Exodus: Gods and Kings UHD Review

More style than substance 3.5 Stars

Director Ridley Scott tries his hand at retelling the story of Moses and the Hebrew’s Exodus from Egypt in Exodus: Gods and Kings. The end result is a 2 1/2 hour epic that is gorgeous to look at, particularly in UHD, but struggles in its storytelling and casting.

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
Released: 12 Dec 2014
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 150 min
Director: Ridley Scott
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Cast: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul
Writer(s): Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, Steven Zaillian
Plot: The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.
IMDB rating: 6.1
MetaScore: 52

Disc Information
Studio: Fox
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English DVS 2.0, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 2 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, UltraViolet
Case Type: 2-disc UHD keepcase
Disc Type: UHD
Region: All
Release Date: 02/22/2016
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 3.5/5

Exodus: Gods and Kings takes the familiar story of Moses, the Prince of Egypt, and how he helped lead the Hebrews, the slave labor to Pharaoh, leave Egypt and form the nation of Israel, but tries too hard to fill in the gaps and rethink the legend to make it palatable to modern, possibly non-religious audiences. His story is a major part of just about every monotheistic religion, and it is this familiarity of the main plot points and the screenplay’s freedoms with the conventions of that story that often work against each other, resulting in a film that has little heart or emotional connection with the audience. As the movie opens, Moses (Christian Bale) is a General in Pharaoh Seti I’s (John Turturro) army, second in command to Ramses II (Joel Edgerton), about to lay siege to the Hittites. Before the battle, the High Priestess (Indira Varma) prophesies that “A leader will be saved, and his savior will someday lead.” When Moses saves Ramses life during the battle, Ramses starts to become suspicious and jealous of Moses, particularly when Pharaoh shows more favoritism towards Moses. Moses, though, doesn’t believe in prophecies. That is, until he begins to learn who he really is, starting with a meeting with one of the Hebrew elders, Nun (Ben Kingsley), who tells him that he was born a Hebrew slave until he was given to Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithia (Hiam Abbass) and raised under Pharaoh’s roof as her own son. When Seti dies and Ramses takes control of Egypt, the truth finally comes out and Moses is exiled (another liberty taken in the source material). Moses finds his way to Midian, falls in love with Zapporah (Maria Valverde), and meets God in the form of a young boy named Malak (Isaac Andrews), but only after suffering a concussion during a mudslide down a mountain. Malak tells him to return to Egypt to see the suffering that his people are enduring and to help set them free. Moses arrives in Egypt as a revolutionary, trying to gather the Hebrews in an uprising that ultimately fails, until Malak steps in and tells Moses to step aside and see what God can do, thus bringing the ten plagues (through some impressive CGI) upon Egypt one after another without any interaction between Moses and Ramses and the infamous “Let my people go” until just before the final plague of the death of the first born. Ramses gives in after his son dies during the plague, leading to the big showdown during the parting of the Red Sea (which Ridley Scott depicts more as the prologue to a major tsunami wave than anything majestic as seen in Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston or DreamWorks Animation’s Prince of Egypt). The casting of Christian Bale as Moses was a bold choice that doesn’t quite pay off, especially with Bale’s inability to settle on an accent to help define his character, although he and Joel Edgerton do have some chemistry as the brothers at odds with each other. Sigourney Weaver’s role as Ramses’ mother Tuya and Ben Kingsley as Nun are reduced to nothing more than cameos, and Aaron Paul is almost unrecognizable as Joshua (another role not completely fleshed out).

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

As with most of the first wave of UHD Blu-ray releases, Exodus: Gods and Kings was completed in 2K for theatrical release, having been shot digitally with the RED Epic MX Dragon in 5K. Fox has upscaled the completed 2K image to 2160p, retaining the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and then regraded using High Dynamic Range. Before I delve into my observations, it should be noted that I reviewed this disc on what is currently the only available UHD Blu-ray player on the market, the Samsung UBD-K8500, connecting the main HDMI output to an LG 65UF8500 (which unfortunately does not support high dynamic range or HDR10) and the secondary HDMI output to a Marantz SR5008 receiver for lossless audio decoding. That being said, the UHD is a vast improvement over the previous Blu-ray release (which my colleague Matt Hough gave a 5 out of 5 for video). Colors appear more natural and solid, without any banding or bleeding. As one would expect, detail also excels, particularly the fabrics and intricate jewelry worn by Pharaoh and the meticulous hieroglyphs on Moses’ sword and palace walls. Contrast was also improved with deeper blacks and an overall brighter picture without appearing washed out, although in some instances shadows are so well-defined that they obscure backgrounds.

Audio: 4.5/5

The UHD Blu-ray contains the same DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track as the Blu-ray release. I lowered my score a half point because the film was released to theaters in Dolby Atmos, which was skipped over on both the Blu-ray and UHD editions in favor the DTS-HD MA 7.1 track.

Special Features: 3.5/5

Here’s a surprise – two of the bonus features have been ported over to the UHD disc.

Audio Commentary with Director Ridley Scott and Co-Screenwriter Jeffrey Caine: Scott and Caine were recorded on separate occasions, with Scott obviously focusing more on the production of the film and Caine on developing the screenplay and adapting the source material.

The Exodus Historical Guide: A subtitle option providing historical and Biblical background to the story as it unfolds on-screen.

