“Exodus: Gods and Kings” sees Ridley Scott doing something he’s done a few times now: taking a familiar story and making it a modern epic. No one needed a new version of the Moses story, exactly, but then, he did well enough bringing another gladiator revenge story with “Gladiator” (if less well with his “Robin Hood” retelling), so maybe this would turn out OK. Early reviews indicate that “OK” is probably the most one can hope for.
Critics are split between feeling the film is overblown and way too familiar and those who were mostly entertained by how Scott used modern special effects to recreate the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. Several found the film dour and were disappointed that Scott didn’t flesh out any of the supporting roles, and more than a few compared the film negatively to Darren Aronofsky’s weirder, wilder “Noah.” Still, some have praised Scott’s refusal to turn it into a black-and-white tale of good and evil, and Justin Chang writes that unlike other faith-based films, “Exodus” is refreshingly non-preachy (no doubt due to Scott’s own secularism).
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” arrives in theaters December 12.
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: Given how many faith-based movies are content to tell their audiences what to think or feel, it’s satisfying to see one whose images alone are enough to compel awestruck belief. Read more.
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
Scott’s refusal to mark out anyone as straightforwardly good gives “Exodus” a very different flavour to the morally clear-cut Biblical epics of the Fifties, and also to Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah,” a more poetic, hopeful adaptation of a well-known Old Testament tale. Read more.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
The big set pieces don’t pop enough to justify this movie’s existence; there’s a battle against the Hittites early on that has the sweep you’d expect from Scott, but it’s never as thrilling as some of the sequences in his director’s cut of “Kingdom of Heaven.” Even the parting of the Red Sea disappoints; the liberated Hebrews cross over in what seems like an accentuated low tide, and let’s just say that “Interstellar” has raised the bar on computer-generated giant walls of water. Read more.
Stephen Farber, The Hollywood Reporter
Scott comes up with a somewhat more credible portrayal of how the Israelites managed to cross the sea before a monumental storm drowned the Egyptians. This sequence is visually thrilling. The movie should have ended there, but Scott and the writers seem to have felt obliged to include a few of the later parts of the story, including the delivery of the Ten Commandments and a scene of an aged Moses finally arriving near the land of Canaan. But while these events are integral to the biblical story, they come off here as the worst kind of anticlimax. Read more.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Spectacle run amok, “Exodus: Gods And Kings” is so big and brawny that it’s almost laughably gargantuan. Mistaking massive amounts of CGI and epically dour performances for historical gravitas, Ridley Scott’s latest wants to tell the story of Moses with the scope of a blockbuster but the soul of a gritty character drama. What that leaves us with, unfortunately, is a self-serious movie in which the filmmaker of “Gladiator” and “Robin Hood” buries an iconic tale in lavish overkill. Read more.
By playing it safe, the movie fails to enrich the material, and never captures the energy that has made its narrative so captivating for millennia. The vast ensemble, which includes a conniving Sigourney Weaver as Ramses’ scheming mother and a bearded Aaron Paul as Moses’ right-hand man Joshua, never gets the chance to develop much dimensionality. Scott’s narrative drifts from one incident to the next with a largely ponderous air. Read more.
Catherine Shoard, The Guardian
Drew Taylor, The Playlist
If anybody could telescope these events into something manageably relatable, it’s Scott. The problem is that the director doesn’t seem all that interested in telling a human drama, and is instead too caught up in the whiz-bang possibilities of the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is a movie whose oversized ambition is matched only by its shortcomings. Read more.