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Dec12FriWith Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott brings an epic story to a new generation. December 12, 2014 by Ken Ramstead
Hollywood has embraced the Bible again after decades of neglect. Recently, we've seen a small-screen treatment of The Bible, followed by an adapted movie version, Son of God. This year, theatregoers have viewed big-screen adaptations of Noah and Left Behind, based on the first and last books of the Bible—Genesis and Revelation—respectively. Heaven Is for Real, a movie based on the bestselling account of a young boy's near-death experience, also hit theatres this past April.
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Possibly the most anticipated of the releases is Exodus: Gods and Kings by acclaimed director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator), which hits theatres this month. It boasts a star-studded cast including Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby), Ben Kingsley (Ghandi) and Sigourney Weaver (Avatar). Filmed on the Spanish mainland and the Canary Islands, the film will thrill theatregoers with epic battle scenes and dramatic chases, the clash of brother against brother and the struggle of a nation of slaves. One man with a vision will lead them on, against the armed might of an all-powerful ruler.
It's an open question, however, whether Scott knows how to separate history from fiction, and Christian moviegoers should approach this feature with caution. Scott has said he was attracted to the Moses story not necessarily because he was drawn to the character's monotheism, but because Moses stood up against the polytheism of the Egyptians who raised him: “Moses rises against the thousands of Egyptian gods in the name of one God. This is a very modern idea.”
Whether that translates into a faithful look at the biblical drama remains to be seen.
Exodus is based on the second book of the Bible, which recounts how the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt in 1300 B.C. God sent Moses (Bale) and his brother, Aaron (Paul), to the Egyptian Pharaoh (Edgerton) to release His chosen people. The arrogant Pharaoh refused with an unequivocal “no.”
As a result, God made His power known in a series of plagues that devastated Egypt. Egyptian rivers ran red with blood, hordes of frogs overran the fields, infestations of mosquitos and flies struck the population, an epidemic exterminated livestock and a skin disease struck men and animals alike. Then, hail destroyed the crops, and locusts and darkness covered the land. Still Pharaoh refused to let God's people go.
But after God sent a tenth plague that caused the death of every first-born child in the land, including Pharaoh's son, Pharaoh relented and released the Israelites, only to change his mind and pursue them with his army, finally catching up with them at the Red Sea.
God worked a miracle there, parting the waters to enable the Israelites to escape, and drowning Pharaoh's soldiers in the process.
Back to Basics
It's not surprising that the Exodus story has enthralled generations. The enslavement and eventual freedom of the Israelites inspired American slaves before the Civil War, as well as the civil-rights movement in the 1960s.
Hollywood has made TV and theatrical versions of the Exodus saga numerous times, with Charlton Heston famously playing Moses to Yul Brynner's Pharaoh in 1956's The Ten Commandments.
That thought did give Christian Bale pause. “Charlton Heston does Charlton Heston better than anyone,” Bale told Entertainment Weekly. “But the biblical account of Moses is extraordinary, and there was lots of room for us to go to places that The Ten Commandments never dreamed of going.”
Technology never imagined five decades ago has been harnessed to show an old story in a new way to a new generation of viewers, some of whom may have only the vaguest notion of the classic story.
Director Scott agrees. “What I thought I knew about Moses, I didn't really,” Scott said in the same Entertainment Weekly interview. “Either I wasn't paying attention in Sunday school or I'd forgotten. I was knocked out by who Moses was and the basics of the story—it has to be one of the greatest adventures and spiritual experiences that could ever have been.”
(Photos: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Photos)