The controversy surrounding Christian Bale's comments about Moses may have stirred up public interest for Ridley Scott's film Exodus: Gods and Kings, but the critics were split in regards to rating the film based on the famous Bible story.
Depending on the critic, the film received scattered ratings across the board. One detractor included Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News, who gave the film 1 star out of 5.
"On the face of it, the Moses story seems hard to ruin: The parting of the Red Sea, plagues, slaves yearning for freedom - it's all there," Neumaier wrote. "But this eye-rollingly bad movie is silly, sluggish and miscast."
Neumaier added that while Scott's staging of the Red Sea scene is "technically cool," he noted that "the water recedes instead of rises." Although the graphics are at a much higher than the original portrayals depicted in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments, he felt this modern telling was "emotionally underwhelming."
"Worse, Exodus is ultimately undone by its horrible script, credited to four people," Neumaier wrote. "The movie's technical achievements can't drown out 2 1/2 hours of awfulness."
Thumbs-down reviews from critics like Neumaier have affected the overall ratings for Exodus. According to a summary of 40 reviews posted on Rotten Tomatoes, 45 percent of the critics liked the film; Metacritic, on the other hand, had a mixed score of 56 out of 100 points, based on reviews from 13 critics.
However, Exodus also received some favorable reviews from critics. Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter thinks that although it is spectacularly filmed and intermittently well-acted, "the picture looks likely to attract a substantial audience even if some religious leaders voice protests."
"The film hits its peak in the sequence recounting the 10 plagues," Farber wrote. "The savage crocodiles were not in the Old Testament, but as they attack humans as well as fish, they turn the Nile blood red, which is at least an ingenious explanation of how the river might have turned to blood. Frogs, boils and locusts are truer to the text and are rendered in luscious visual detail."
Farber concluded that "no movie with such a limp ending can be fully satisfying, and the beginning also falters." However, he added that the middle of the film is "a rousing good show."
Chris Nashwaty of Entertainment Weekly also enjoyed Scott's film. As for his experience, he was able to sit through the film, find the absurdities, and walk out dazzled.
"As Moses grapples with his existential crisis, he's visited by God in the form of a petulant young boy with a British accent - a casting choice I suspect many will find problematic, mystifying, or just plain laughable," Nashwaty wrote. "In my case, it was all three."
Nashwaty admitted that although "it's not easy to make an ancient story feel fresh," especially with an A-list cast, he noted that Scott "is a visual storyteller, a builder of breathtaking worlds." He gave the film a "B" rating, commenting that before viewers could "get too distracted by Exodus' flaws, Scott reaches back into his bag of pixie dust and whips up another grand illusion."
Exodus: Gods and Kings will open in U.S. theaters to the general public on Dec. 12.