Gods of Egypt (2016)

For a long time now the internet has been a halcyon refuge for those steadfast in the belief that opinions can be equated with facts. Prior to the actual release of Gods of Egypt the film was subjected to the fervor whipped up by the fact that the cast was almost entirely white, and before you could say CGI sphinx most had written off GoE as a waste of time. In what may have been a heartfelt apology or one driven entirely by a marketing scramble to save face, director Alex Proyas publicly stated that they dropped the ball on the whole diversity thing. #EgyptSoWhite persevered as if Proyas had stayed silent because, hey, it’s the internet. No well-meaning statement is going to stopper a good ol’ fashioned media frenzy.

After GoE came out, though, the film was subjected to another kind of criticism, this time whipped up by the notion that the movie was actually really bad. Ah, the internet. Proyas responded, as Proyas seems wont to do. Here is his post from his Facebook in near-entirety, edited only slightly for length:

Than reading reviews of my own movies. I usually try to avoid the experience – but this one takes the cake. Often, to my great amusement, a critic will mention my past films in glowing terms, when at the time those same films were savaged, as if to highlight the critic’s flawed belief of my descent into mediocrity. You see, my dear fellow FBookers, I have rarely gotten great reviews… on any of my movies, apart from those by reviewers who think for themselves and make up their own opinions. Sadly those type of reviewers are nearly all dead. Good reviews often come many years after the movie has opened. I guess I have the knack of rubbing reviewers the wrong way – always have. This time of course they have bigger axes to grind – they can rip into my movie while trying to make their mainly pale asses look so politically correct by screaming “white-wash!!!” like the deranged idiots they all are. They fail to understand, or chose to pretend to not understand what this movie is, so as to serve some bizarre consensus of opinion which has nothing to do with the movie at all. That’s ok, this modern age of texting will probably make them go the way of the dinosaur or the newspaper shortly – don’t movie-goers text their friends with what they thought of a movie? Seems most critics spend their time trying to work out what most people will want to hear. How do you do that? Why these days it is so easy… just surf the net to read other reviews or what bloggers are saying – no matter how misguided an opinion of a movie might be before it actually comes out. Lock a critic in a room with a movie no one has even seen and they will not know what to make of it. Because contrary to what a critic should probably be they have no personal taste or opinion, because they are basing their views on the status quo. None of them are brave enough to say “well I like it” if it goes against consensus. Therefore they are less than worthless. Now that anyone can post their opinion about anything from a movie to a pair of shoes to a hamburger, what value do they have – nothing. Roger Ebert wasn’t bad… Now we have a pack of diseased vultures pecking at the bones of a dying carcass. Trying to peck to the rhythm of the consensus. I applaud any film-goer who values their own opinion enough to not base it on what the pack-mentality say is good or bad.

If you read that entire thing, then welcome to what must be a fairly exclusive club. Certainly there’s a solid point somewhere in there about the effects of media, public scrutiny, fame, celebrity, and cognitive bias as it pertains to film and film critics, and if Birdman wasn’t already a thing Proyas doubtless would have addressed that rather than, say, warring Egyptian Transformer Gods. He’s right in that I did not watch Gods of Egypt in a locked room, in that I had prior knowledge of the fervor of #EgyptSoWhite, in that I was not exactly expecting Lawrence of Arabia. By his logic, that alone is enough to permanently turn me against his latest work of art, another critical lemming jumping at any opportunity to drown my true opinions.

Not so, Mr. Proyas! It gives me immense pride and pleasure to welcome you wholeheartedly to the internet’s only positive review of Gods of Egypt. What follows are my true opinions. This movie is really good. Isn’t it evident from Proyas’s actual movie Facebook post that we’re dealing with a masterpiece here? You will be happy to note, Mr. Proyas, that for the purposes of this review I couldn’t care less if the entire cast were Egyptian-born. Or actual gods.