Blu-ray copy: The movie in 1080p, plus all of the special features included on the single-disc BD edition (commentary, Historical Guide, and Deleted Scenes in 2D and 3D).

Digital HD Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy through Ultraviolet.

Overall: 3.5/5

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a beautiful film to watch, but hard to connect to on a story or character basis. This UHD is another top performer in the video department, but the Blu-ray still looks outstanding. For those with UHD sets with 1080p 3D capability, it’s likely a tough choice between 3D Blu-ray or 2D UHD.

Published by

Todd Erwin

author,editor

14 Comments

  1. As I mentioned in the comments of a previous UHD release here, I believe that a review of a film with a previous Video rating of 5/5 for the Blu-ray release should not have the Video rating of the UHD version downgraded to 4.5/5 just because the reviewer doesn't have a UHD HDR capable set to properly evaluate it. I also believe that the film's Audio rating should be based on the QUALITY of the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, NOT on whether Dolby Atmos was included or not (even if it was present on the theater). Just my thoughts…

  2. It was released in 3D, so it's 2K for sure.

    Yes, it was and so? So the studios would never go back and create a new 4K Intermediate because studios never do that right? Come on there have been a whole group of 4K Digital Intermediates recreated that where used to create the Mastered in 4K blu-rays. All I'm saying is people think IMDB is the bible of how a film is released on Blu-ray or UHD. When no one has asked the studios on how these discs where produced.

  3. So far I believe everything on UHD has been upscaled.  Even when they may have filmed parts at 4K+, all the post production and special effects was done at 2K.

    There are several with 4K Digital Intermediates so you are saying even those are upscaled? There are several that where filmed with only 35mm film. There is no reason the digital intermediate would not be 4K. Any movie shot with only digital cameras may have shots that where shot with less then 4K cameras this being one. Out of the 13 titles I own I think 50% claimed to have 4K intermediates per IMDB. Most of those where shot with non-digital cameras. I get everyone wants a reason for this format to fail… Fine but I would say the "upscaled" ones (if they are) look still much better then the Blu-ray versions so I'll take it.

  4. I don't want it to fail by any stretch.  I think the increase in resolution isn't really that big of a deal.  I think the addition of HDR is a huge deal and way more important than the resolution.  I think its what the studios need to be pushing/selling and I think its where the format will ultimately succeed.

  5. The HDR actually increases the level of visible detail.  There is a lot of light-based detail that is obscured when the 2k master is 'dumbed down' to SDR home video.  That said, although HDR is the star of the show, I have enjoyed the resolution upgrade on a few titles, notably Expendables 3.

    UHD BD is going to take a while to gain momentum because of the lack of HDR TVs out there, and the fact that the ones available are still pretty expensive.

  6. As I mentioned in the comments of a previous UHD release here, I believe that a review of a film with a previous Video rating of 5/5 for the Blu-ray release should not have the Video rating of the UHD version downgraded to 4.5/5 just because the reviewer doesn't have a UHD HDR capable set to properly evaluate it.

    I also believe that the film's Audio rating should be based on the QUALITY of the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, NOT on whether Dolby Atmos was included or not (even if it was present on the theater). Just my thoughts…

    I agree as well. I did see one reviewer that was basically starting at 3 stars if the UHD was equal to the Blu-ray. Even that seemed a little weird to me.

  7. I agree as well. I did see one reviewer that was basically starting at 3 stars if the UHD was equal to the Blu-ray. Even that seemed a little weird to me.

    I don't know that's seems about right.  If the UHD can't even beat the Blu-ray that's probably the most it deserves.  Do you think a Blu-ray could possible get more than 3 stars if it were DVD quality?

  8. As I mentioned in the comments of a previous UHD release here, I believe that a review of a film with a previous Video rating of 5/5 for the Blu-ray release should not have the Video rating of the UHD version downgraded to 4.5/5 just because the reviewer doesn't have a UHD HDR capable set to properly evaluate it.

    I also believe that the film's Audio rating should be based on the QUALITY of the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, NOT on whether Dolby Atmos was included or not (even if it was present on the theater). Just my thoughts…

    Obviously a superior format has to be graded with higher standards.  I agree the reviewer can't fully appreciate the benefit of the format because an important (well, THE most important) component is lacking, but there are many others out there without HDR displays that can fully appreciate his impressions and the effort he put into the review.

  9. I don't know that's seems about right.  If the UHD can't even beat the Blu-ray that's probably the most it deserves.  Do you think a Blu-ray could possible get more than 3 stars if it were DVD quality?

    I also think that 3 is about right. Then add points for added resolution, bit depth, color space and how the HDR conversion is handled.

    Of course with HDR anything goes as there is no reference anymore for anything so the whole rating system is much more subjective than before where we had a gold standard in the theatrical 2D or 3D DCI. For HDR we don't have this at the moment.

  10. Obviously a superior format has to be graded with higher standards.  I agree the reviewer can't fully appreciate the benefit of the format because an important (well, THE most important) component is lacking, but there are many others out there without HDR displays that can fully appreciate his impressions and the effort he put into the review.

    I give him a 2 out of 5 for the technical sections of this review, due to the cut and paste from earlier reviews (eg see Kingsman UHD review).  The extra star above 1 because he did change at least a few words in the video part.

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