Saving Private Moses Wallace? Spielberg to make "gritty" Moses biopic

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Director extroardinaire and all-round Jewish guy, Steven Spielberg, looks to be close to inking a deal with Warner Bros to make a Moses biopic, entitled Gods and Kings, Deadline reports. The film will detail the Biblical leader’s life from “him coming down the river, being adopted, leaving his home” to “forming an army, and getting the Ten Commandments” according to an unnamed industry insider. But here’s the sandal-footed kicker: According to the same source, Warner Bros wants Spielberg to eschew to traditionally “glossy” approach to the biblical tale, and instead tell a realistically gritty “warrior story” in the same vein as his World War II epic, Saving Private Ryan, and “like a Braveheart-ish version of the Moses story.”

Now Saving Private Ryan is one of the finest pieces of cinema of the last few decades, and that “gritty realism” certainly worked there. But that was war-torn Europe on display. Biblical Egypt tends to lend itself more to sweeping vistas and expansive landscapes, not shaky-cam trench warfare. The Braveheart reference definitely seems more apt though. Mel Gibson’s film – despite it being incredibly brutal and visceral – had a romanticized air to it that would certainly work with this subject matter.

Obviously though, all of this is just an attempt by WB to create a separate vision of Moses from Cecil B. DeMille’s seminal classic, The Ten Commandments, which is considered by many to be the greatest representation of the biblical tale. Spielberg is without a doubt talented enough to accomplish this lofty goal, but my concern lies with the script. Writers Staurt Hazeldine and Michael Green will be taking on the scribe duties, and neither of them has impressed at all me with their past efforts. Hazeldine’s only real work of significance was the grievously disappointing 2003 SyFy adaptation of  Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld novels, whereas Green was one of the co-writers responsible for the swift kick to comic fandom’s testicles that was Green Lantern.

I adore sword ‘n sandal epics and I generally love Spielberg’s work, but this news leaves me with mixed feelings. Warner Bros are only looking to start production in around March of 2013, so there is still lots of time left to polish this up and it certainly has the potential to be another award winning vehicle for Spielberg (how big is this guy’s mantel piece?), but right now I am just cautiously optimistic about it.

As for who I would like to see taking on the role of Moses? Well he’s already got experience in leading Jews to freedom, so Liam Neeson gets my vote. What do you guys think?

Last Updated: January 27, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

  • It’s a controversial figure, no doubt. We know very little about Moses and there is even a camp that argues he was actually Egyptian and of royal blood. There are other shortfalls, such as conflicting evidence about Egyptian slavery – modern archaeology suggests that the Egyptians weren’t really slavers and most of what they built and produced were done by peasants. Egyptian record of the Palestinian world under the Nile kingdom’s rule is very limited and most of the stuff we assume about this period is only from the Bible, which were more likely legends handed down over generations that historical fact. 

    Ditto for the whole Golden Calf episode, which might have actually been a means for Moses to purge enemies of his rule – the calf has been associated with other religions and cults that existed at the time and what little we can gather also suggests that the group that moved out of Egypt was very mixed and not largely Palestinian/Abrahamic. It would also be curious to see how the events around the fall of the Canaanites and the wall of Jericho, which historians speculate was done by detonating primitive bombs, such as hot-burning pig’s fat, under the wall foundations. Or will Spielberg lean towards divine intervention instead?

    So this film might be epic, but it will be impossible to determine if it is actually accurate by any measure. And as for being a gritty war epic, surely covering someone like Kings David or Solomon would make for a more enticing tale?

    • Well Mel Gibson is also making a film based on Jewish warrior, Judah Macabee, which would certainly lend itself better to this gritty style that WB are after.

      • Hmm, that I’d definitely watch. Spielberg doesn’t have the stomach for this kind of thing. Gibson, on the other hand, shines with distorted and violent historical drama, 

        • He’s also doing a gritty true to reality viking film, written by Randall Wallace as well,

          • Vikings? Hell yeah! Until they actually catch Mel with pieces of baby still hanging from his mouth I’ll always root for the guy. 

            But ‘true to reality’ is a very relative statement for Mel’s historical epics. If he directed Gladiator, Russell Crow would have had a bottle of magic potion.

          • Lol. By true to reality, I think he simply means “non-romanticized”

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