Although "Exodus: Gods and Kings" surpassed "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" in its opening weekend at the box office, faith-based audiences were disappointed in the film's lack of Biblical accuracy.
The Ridley Scott-directed biblical epic, starring Christian Bale, opened in 3,503 locations across the U.S. and earned a total of $24.5 million at the box office, according to Variety. "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1" opened last month and has earned over $200 million worldwide, but the Jennifer Lawrence-starring flick lost its top position at the box office following the "Exodus" premiere.
However, "Exodus," which is based on the life of the Biblical prophet Moses, did not fare as well as other religious films recently released. Last year's "Noah" earned $43.7 million in its opening weekend, while "Son of God" raked in $25.6 million. The highest-earning religious film ever, "The Passion of the Christ," earned $83.8 million in its opening weekend.
Faith Driven Consumer's Matthew Faraci explains this disparity, arguing that many religious viewers are disappointed by the film's lack of Biblical integrity, such as casting a young boy to play the voice of God
"[Director] Ridley Scott's failure thus far to deliver the core audience for Exodus speaks to a deep dysfunction within Hollywood, an elitist arrogance that supersedes good business sense. Both [directors] Scott and Aronofsky allowed their personal bias to create a chasm between their films and their natural audiences.
"Consumers vote with their wallet. Conversely, filmmakers who respect the audience and their deeply held beliefs are rewarded. Recent movies like 'Heaven is For Real,' 'Son of God' and 'God's Not Dead' prove the point."
Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, argues that the primary reason the film doesn't resonate with believers is because the true nature of Go--as revealed in the Biblcal account of Exodu--is entirely missing.
"What is missing is the very point of the Exodus in biblical history and theology," he writes."What is missing is the truth that God acted in history in faithfulness to the covenant he had made with Abraham, rescuing Israel from captivity in Egypt. In Ridley Scott's version, God is actually hidden from view, along with his purposes, motivations, and character...Completely missing from the portrayal [of Moses] is any explanation that God has chosen [him] as his instrument for bringing Israel out of captivity and that God was acting in faithfulness to the covenant made with Abraham."
The film received significant criticism from faith-based groups prior to its release as well.
Earlier this year, Bale, who plays the Moses, came under fire for calling the Biblical prophet "schizophrenic" and "one of the most barbaric individuals ever."
"He's a very troubled and tumultuous man who fought greatly against God, against his calling," said Bale, although acknowledging that his own knowledge of the Bible is "lacking."
At the time, Chris Stone of FDC told the Hollywood Reporter, "There's nothing in the biblical history that supports that. It's an indication that there will be a tremendous disconnect between Bale's interpretation and the expectations of the market."
Christian writer Brian Godawa also warned, "It's accurate to portray Moses as an imperfect hero, so Christians won't take issue with that. But to be so extreme as to call him one of the most barbaric people in history, that sounds like he's [Bale] going out of his way to distance himself from the very people you'd think he wants to appeal to.
"It tells me that he's worried about Hollywood peer approval while looking down on the public, because he certainly doesn't want to be associated with the religious or the far right."
Other films at the box office this weekend included Chris Rock's "Top Five" which grossed $7.2 million after its debut in 979 theaters. "Penguins of Madagascar" took home $7.3 million this weekend, while "Big Hero 6" earned $6.1 million.