They also condense the time frame (Moses’ wandering does not seem that long, certainly not 40 years) but even so the film for the first hour is quite slow. After Moses returns to Egypt the action commences and keeps going until the awesome Red Sea finale.
As played by Bale, Moses lack presence. He is sceptical and petulant in places but his presence does not command attention; is this really the man who led 400,000 slaves out of Egypt? Some of the other acting is questionable, including that of Sigourney Weaver, who never looks comfortable, and Joel Edgerton. I have read a review which praised Edgerton as providing a nuanced performance, but I saw only an unsubtle performance that felt like a caricature of a megalomaniac. On the other hand, character actor John Turturro is dignified and effective as Pharaoh Seti and Aaron Paul noticeable, for good reasons, as Joshua.
Making biblical stories is not as simple as it was 50 years ago and Exodus: Gods and Kings has been criticised by both Christian and non-Christian groups and banned in Egypt and Morocco. Perhaps interestingly, Scott has tried to provide a secular retelling of the bible account, and one interesting choice made by the script was to have Moses hit on the head by rocks before he starts talking to God’s messenger (a small child); thus Moses’ visions of God are in his head. This scepticism sits a little uneasily with the plagues and death visited upon the Egyptians by God that have no rational explanation, although an Egyptian counsellor to Ramses tries to provide one!
Ridley Scott is a visionary director who can create incredible worlds showing the past, the future or space. At his best, such as Gladiator, the worlds and spectacle support the human element of his stories. But in Exodus: Gods and Kings the epic source material and the spectacle dwarfs the human characters so while Exodus: Gods and Kings is frequently awesome and breathtakingly beautiful, the characters and the story do not quite engage one like they should.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1, close to the original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.
The film has been colour manipulated with many sequences showing a yellowish or bluish look; it is also quite dark, all of which does effect some of the wider detail and some of the shadow detail, looks indistinct. Close-ups, especially of Ramses’ costumes, are however crisp while the scenes where Moses is a shepherd with his wife and child have more natural colours. Blacks are fine, skin tones under lights have that yellowish digital tinge, while contrast and brightness is consistent.
Other than some slight ghosting with fast movement against broken surfaces I did not notice any marks or artefacts.
Subtitles are available in French, Spanish and English for the hearing impaired. English subtitles are also available for the audio commentary.
The main audio is DTS-HD MA 7.1 and there are available Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs plus an English audio description track and an audio commentary.
My system is not 7.1 capable but even so this audio is wonderfully loud and enveloping. Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand while the surrounds and rears were used constantly for music and effects such as weather, including wind, thunder and rain, horses’ hooves, voices, fire and explosions, the tramp of feet, crashing chariots, the waves of the sea and the plagues of frogs and insects. The swords clash and ring and there are also frequent pans, such as arrows flying overhead. The sub-woofer added nice depth and boom to explosions, horses’ hooves, music and the tsunami wave in the Red Sea.
Lip synchronisation was fine.
The original score by Alberto Iglesias (who has been nominated three times for Oscars but is yet to win) is suitably intense and epic.
|Surround Channel Use|
On start-up is a promotion for Digital HD downloads.
This commentary is by director Ridley Scott and co-writer Jeffrey Caine who were recorded separately and cut together. Caine talks about his intentions, sources for the Moses legend and plot points while Scott, who provides most of the commentary, is often trivial, giving no anecdotes, little about the actual shoot and few technical insights. He does mention reusing sets, locations, CGI and green screen shots, the cast and his own career and is probably most interesting in talking about how one portrays God on screen.
Smallish white text in a box at the bottom of the screen is really a trivia track with Bible references, information about Egyptian historical evidence and various other tit-bits. Some information is interesting, a lot self-evident.
Nine deleted and extended scenes, some still with green or blue screens and incomplete effects. Some are quite interesting, such as the snake hunt! The scenes are:
A code so that the film can be downloaded on portable devices.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This 2D release of Exodus: Gods and Kings is the same worldwide. In Australia and the US a 3D version of the film is available in a three Blu-ray package which includes both the 3D and 2D versions of the film plus, on a separate disc, a massive making of that is longer than the feature film (153:15), extra “enhancement” pods, a look at Moses through history, plus over 2 hours of archives and trailers.
Exodus: Gods and Kings is an epic film by any account and, like 300, Pompeii or Noah, we know how Exodus: Gods and Kings ends. While the human element is not always successful, and I had the feeling in some sequences that Scott is repeating himself, when the action and spectacle occurs Exodus: Gods and Kings is very beautiful and very spectacular indeed.
The video is manipulated but fine, the audio very good; the extras are OK but you have to buy the 3D package to get the full suite of extras on a third Blu-ray disc.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|