“Ridley Scott’s eye-candy spectacle [is] an over-the-top Old Testament epic that’s essentially Gladiator with God,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. That might serve as both critique and the best advertisement that 20th Century Fox could possibly fathom for Exodus: Gods and Kings. Christian Bale stars as Moses, the Egyptian hero who discovers that his charmed life has been a lie, and that his true destiny is freeing the long-suffering Jewish slaves, who suffer under the heel and whip. Joel Edgerton is Ramses, the narcissistic pharaoh whose heart hardens with every horrible plague that engulfs Egypt, and a slew of famous actors pop up in the background of the Biblical epic.
No spoiler alerts are required, of course. But even though the story is as old as written history, no one will want to miss the end, when a giant wave crushes the Egyptian army, as famously depicted in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic, The Ten Commandments. What will that ultimate special effect look and feel like in the hands of a modern CG master like Scott?
Read more from EW’s review, as well as a roundup of other notable critics, below.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“As ever, Scott is more interested in your eye than your heart or head. He’s a visual storyteller, a builder of breathtaking worlds. And the scope of his CGI-festooned Egypt is massive. The director nails the razzle-dazzle look of the movie, but the tone is all over the place. … Exodus briefly turns into a cross between a Roland Emmerich disaster flick and a biblical gross-out film.”
Ty Burr (Boston Globe)
“[The] curtain of darkness that falls across the land and the mass crib death of the first-born are about as awe-inspiring as all the other epics of mass destruction that fill our multiplexes by the dozen, which is to say sort of but not very. How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Iron Man 3?
Justin Chang (Variety) ▲
“Some may well desire a purer, fuller version of the story, one more faithful to the text and less clearly shaped by the demands of the Hollywood blockbuster. But on its own grand, imperfect terms, Exodus: Gods and Kings is undeniably transporting, marked by a free-flowing visual splendor that plays to its creator’s unique strengths…”
Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)
“If 1956’s The Ten Commandments wowed audiences in its time, Exodus: Gods and Kings repeats the feat for today’s more sophisticated and savvy audiences. There are moments in the movie when you can’t believe your eyes. Unfortunately, there are just as many moments that make you wince…”
A.O. Scott (New York Times)
“Exodus is ludicrous only by accident, which isn’t much fun and is the surest sign of what we might call a New Testament sensibility at work. But the movie isn’t successfully serious, either. Not for the first time, Mr. Scott confuses excessive scale with authentic grandeur…”
Bilge Ebiri (New York)
“That spirit of old-fashioned spectacle—corny, earnest, indulgent, insistent, kitschy—is probably the best way to approach Exodus. It’s also the best way to approach some of the frustratingly lily-white casting choices.”
Stephen Whitty (Newark Star-Ledger)
“Christian Bale is terribly, terribly serious as Moses—yet we never get a sense of his anguish at being raised with a lie, nor any glimmer of his charisma. Aaron and even Joshua (played by the typically too-excitable Aaron Paul) are practically written out of the narrative.”
Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)
“[The] dramatic side of Exodus alternates between being completely solemn and unintentionally silly, with lines of dialogue like a snarky Aaron telling his son, “This is your famous uncle Moses” … As with the DeMille ventures, enjoyment here involves managing expectations and not taking things too seriously.”
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (The A.V. Club)
“As in Scott’s other Cecil B. DeMille-style historical epics, there’s a surplus of underdeveloped themes here … These all get trampled by Scott’s goofy, literalist rationalism, which tries to invent a scientific explanation for everything … while preserving a sense of Sunday school spectacle, and ends up working as neither.”
Claudia Puig (USA Today)
“Attempting to appeal to both religious and secular audiences, this re-tooling offers visual spectacle but is otherwise soulless and mired in mediocrity.
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“But the depiction of biblical horrors is not just a technical matter. It’s an artistic one, and this is where having a director who’s an artist, rather than a technician who just wants to lob bombs, becomes important.”
Length: 142 minutes
Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul
Directed by Ridley Scott