Sunday, March 15, 2015

Video review: "Exodus: Gods and Kings"

Ridley Scott is one of my favorite movie directors, but it’s hard to deny the man is responsible for his fair share of duds. He’s had a bit of a string of them lately, usually as a result of trying to redo previous films that didn’t really need another iteration: 2010’s lackluster “Robin Hood,” the bewildering “Prometheus” from 2012.

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is essentially Scott’s version of “The Ten Commandments,” with Moses and pharaoh Ramesses duking it out over the fate of the Jewish people, with plagues and miracles descending on high with equal fervor.

Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic hasn’t aged well – it plays now as a remarkable artifact of old-Hollywood hokum. But it wasn’t exactly crying out for a remake.

The result is a rather dull affair, with Christian Bale as Moses, a prince of Egypt revealed to be a Jew, spending years in his desert exile communing with the Lord, who takes the form of a small boy. Eventually he returns to Egypt and the predictable special effects fireworks crank up, along with plenty of battles. Here Moses wears armor and comes off closer to Spartacus than the robed holy man of scripture.

We’re further distracted by the heavily mascaraed presence of Joel Edgerton as Ramesses. Gosh knows I am not one to kowtow to politically correct imperatives. But casting an Australian as an Egyptian pharaoh is at least a 9.4 on the scale of White People Screwing Up Historical Stuff.

It’s a nice-looking film, with terrific costumes and sets and CG backdrops. As you’d expect of a Ridley Scott flick, the action scenes are staged crisply and energetically. But the characters all seem so glum and lifeless, as if they’ve been drained of their vital essence. Bale is so dirge-like in his disposition he makes his Bruce Wayne seem like a party animal.

Ultimately, “Exodus” fails the first test of filmmaking: why does this movie need to exist? It doesn’t, and we needn’t bother.

The movie is being given an excellent video release with a spate of bonus features, though you’ll have to pay more for the best stuff.

The DVD comes with eight deleted and extended scenes, plus a feature-length audio commentary track by Scott and co-screenwriter Jeffrey Caine. Upgrade to the Blu-ray, and you add another deleted scene and “The Exodus Historical Guide,” a feature-length trivia track.

Go for the 3-D collector’s edition combo pack, and you add an entire blu-ray disc of bonus features. These include “Keepers of the Covenant,” a feature-length documentary on the making of the film, a historical perspective on Moses, photo galleries, promotional featurettes and more.



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