In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
Gods of Egypt is a good movie. Yes, the dialogue is silly. Yes, the story is bonkers. Yes, the CGI looks like it was cooked up on a Sega Dreamcast, but nonetheless, Gods of Egypt is a good movie.
Since its February release, Alex Proyas’ fantasy action flick has become 2016’s Razzie shoo-in. The title of the film has become synonymous with studio cluelessness, and Proyas’ public anger toward critical response certainly didn’t help with further critical response. Add to that the accusations of whitewashing and Gods of Egypt was absolutely doomed to fail. And it did. As of the time of this writing, the box office exceeds the budget by a scant $2 million. Yet despite this perfect storm of bad, Gods of Egypt is actually good. Here’s why:
1. There’s not an ounce of cynicism on it.
For a movie that certainly planned to benefit from the imagery (and one of the stars) of Game of Thrones, the lack of dourness is surprising. Not a single character broods! There’s not one second of brooding in the entire film. If you find me any brooding, I’ll eat my hat. The villains all go big, and do it shamelessly. The heroes are inherently hopeful and have a tendency toward fun and humor as opposed to sadness and – ugh – brooding. Even though the film is goofy as hell, you get the distinct feeling that the actors want to be there. Not even the highest-calibre films manage to pull that off too often. Whether you enjoy the film or not, you get the sense that a vision was purely realized here, even if that vision is totally bananas.
2. The story is gripping in spite of the plot.
The plot is, congruent to every other aspect of the film, bonkers banana farts. But the story, a simple hero’s journey intertwined with some standard adventure tropes, is so basic that it works. It’s a smart move to keep it plain, given all of the ridiculous plot/visual/tone heaped on top of it. When Horus has to make a decision between rescuing a new friend and retrieving his magical eye so that he can grow wings and defeat a space worm, the drama registers. When Hathor removes her demon-corpse bracelet in order to traverse the netherworld and escape Set’s wrath, her decision to do so carries weight. When Ra expresses that his desire to be mortal is eclipsed by the honor of his duties (namely, pulling the sun across the sky and regularly tapping it with his later spear so as to defeat night-beasts), it commands both our respect and sympathy.
It’s all just so durn goofy, but the simplicity of each character arc keeps the film engaging without being bogged down by all of the nutty pieces.
3. The visuals are imaginative.
Low-quality by modern standards? Absolutely. But that doesn’t make the design any less creative. There are some fun visual ideas here. I don’t know if the quality of the CG is resultant of a limited budget, or if the filmmakers truly wished to give it a cartoonish quality, but none of it is jarring or out of place. I’ve seen a ton of movies with objectively superior visuals that don’t manage to feel real. Gods of Egypt doesn’t aim to create reality, which is smart given that none of it is even remotely based in the real world. The way that the visuals are employed evokes Harryhausen’s style, albeit with less soul. It doesn’t have to look real. It has to suit the movie. Gods of Egypt takes place in a hokey world, and the hokey visuals are delightfully suitable.
4. Your expectations are lowered.
I feel bad for the poor soul who expected something even slightly different than what Gods of Egypt delivered. What did it deliver? Exactly what was promised. So rarely does a trailer or poster accurately capture every stylistic nuance of the film being advertised. And even if you misread the marketing materials and were expecting Lord of the Rings, the bad press has likely rounded that out. At this point in time, Gods of Egypt is critic-proof. It can be weird, stupid, or not to your taste, but it can’t be disappointing.
5. It’s a blast to watch, which is entirely the point.
Herein lies the main reason why I’m calling this crazy monstrosity a good movie: it entertains. For whatever reason you have to check out Gods of Egypt, you will be pleased. If you seek a well-paced adventure, a drunken laugh-riot, or if you simply wish to stand back and watch the flames, Gods of Egypt delivers.
If a film pushes you away, confounds you, or offends your sensibilities, it’s easy to call it bad. But if a film, even a strange and messy one, draws you in, evokes a reaction, and successfully passes your time in a pleasing way, it’s a good one. Gods of Egypt burned two hours out of my life effortlessly, and I was smiling, laughing, and gasping the entire time. Is it a great film? Nope, but it’s a damn good movie.