Movies

Ridley Scott's 2014 Box Office Disaster Becomes A Netflix Hit

Ridley Scott's 2014 Box Office Disaster Becomes A Netflix Hit
Image credit: Legion-Media

The panned movie with Christian Bale gained unexpected momentum in the first week of January 2024.

Summary

  • For all of Ridley Scott's fame, his filmography is littered with examples of failure.
  • One of them is the 2014 biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings.
  • The film is one of the most criticized in Scott's track record, but that didn't stop it from rising to the top of Netflix 's global rankings.

Though most of Ridley Scott's films are instant hits, garnering mind-boggling budgets and the world's most prestigious awards, the filmmaker's track record is also full of highly disappointing (or simply confusing) projects, especially in the last decade. As such, 2017 saw the release of Alien: Covenant, which was by no means the most unsuccessful take on the famous space horror franchise, and 2023 was marked by another Scott failure, as critics and audiences alike scolded Napoleon with Joaquin Phoenix for its lazy script and absolute unwillingness to work with historical fact.

Speaking specifically of Ridley Scott's period films, they've never been known for historical accuracy, emphasizing personal stories of fictional prototypes of real people and epic action scenes full of gorgeous VFX. While this worked spectacularly with 2000's Gladiator, the director's other attempt at something more ambitious but also more 'authentic', 2014's biblical adventure drama Exodus: Gods and Kings, ironically turned out to be one of the most underperforming of Scott's career. But that didn't stop it from being rediscovered in 2024, and for all its flaws, it topped Netflix's global and regional charts in January.

A Biblical Epic That Turned Out to Be Too Problematic

The problems are two: a failed attempt to adapt the biblical story into a more realistic historical setting, and the completely shameless whitewashing that was the main reason for the movie's failure. Regarding the first point, Scott has never hidden his agnostic views, and the attempt to present the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt led by Moses as a more secular, gritty story (despite the presence of angels and God) proved to be uninteresting and exploitative, offending many believers.

As for whitewashing, a scandal erupted even before the film's release over the casting of white actors as both the main and supporting Hebrew and Egyptian characters: Moses was played by Christian Bale and Ramses 2 by Joel Edgerton. Faced with criticism, Scott tried to justify that the film would not have been able to attract such a large budget if people of color had been cast, but how convincing is this statement?

Some Facts and Figures About the Movie

As a result, even Napoleon can't compare to the general dislike of Exodus: on Rotten Tomatoes, it has a score of only 31% from critics and 35% from audiences.

Still, you can't say it was an absolute commercial failure. Yes, with an insane budget of $140-200 million, it earned $268.2 million at the worldwide box office, which was not even the break-even point. Nevertheless, the box office is not small, which suggests that the movie had its own audience: it's just that for many people, the idea of referencing the 1956 epic drama The Ten Commandments was unoriginal and unconvincing, which was only exacerbated by criticism of the cast.

Despite All the Criticism, the Film Has Topped Netflix

Streaming services really do bring some projects back from the dead, or at least from the brink of oblivion. For example, Exodus: Gods and Kings was one of the top discoveries for Netflix subscribers in the first week of January 2024. According to Netflix's Global Top 10 from January 1-7, Exodus broke through to the 4th place among all English-language films. Notably, it entered the Top 10 in Brazil, Mexico and India during the week, and this trend continued in the second week, January 8-14.

All of this suggests that no matter how problematic Ridley Scott's 2014 film may be, audiences love his epic projects and are willing to spend their leisure time on them, even during the holidays.