'Exodus: Gods and Kings': What the Critics Are Saying

Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Ben Mendolsohn, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul and Sigourney Weaver star in Ridley Scott's Biblical epic

Exodus: Gods and Kings, out Friday, stars Christian Bale as Moses in the Biblical epic, opposite Joel Edgerton as his brother and ruler. Also starring John Turturro, Ben Mendolsohn, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul and Sigourney Weaver, Ridley Scott's adaptation of the Israelites' journey out of Egypt is updated with 3D technology.

Still, Exodus won't match the other big-budget Biblical epic this year, Darren Aronofsky's Noah. Prerelease tracking suggests it may open in the $25 million to $30 million range, behind the $43.7 million debut of Noah.

Read more Christian Bale Defends 'Exodus' Casting, A New Kind of Moses and Epic Special Effects

See what top critics are saying about Exodus: Gods and Kings:

The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Farber summarizes, "No movie with such a limp ending can be fully satisfying, and the beginning also falters. But the long middle section is a rousing good show." The filial rivalry in the first half of the film "cribs rather shamelessly from Gladiator," the screenplay's four writers "haven’t been able to craft an elegant narrative from the biblical text, "the dialogue is often cringe-worthy" and the conclusion of the creation of the Ten Commandments here is "the worst kind of anticlimax." And of the cast, "Bale garbles a few too many of his lines, but he has an imposing physical presence. Edgerton is competent, but we miss the hammy exuberance of DeMille’s Ramses, Yul Brynner. Mendelsohn, however, has fun with the role of the sniveling, treacherous viceroy who exposes Moses’ true heritage. Kingsley adds gravitas as the elderly Jewish leader, but most of the other actors are stranded with far too little to do. Weaver is completely wasted as Ramses’ conniving mother, and Breaking Bad’s Paul barely registers in the underwritten role of Joshua."

However, "the film hits its peak in the sequence recounting the 10 plagues," and "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." And God's appearance to Moses as a fierce child "may offend some devout viewers, [but] it’s actually far more interesting than the booming offscreen voice that Cecil B. DeMille used in his version of the story. This divine child seems angry and vengeful rather than a benign Buddha figure."

Read more From 'Noah' to 'Son of God,' 2014 Is Jam-Packed With Bible-Based Movies

The New York Times' A. O. Scott notes that Exodus is "crowded with well-known actors" with "strange, geographically and historically preposterous accents." In the film, "Scott confuses excessive scale with authentic grandeur, and while some of the battle scenes have a rousing, kinetic sweep, there are far too many slow aerial surveys of Memphis, the Egyptian capital, a city bristling with columns and other priapic monuments." Still "Scott is a sinewy storyteller and a connoisseur of big effects. He turns the 10 plagues into a science-fiction apocalypse and stages the climactic pursuit of the Hebrews by the Egyptian army with the thundering precision of a cavalry battle in a John Ford western. (The parting of the Red Sea, unfortunately, is a digital washout.)"

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips gives it two-and-a-half stars. "Scott's sensibilities lean old-school, and he has sense enough to keep everybody on screen in the same movie, working hard and earnestly and with a seriousness of purpose. And now and then, some wit." The plagues "look good; they look right, and — in early 21st century epic moviemaking terms — these are plausibly plausible plagues. There's a reasonable explanation for all of them here, which helps. Momentous conversations periodically grind any retelling of the Moses story to a halt, but Scott keeps his head down, plows through and then gets out of the way while visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang and his slave army take it on home."

The Boston Globe's Ty Burr says Exodus "is brawny and confident, moving majestically through the stages of the enslaved Israelites’ escape from Egyptian bondage. It has a suitably buff yet patriarchal star, Christian (oh, the irony) Bale. It has immense 3-D vistas, pyramids galore, all seven plagues plus a few thrown in for free, and a CGI parting of the Red Sea that makes the one in DeMille’s The Ten Commandments look like something your kid could do on a Mac. It’s a good, solid multiplex barnstormer, and all that’s missing is the juice and the pulp of a story that’s been around 3,000 years for a reason." Therefore, in contrast to DeMille's film, Scott’s Exodus is dutiful, deeply earnest, and more than a little dull.

Read more 'Exodus': How Ridley Scott Chose His 11-Year-Old Voice of God

Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan explains that Scott "has turned the spectacle of ancient Egypt into the film's most plausible reason for being. Making extensive use of computer-generated imagery as well as 3-D (which, frankly, takes some getting used to), Exodus is heavily into pharaonic color and pageantry, giving us charging chariots, seething crowds, warring armies, the whole nine yards, often viewed from a god's eye overhead perspective. ... The dramatic side of "Exodus" alternates between being completely solemn and unintentionally silly."