The UnPopular Opinion: Gods of Egypt

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Odds are, you remember when GODS OF EGYPT hit theaters. Granted, you probably didn't see the movie as it was a colossal failure at the box office. Critically maligned, GODS OF EGYPT made headlines due to the tone deaf casting of predominantly white actors to play the dieties of ancient Egypt. While Ridley Scott's EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS faced a similar drubbing in the media, GODS OF EGYPT is a film that was never going to be anything close to an Oscar contender. A pulpy, trashy adventure along the lines of CLASH OF THE TITANS, Alex Proyas' movie is a spectacle of action and over-the-top special effects which makes it exactly the type of movie not to invest to much in. To spend the time calling this movie racist is to overlook the fact that it is about Godzilla-sized gods fighting each other with the Pyramids behind them. GODS OF EGYPT is a ton of fun mainly because there is no reason to take it seriously.

Directed by Alex Proyas (THE CROW, DARK CITY) and written by Buck Sharpless and Matt Sazama (Netflix's Lost in Space, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER), GODS OF EGYPT presents a technicolor epic that fits right in with the string of studio tentpoles that are really big budget B-movies. Like POMPEII, WRATH OF THE TITANS, and HERCULES, these movies do not present an accurate historical portrayal of the world but instead a hyper-stylized one. Where Ridley Scott's biblical epic was rightfully taken to task for not having ethnic actors playing many roles, GODS OF EGYPT makes at least a partial effort to showcase various global actors in prominent roles. While the human characters like Brenton Thwaite's Bek and Courtney Eaton's Zaya are clearly caucasian, the gods themselves are played by everyone from Gerard Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau to Chadwick Boseman and Elodie Yung

The UnPopular Opinion, , Alex Proyas, Alex Proyas, Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush, Courtney Eaton, Chadwick Boseman, Elodie Yung, Gods of Egypt, 2016

Sure, having two non-Caucasian actors is far from showcasing diversity, but GODS OF EGYPT is a film that could never have been made on such a budget if it were cast with predominantly minority actors. Had it been made in post-BLACK PANTHER Hollywood, we may have seen a very different film which likely would have seen Chadwick Boseman taking on a lead role. As much as I would have loved to see that movie, it would have needed a much different screenplay than the one used for this version. GODS OF EGYPT is populated by characters with no real depth or substance who are barely memorable as soon as the movie ends. But, while you are watching the film, you can let yourself fall into the spectacle on screen, much of which is as breezy as the plot. The stakes and narrative arc ultimately do not matter as much as the cinematography and special effects are good enough that you can lose yourself in this rollercoaster ride.

GODS OF EGYPT is so thoroughly unpretentious that it never takes itself too seriously. While Geoffrey Rush and Gerard Butler chew scenery at the height of their abilities, they never forget that the movie they are in is completely silly. Like Liam Neeson shouting "release the Kraken", these actors are clearly playing with the material. When you are going for cheesy and pulpy, the effort is what makes the movie. We aren't talking about Marvel Studios here and this is not Anthony Hopkins portraying Odin, although that is definitely the closest comparison to what we see here. GODS OF EGYPT is not as outright funny as THOR RAGNAROK but it plays with the conventions of the genre and the elements of folklore and mythology in a similar way that lets the audience turn off their common sense and just enjoy the CGI.

While Alex Proyas was maligned from a filmmaking perspective for the failure of GODS OF EGYPT, the director did employ some creative techniques to give us the disparity in size between humans and the gods. Using forced perspective, motion control photography and motion capture to give the film an organic feel that doesn't come across like the green screen monstrosities in other similar films. The $140 million budget, large for producer Summit Entertainment (owned by Lionsgate), is evident on screen with the sheer magnitude of effects work needed to realize the story. From the copies of Thoth to the motion capture used for the god Anubis and the Minotaurs and the Sphinx, the CGI straddles the line between realistic and cartoonish while never becoming overly silly. Granted, this entire movie is silly, but the critical consensus that the FX here are subpar is a bit harsh.

Reunited with KNOWING composer Marco Beltrami and working with CLASH OF THE TITANS cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr, GODS OF EGYPT looks and sounds far better than it has any right to. Alex Proyas delivers a film that failed to do more than break even at the box office and has prevented him from making a movie since. While I am sure Proyas will bounce back to make more films, GODS OF EGYPT should not be a reason to write him off. The failure of this movie is the dialogue. Plain and simple, there is not enough depth to the characters to invest more than a superficial enjoyment in this movie, but that is no reason to not enjoy it at all. Visually stunning and brightly filmed, you can see more action in a single scene of GODS OF EGYPT than in both CLASH and WRATH OF THE TITANS combined. Film has fallen prey to frenetically edited and poorly lit action sequences but this movie showcases everything in such a way that you can truly get into the action and enjoy the scale of the battles and destruction.

The UnPopular Opinion, , Alex Proyas, Alex Proyas, Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush, Courtney Eaton, Chadwick Boseman, Elodie Yung, Gods of Egypt, 2016

It is not that Hollywood is racially insensitive or whitewashing anything, it is just that studios tend to assume that when portraying any race or historical period, the actors should adopt British accents to sound more eloquent and foreign. I mean, they even make movies about French people and give them British accents! This has been the case in movies regardless of genre since the dawn of film. While we are entering an era where audiences want to see more diverse casting choices, movies like GODS OF EGYPT are far from the material anyone would want to see faithfully interpreted. If this were a serious take on the folklore, I would agree with complaints as to who is cast. But, like Matt Damon starring in THE GREAT WALL, sometimes casting choices stick out like a sore thumb and other times it works. Within the schlocky world of GODS OF EGYPT, it works seeing these familiar actors donning eyeliner and gold-plated codpieces and leather kilts while they beat the shit out of CGI monsters and each other. GODS OF EGYPT is a movie that commands no respect and lets you sit back and have brainless fun.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected] or spell it out in the comments below. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

5931 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.