By James Hirsen, Special for USDR
One of the most highly anticipated and ambitious faith-related films of modern times arrives in theaters this December. The movie, titled “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” has the potential to become a massive box-office hit.
The big-budget biblical remake’s pedigree stems from the 1956 classic, “The Ten Commandments,” which is the sixth-highest grossing movie ever, when adjusted for inflation. Another more recent religious themed epic, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which initiated the current faith-based film trend, shocked the cinema world at the time with its record-setting revenue.
In great part due to the legendary Ridley Scott’s directing of the new “Exodus,” there has been a general sense of optimism about the reverence and integrity that the film could ultimately bring to the faith community. In addition to quintessential sci-fi projects such as “Blade Runner” and “Alien,” Scott is the person responsible for having brought a number of quality period pieces to the big screen, including “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Gladiator.”
Both Scott and 21st Century Fox, the studio that is releasing “Exodus,” were additionally thought to have learned from observing atheist auteur Darren Aronofsky’s alienation of the cinema watching religious world. Aronofsky, via Paramount, bears responsibility for having presented to the public “Noah,” the abysmal cinematic interpretation of the scriptural story surrounding the revered biblical figure of the Old Testament. Aronofsky had infamously impeded the marketing of the film by publicly declaring just prior to its release that “’Noah’ is the least biblical biblical film ever made.”
It now seems that “Exodus” star Christian Bale may be following in Aronofsky’s footsteps. While speaking to a group of reporters at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, Bale appeared to be talking about a different Moses than the venerated one of the Scriptures.
“I think the man was likely schizophrenic and was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life,” Bale said.
The statement has made its way onto the Internet and is in the process of going viral. After the “Noah” fiasco, it is appalling that a sophisticated movie studio such as Fox would not have more effectively controlled its pre-release communications for the “Exodus” project. Ignorant doesn’t quite capture the offensive action of characterizing such a significant Old Testament figure in the manner in which Bale did.
It did not help matters when Scott added fuel to the fire by telling Entertainment Weekly that the onscreen parting of the Red Sea, which for Bible adherents is a magnificently miraculous event, would not be accomplished by the Creator of the Universe but rather by Mother Nature through the occurrence of an earthquake.
In an interview with the magazine, Scott recalls his disbelief as a young man in viewing the iconic scene in “The Ten Commandments.”
“I didn’t believe it then, when I was just a kid sitting in the third row. I remember that feeling, and thought that I’d better come up with a more scientific or natural explanation,” the director said.
People of faith are prone to find Scott’s quote quite astounding. Nevertheless, they have proven that they will flock to theaters if the movie in question is edifying and respectful to the source material.
The profit margins of faith-oriented fare have been pretty miraculous. In 2014, “Son of God” brought in $68 million with a budget of only $22 million. “Heaven is For Real” took in $91 million while only costing $12 million. And the phenomenal “God’s Not Dead” attracted $61 million with an incredibly low budget of $2 million.
Those with religious fervor predictably take umbrage when sacred stories and pivotal scriptural figures are inappropriately altered. “Noah” insulted religious filmgoers and paid a significant price as a result at the box office. The film barely broke $100 million domestically.
The good news for the upcoming “Exodus” movie is that some time still exists in which necessary adjustments can be made. However, this will require, among other things, that an already skeptical faith-based audience is given some much-needed reassurance, and that some heartfelt retractions on the part of key players are forthcoming, if “Exodus, Gods and Kings” is going to avoid suffering a similar fate to Aronofsky’s last epic.