12. Gods of Egypt

Who doesn’t love a film surrounded by controversy, huh?  Well, supposedly lots of people.  And I can’t discuss Gods of Egypt without at least touching on it.

Audiences and film pundits alike piled onto Gods of Egypt before it was even released, attacking director Alex Proyas and the casting department for casting (in their eyes) too many white people for a movie that takes place in Egypt.  To their credit, Proyas and company admitted fault and suggested they would remember that perceived mistake on future projects.

The professional critics then savaged the film upon its release, as it sits at 13% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Proyas somewhat viciously fired back at the critics, essentially accusing them of making up their minds before they ever saw the film and contributing to the modern trend of hip negativity in an effort to keep themselves from being singled out and attacked for liking a film that they didn’t think they were supposed to like.

Honestly, Proyas is right about that trend.  If critics seem to nearly-unanimously love a movie, it’s typically a good sign.  But if they all seem to hate one, I’ve learned to take that with a grain of salt.  I truly believe that many critics are embarrassed to admit that they like certain movies.  General audiences are the same.  Ask someone what they think about Titanic or Avatar.  They’ll probably say they hate it.  But, in reality, that’s likely just posturing.

But, I’ve never subscribed to that approach.  I try to objectively see the good and not-so-good in every film I watch.  And I’m not getting into the casting stuff.  Nope.  Audiences complain when a character’s race is changed and they complain when it isn’t.  At this point, audiences have lost any credibility and their complaints deserve to fall of deaf ears.  So, having said all of that, on what side of the fence do I sit with regards to Gods of Egypt?

My anticipation for this one has wavered. The initial trailer had me pumped.  The reviews dampened my enthusiasm.  So, I sat down (in a theater all to myself.  Yikes!) with trepidation.

I walked out glad that I took the chance.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Egyptian tales.  I’m not sure why or where that comes from.  But I love the mixture of human, god, and beast, the architecture, the pageantry, the elegance, the scope, the magic, the tongues, and the power that the time and place always seems to wield.  Gods of Egypt supplies all of that in copious quantities.

The action set pieces are a blast and generally inventive and creative – particularly when some sort of creature is involved.  The more traditional human combat feels a little standard but not subpar, in any way.  Proyas’s top – and maybe sole – priority is clearly to entertain and here he succeeds with little complaint from me.

The entire film is a treat for the eyes. Whether it be special effects, the settings, the colors, or the human form that catches your attention, there’s plenty here to feast on.  It’s the most beautiful film I’ve seen in some time, stealing that accolade from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  My screen was a little dark so I’m anxious to check this out on 3D blu-ray (which I’m going to buy) and see it in all of its colorful glory.

The film’s single greatest asset is unquestionably (and ironically) the cast.  Every single one of the principle cast – god and human, alike – injects their character with a charm and accessibility that becomes the primary source of fun for the majority of the run time.  Watching them interact is never anything short of a joy and they all manage to succeed at this singular task by using their own individual and unique talents and turns.  Everyone manages to stand out on their own while elevating the film through a united team effort (and now I’m extremely excited to see Elodie Yung as Elektra in the second season of Daredevil in a couple of weeks).  It was remarkable to watch and a huge credit to them all.

The humor doesn’t always land in the form of actual laughs (a few chuckles) but it does add to the likability of the cast, even when it isn’t all that funny.  An interesting dichotomy.

Marco Beltrami’s score is mostly grand and sweeping but I found it intrusive during the lighter moments, as if it wants to tell the audience what to feel rather than just allowing them to be in the moment.

There are also too many last-second, coincidentally-timed saves.  These types of moments have become a hallmark of the action/adventure film but that doesn’t keep me from wishing that more filmmakers would find a way around them while still maintaining the drama that they wish to preserve.

My biggest issue comes at the climax.  The camaraderie among our group of protagonists is practically sacrificed to Ra, himself, as the group is eventually fractured due to various circumstances.  As a result, what serves as the heart of the film – the team dynamic – vanishes and we are left with a much more standard, cookie-cutter ending to a film that has up to that point felt a little off-the-beaten-path.

After seeing the on-screen chemistry among the cast, I would have wanted to completely re-write and re-cut the ending to make it more of a concerted, team effort.  After all, they all had a horse in the race and it wasn’t just Horus’s battle.  Then again, that would cost more money and the film cost $140 million as it is.  And the studio is getting practically none of that back.  Is there an alternate universe where someone decided to make those changes, critics loved it, and the film made a lot of money and a huge profit?  Yes.  But this isn’t that universe and we can never know if that would have been the result of that decision in the universe in which we exist.  So, speculating does no good.

With that change at the finale, I would have loved the movie from beginning to end, despite its other flaws that I alluded to.  As it is, I loved the first 75% of it and liked the final 25%.  And I do think the critics are largely guilty of that which Proyas is accusing them.  Gods of Egypt is one of those films whose existence is solely for the purpose of entertainment, and wholly entertained I was.  I regret the beating that this one is taking because from my perspective, it’s completely undeserved.  I hope Proyas and company can pick themselves up and be proud of what they did, even if it goes over the heads of others.  In the meantime, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the blu-ray.

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