The Ridley Scott biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings was a troubled film long before it ever made it into theaters.
Exodus: Gods and Kings was the subject of a great deal of backlash, as Scott went out of his way to cast all white actors and actresses in the leading roles. At the same time, non-white actors were given mainly non-speaking roles and slaves and criminals.
— ken_homer (@ken_homer) September 20, 2014
Adding to the controversy was the cringe-worthy manner in which Gods and Kings treated actual Egyptian structures. The Sphinx was made to look rather European, perhaps in order to make the lack of ethnic diversity make sense to the viewer.
This was set to be the most hated Bible movie of all time before the audiences and reviewers ever got a chance to see it all. Therefore, the fact that Gods and Kings has been widely panned isn’t much of a surprise.
What may come as a surprise is the fact that “whitewashing” was hardly the only issue reviewers had with Scott’s movie. In actuality, Gods and Kings appeared to have a number of issues that critics couldn’t help but address in their largely negative reviews of the modern Bible epic.
Alison Willmore from Buzzfeed commented on the racial issues, and the fact that the movie was “embarrassingly out of date”.
“‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ updates the story of Moses in every way except the one that would actually be gutsy: race.”
Willmore commended Ridley Scott for offering a more realistic look at the biblical story, but also noted that unlike the Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic, the women featured in the movie were hardly a factor.
“The female characters have less of a place in this testosteroned-out tale of rival siblings than in Cecil B. DeMille’s florid 1956 classic. Hiam Abbass, as Moses’ adoptive mother Bithiah, has a few lines, while Sigourney Weaver, as Ramses’ ruthless mother Tuya, gets only a few more. The tragic Nefertari (Golshifteh Farahani) is barely a presence, though Zipporah (María Valverde), the woman whom Moses marries, registers a little more.”
NPR reviewer Mark Jenkins’ thought the dialogue in Gods and Kings was “clunky,” and felt the overall film lacked a “point of view.”
“Crowd-wowing CGI spectacle and the inevitable if inconsequential 3-D effects make Exodus look like pure product, without any defining vision.”
Perhaps the most scathing review came by way of Vox reviewer Todd VanDerWerff, who declared Exodus: Gods And Kings outright to be one of the worst movies of the year.
“Imagine if the story of Moses was written by a committee consisting of an atheism subreddit, the congregation of a small evangelical Christian church, and a particularly excitable high school model UN team and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to sit through Ridley Scott’s truly terrible ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.'”
In his no-holds-barred take on Exodus, VanDerWerff declared that Scott was in fact trying to make “three different movies,” but rather than sticking to one consistent theme, “it alternates, clumsily, among the three approaches”.
— Vox (@voxdotcom) December 12, 2014
Although Exodus: Gods And Kings was hit with 28 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and more of the audience seemed to dislike than like it, not everyone felt the film to be a waste.
Over at Screen Rant, Ben Kendrick wrote a review which credited Gods and Kings with being a serious attempt at a movie epic and not a well-times “cash grab”.
“Scott has delivered a palatable mix of action, drama, and theological ruminating worthy of casual film viewing.”
In the end, it seemed that Ridley Scott wasted his time going out of his way to cast Christian Bale and other well-known white leads in a movie set in ancient Egypt.
If reviewers panned the movie for reasons having nothing to do with the controversy, it makes one wonder if Scott had updated his thinking about casting, if it could have earned him kudos that would have made the $140 million Exodus: Gods and Kings worth the time and effort.
[Image Credit: MOVIECLIPS Trailers]