The writing is the centerpiece of Gods of Egypt, the meticulously constructed framework upon which the gloriousness of the age-old battle between Set (Gerard Butler) and Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is built. We have Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless to thank for that, the brilliant writing duo behind Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter, and their latest effort will not disappoint their hardcore fans. In fact — dare I say it — Gods of Egypt might even be better than Dracula Untold or The Last Witch Hunter. There are just more memorable-lines-per-square-scene, and the way these lines fall exactly on the beats you expect is the comforting mark of a truly impressive script. “Where do you even get that many scorpions?” a character asks as he hovers above a pit full of like 2,000 scorpions. Indeed, we ask ourselves: where? Where?

And who can forget the intricate horn-blowing scene? Butler’s Set strides across the throne platform to present a gift to his nephew Horus: a beautiful diamond-encrusted horn that is thoughtfully small enough to hold between two fingers. Let Gimli handle the unwieldy horns, and let lesser fantasies like Lord of the Rings leave the blowing of said horn as mere plot point; in Gods of Egypt the horn subtly symbolizes the rise and fall of a once-great nation, which can be interpreted as either Egypt or, for Proyas, Hollywood. The dialogue in this scene absolutely crackles, Horus striding center stage and gazing at the horn, at his destiny. Set, meaningfully, yells at him to “go on!”, at which point Horus lifts the horn above his head to the teeming crowd below and utters the best line of the film: “From Set!” The crowd goes nuts, as does the audience in the theater watching Gods of Egypt. This horn is indeed from Set. Horus then proceeds to put forth a single respectful toot on his little horn, bringing the exhausting tour-de-force scene to a close.

Nimble as the writing may be, it’s Proyas’s direction that really makes Gods of Egypt into the best f*cking movie you have ever seen. In his FB note he laments those who consider his latest films evidence to support the “flawed belief of my descent into mediocrity”. Proyas got his start with The Crow and Dark City and recently has made his name helming Will Smith’s I, Robot and Nicolas Cage’s Knowing. Remember, dear reader, that this isn’t your typical follow-the-crowd review you’re reading. Proyas, you think you have a knack for rubbing reviewers the wrong way? Nay. You rubbed me just right. In fact, in my true opinion — can’t believe I’m actually writing this! — Gods of Egypt is somehow even better than Knowing. That’s right. Proyas isn’t descending; he’s following a beautiful cinematic trajectory that serves as a commentary on everything from robots to shape-shifting pale-skinned Egyptians. Even better than Knowing.

It’s a shame that people aren’t following their true opinions and saying they like Gods of Egypt, and it’s a shame that Proyas is forced to spend his time on Facebook and locking critics in rooms when he very obviously would much rather be spending the time creating films that are undeniably well-made. Fellow reviewers, I beg you to join the “reviewers who think for themselves and make up their own opinions” and simply go ahead and like Gods of Egypt. Proyas is correct: if you are forming your own opinion then you must like Gods of Egypt. Besides, if you’re just following everyone else for click-bait, then aren’t you defeating yourself instantly? Search engine optimization comes from going against the crowd, so that’s all the more reason to get behind Gods of Egypt and just admit that you loved every second.

Above all, the originality of this tale is what sets it apart. From the get-go we’re immersed in a brand new world, meeting a roguish young thief with flowing hair and leather straps on his arms; his true love, the dark-haired girl who barely fits into the green dress she’s wearing, will be set upon by Set, setting the stage for a unique conflict. Right when you start to get comfortable Gods of Egypt whisks you away to an entirely different setting, where we meet a roguish young god with flowing hair and leather straps on his arms; his true love, the dark-haried girl who barely fits into the green dress she’s wearing, will be set upon by Set, setting the stage for a unique conflict. From the Stargate portal to the Clash of the Titans costuming to the Percy Jackson-style characterization to Gerard Butler’s badass xenomorph hat, the freshness blinding you from every halogen corner of CGypt makes for a true masterpiece.

That’s my true opinion. Really. Promise. That’s as true a story as Fargo. A little truer, even. Gods of Egypt is the best movie since John Carter. Film critics, I beseech you! With a little hard work we can return the internet to its rightful state, a place where everything you read is true and also conveniently flattering.

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