Movie Review: Gods of Egypt
By Ben Gruchow
March 10, 2016
To that I would say, “And…?” The Crow and Dark City are notable and transcendent of their genre for many things, but photorealistic effects aren’t on that list. Those films, and this one, are persuasive evidence in favor of my argument that what matters most to successful effects isn’t the accuracy or seamlessness of their presentation, but the energy they’re conjured with. What we have here is a world and participants that are drawn sometimes with haste and sometimes in moments of colossal detail and beauty, with the dodgy moments having the benefit of serving a temperament that is even-keeled and knows what it wants to do and how it wants to go about doing it.
Gods of Egypt is not transcendent, though, and fails in comparison with his earlier work when it comes to the story and characters, as well as, yes, the problematic ethnic issue of the movie’s cast. Fair is fair; Lionsgate and Proyas have publicly apologized for overlooking what should have been a straightforward decision in preproduction. I do not believe that this would have been a better or worse film for having a cast of the proper nationality and tone; it would have been a better film had the characters (regardless of race) had a little substance to them beyond semi-clever retorts and puns, or half-realized pronouncements of love, hate, victory, and defeat. A day after seeing the film, there are visuals that still stick out vividly in my head, asking to be picked over and examined; I am having no such luck with the dialogue and motivation, which is wispy in the moment and definitively thin in retrospect.
The screenwriters, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, wrote last October’s The Last Witch Hunter; I liked that film, although many understandably didn’t. Here, as before, they establish a world of outré sensibility and goofy, giddy excess, and they believe in their world enough for it to make a fractured kind of sense within its own context. The characters are less successful, and pale in comparison with the director’s unique gift for realizing worlds only a fever-dream or two away from reality.
I cannot in good consciousness recommend the movie, because its only real assets begin and end with the visuals, and because some of the individuals who read this site know where I live. I can almost certainly posit that it’s better than you expect, while being about as bad as you hope, and while giving us some moments of overheated imaginative creativity that really deserve a big screen, like the giant carnivorous sand worms that breathe fire, yet can be brought down by a single look. But I’m getting ahead of myself.