As a student of film, GODS OF EGYPT is fascinating… fascinating in a “How in the hell did this get greenlit with a $140 million budget?” kind of way. Let’s set aside the film’s quality for a moment and just wonder at that. The film is not based off of any pre-existing franchise (not even a shitty YA novel), has no headlining stars with box-office draw, a director (Alex Proyas: I, Robot, Dark City) with an uneven track record, and yet SOMEHOW this film got greenlit by a Lion’s Gate subsidiary with the budget of a minor Marvel film and the assumption that they had a replacement franchise for Hunger Games on their hands.
Who is this film for?
It feels like somebody took a number of popular films and video games from the last 30 years, stuck them in a blender, and this came out. The main characters are Bek, who is basically Aladdin without a personality, and the god Horus, who is basically Kratos… if he were mopey, lacked agency, and constantly got his ass kicked. Honestly, it’s like they completely forgot the most important rule of this type of low-brow entertainment. Your hero must either be the toughest of the tough, earnest to a fault, or amusingly entertaining in some other way.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some lowbrow entertainment. Exceptional populist films will blend all of these attributes to entertaining effect. (e.g. Star Wars – Luke is as earnest as they come, Han is the epitome of a badass outlaw, and the droids are hilarious.) Furthermore, I am absolutely on board with building nuanced characters and deepening populist fiction as far as the genre allows. The internal struggles in GODS OF EGYPT could have made for Shakespearean level drama. If they’d paid it any kind of attention, it could have come across at least as well as Marvel’s Thor (2011). But what we get are empty husks of protagonists, neither entertaining or interesting, fighting cartoon wars.
There are some bright spots amidst the computer effects. Elodie Yung absolutely earns her status as the pop-star diva goddess of love, Hathor. The sheer entitled sexuality she oozes in every scene is underlied by a sense of earnest kindness that gives her character a depth the protagonists lack. Chadwick Boseman is constantly amusing as the flamboyant and arrogant god of wisdom, Thoth. He constantly seems disappointed in the protagonists and irritated to even be involved in their struggle, which probably made me relate to him more than I was meant to. (My inner fanboy is beaming at the thought of both Yung and Boseman appearing in Marvel properties in the coming months.) Geoffrey Rush is hilarious as the sun god Ra, who battles the serpent Apep, Devourer of Creation, with all the vigor of an old man screaming at the neighborhood kids to get off his goddamned yard.
And Gerard Butler’s still getting work, and hey… that must be nice for him. He’s allowed to play his villain set as Scottish, so at least you know that at least the film isn’t trying to take itself too seriously. Much has been made of the noticeable lack of color in the cast of God’s of Egypt, but having seen the film, it’s obvious that this was never meant to be mistaken for a literal interpretation of Egypt.
After GODS OF EGYPT’s abysmal box office opening weekend, Director Alex Proyas made news for an utterly immature Facebook Post in which he derided critics. He described those who dislike his work as worthless zombies following pack mentality and “a pack of diseased vultures, pecking at the bones of a dying carcass”. He later went on to blame these critics for “poisoning the well” of innovation “so studios will probably stop making big budget original fantasy movies altogether”.
To this I respond: Mr. Proyas, if you spent as much time building characters worth giving a shit about as you did making excuses for yourself, maybe critics would have enjoyed your movie more. You had a lot of money, and a lot of talent to pull from, but you only managed a mediocre film, at best. People (even critics) don’t go to films hoping to be disappointed. Try not to give them a reason to be, and earn your recommendations.
3D Recommendation: It’s a budget conversion, but it gets the job done. If you’re going to see GODS OF EGYPT, you might as well see it with all the glitz it can offer.