Director Ridley Scott's latest Bible-inspired film Exodus: Gods and Kings, which will hit U.S. theaters on Dec. 12, aims to appeal to both Christian and general audiences. However, some controversial commentary from Christian Bale might give some Christians second thoughts on watching the film.
That's because Bale, 44, who plays the role of Moses in the upcoming film, had a harshly critical assessment of the character he played, according to Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter.
"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 to a group of reporters at a Los Angeles hotel. "He's a very troubled and tumultuous man who fought greatly against God, against his calling."
Bale's comments, which were first reported by Drew Turney of Christianity Today on Oct. 21, indicated that the version of Moses portrayed in Exodus was radically different from Charlton Heston's iconic portrayal in The Ten Commandments. According to Turney, Moses is portrayed in Scott's film as a military general and right-hand man to Egyptian pharaoh Ramses, played by Joel Edgerton.
Turney noted that Exodus has all the effects and storytelling methods typical in Scott's style of filmmaking. However, he added that marketing the film could be a challenge.
"If the trick to getting people to like your movie and tell their friends - still the most effective form of movie advertising-is to appeal to everyone, it also poses a unique challenge to the content, not just trailers or posters," Turney wrote. "And if your film is a large holiday season blockbuster with faith-based source material, the secret might be to make it religious...but not too religious."
However, considering that Exodus is a Hollywood depiction of a Bible story, it's only natural that some controversial changes could be made to the story as shown on film. According to Sara Vilkomerson of Entertainment Weekly, Scott looked to science as opposed to miracles described in the Bible in the hopes of treating the parting of the Red Sea as a real, believable event.
"You can't just do a giant parting, with walls of water trembling while people ride between them," Scott said, remembering Heston's iconic depiction in The Ten Commandments from his childhood. "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."
Vilkomerson reported that Scott's solution to depicting the iconic scene came from looking into Egypt's history circa 3000 B.C. After finding out that a massive underwater earthquake caused a tsunami off the coast of Italy, he looked at the scientific explanations of how water recedes in those types of natural disasters.
"I thought that logically, [the parting] should be a drainage," Scott said. "And that when [the water] returns, it comes back with a vengeance."
Scott also tried to portray "rational" explanations for the other stories in his Exodus film, including the ten plagues the Egyptians suffer at the hands of God before the pharaoh let the Hebrews go. However, he noted that the film doesn't completely run away from the miraculous signs.
"It's always interesting to address all the facts," the director said. "Out of the facts comes the logic, and out of the logic comes reality."
For biblically-inspired films, accuracy to the Word of God has played a crucial role in its box office success. Bond reported that according to a poll conducted by an organization named Faith Driven Consumer, 74 percent of Americans were likely to see the film if it was biblically accurate; however, 68 percent of them were unlikely to see it if it was inaccurate.
Faith Driven Consumer's founder, Chris Stone, was quite surprised by Bale's comments about Moses.
"There's nothing in the biblical history that supports that," Stone said. "It's an indication that there will be a tremendous disconnect between Bale's interpretation and the expectations of the market."
However, Christian writer Brian Godawa thought that Bale had other motives in mind while making those controversial comments.
"It's accurate to portray Moses as an imperfect hero, so Christians won't take issue with that," Godawa said. "But to be so extreme as to call him one of the most barbaric people in history, that sounds like he's going out of his way to distance himself from the very people you'd think he wants to appeal to."
Godawa speculated that Bale made those comments about Moses because "he certainly doesn't want to be associated with the religious or the far right."