Gods of Egypt (2016)
Director: Alex Proyas
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Courtney Eaton, Brenton Thwaites, Elodie Young, Gerard Butler, Rufus Sewell, Geoffrey Rush
Every once in a while a movie tanks at the box office, when it shouldn’t have. I mean surely, most of the films that get the shaft by audiences usually deserve it, but in the case of Alex Proyas big budget fantasy extravaganza Gods of Egypt, it didn’t. I kick myself in the ass for listening to that first batch of negative reviews that accused the film among many things of “white washing” the cast, which means that a group of people got angry because characters that were Egyptian (and therefore should look Egyptian) where being played by white actors. I don’t really care about that sort of thing; I’m just enjoying a movie here. Weren’t we past the whole skin color thing? Guess not. Anyways, reviewers decided to spew their hatred at this one and well, no one went to see it. This is the kind of film that was badmouthed even before it was released. And so, it only made back 31 million dollars on a 140 million dollar budget, which means it was a gargantuan flop. It’s sad because a box office flop of this magnitude cold spell the end of Alex Proyas career, which means no more big budget films for him. The worst part is that this movie, in my opinion, is an excellent action adventure fantasy extravaganza that deserved to be embraced by audiences.
The story is multi faceted, on the one hand it’s about Horus, the God of Wind, trying to recover his god hood and his kingdom. On the other hand, it’s a story about a young man named Bek, trying to recover the love of his life from the icy grips of death. You see Set, the God of Chaos has taken over the land and rules it with an iron fist. Since this is a full on fantasy film, Set can do things like changing the rules of what happens after you die. Where in the past all you had to do was be a good citizen and work to go to heaven, now in order to earn your way into the afterlife you have to pay! If you don’t have something of value you are sent to hell, but if you got the goods you go to heaven with the Gods. This of course spells certain doom for poor people who have nothing to give to the Gods. Will order be set again? Can Horus learn to fight for the rights of the people? Will the Gods learn to care about humans? Or will they remain self centered and egotistical?
This film was awesome for many reasons, number one, it has a good story. It grabs you from the get go because it pits the despotic ruler vs. the unpredictable rebel trying to fight for his rightful place in the world. Unfortunately, Set the despotic ruler cares nothing for “the little people”; he only cares about power and riches. So it’s that classic class struggle story, the powerful vs. the working class. They had this awesome visual idea for this movie where ‘The Gods’ look slightly bigger than the humans, so it’s like they aren’t gigantic, but they are a few inches bigger than the regular humans, which made for a cool visual. I’m sure it must’ve been hell to film though, this visual effect makes practically every scene in the movie a special effect! And speaking of effects, they are top notch on this show! It's a visual feast, more so for lovers of fantasy and escapism.
Gods of Egypt is one of those movies in which most of the surroundings are computer generated. In this sense Gods of Egypt is like the Star Wars movies, which is normally something that I frown upon. I’ve always resisted “all CGI” movies, where only the actors are real. Sadly, this is the face of the new Fantasy/Science Fiction film. They’ve evolved into this; we might as well accept it. Stop motion, matte paintings and the use of miniatures have all been replaced by computer generated images, which is fine. It’s just another form of art, thought if I had to choose, I’d choose practical old school effects. Call me old fashion but they had more artistry to them if you ask me. I have to admit that this “all CGI” element of this film was the main reason why I didn’t go see it in theaters. Yet I have to admit that like all types of special effects, when done right, they can (and should) blow you away. I have to say that on Gods of Egypt the effects worked extremely well. There’s this show stopping scene with these two giant monster Cobra snakes attacking Horus that was just awesome. Actually, what Gods of Egypt feels the most like is those old Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies, with all the monsters and creatures.
Alex Proyas brought Egypt to life in grand fashion. Gods of Egypt feels like one of those big budget bible movies like Ben Hur (1925) or The Ten Commandments (1956), you know, films with thousands of extras and huge sets, only this time the sets and the extras are mostly digital. Alex Proyas is famous for directing dark moody films like The Crow (1994) and Dark City (1998), so Gods of Egypt is a change of pace for Proyas. This is a huge fantasy, action adventure, which in my opinon Proyas directed with gusto, with an affection for this type of film. If only it hadn’t tanked so spectacularly at the box office…it’s one of those films that didn’t deserve to fail at all, I’m sure it will connect with audiences down the road. I place it among the cream of the crop of new fantasy films like Immortals (2011), 300 (2006), 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) or Brett Ratner’s extremely underrated Hercules (2014). One of the things that Gods of Egypt is being accused of is of being “dumb”, and while I won’t be the first to admit it’s not Shakespeare, I have to say that it does play with its fair share of important themes. I mean, here’s a movie in which the Gods learn to care for the people, they learn the value of humans, of the ones they consider less than them. Here’s a movie where Gods die and tyranny rules the land as the people suffer. Here’s a film where true love conquers even the cold arms of death itself. All these themes, embellished by awesome effects, a quick pace and likable characters, I ask: what’s not like? I say give this one a chance, you probably overlooked it, same as I did.