Friday, February 26, 2016

Gods of Egypt [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (1 Star) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (1/2 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review  

Gods of Egypt [2016] (directed by Alex Proyas, screenplay by Matt Sazamaa and Burk Sharpless).  Sigh, where to start? ;-)

Lets begin by calling this film "Thor, er Horus, goes on Spring Break," for that is what it essentially is:  The film makers here tried to take the formula and even the aesthetics the recent Marvel Comics based mega-hit Thor [2011] and moving it to "ancient Egypt" produced ... a dizzying often painful mess to watch.

Now certainly Hollywood tries this trick all the time.  Movie-making always involves relatively big investment, even more so when special effects are involved.  So Hollywood generally tries to "minimize the risk."  When a studio strikes a "vein of gold" in the otherwise "dark mountain of the collective unconscious," sequels by said studio are sure to follow and then _all the big studios_ (the studio that made the original hit as well its rivals) quickly scramble to come-up with similar films which "tweak the formula just a little bit" until the newly discovered "vein of gold" is exhausted.  So the original Hunger Games [2012] hit produced not only Hunger Games [2013] [2014] [2015] sequels but also stories similar to the "Hunger Games"-like films like Divergent [2015] [2015] [2016], The Giver [2014], The Maze Runner [2014] [2015], The 5th Wave [2016] and so forth ...   

And so it is here: Thor [2011] featured a young, brash, good-looking yet still largely untested (Nordic) God named Thor (played in that film by Chris Hemsworth) whose father, the King of the Nordic Gods, Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins) was unsure if he was really ready to succeed him. Thus Thor needed prove himself worthy of the Role that awaited him.  How?  By proving himself humble, generous and just among "the little people," literally, "PEOPLE ... like us", represented in the film by "a team of Earthly scientists" (played by Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard).   In the midst of this, of course, a jealous / treacherous step-brother named Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) who wanted the throne as well.  So much had to ensue ...

In the case here, "set in ancient Egypt" a young brash, good-looking yet still largely untested (Egyptian) God Horus (played in this film by Danish born actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, an odd choice for an EGYPTIAN GOD, but he "looks a lot like Chris Hemsworth playing Thor ...") is about to be crowned King of the Egyptian Gods by his father Osiris (played by Australian born actor Bryan Brown) when Osiris' jealous / treacherous brother Set (played by Scotish born actor Gerard Butler) crashes the coronation, and ... without getting into a great deal of detail, essentially steals the crown for himself.  Horus must then prove himself worthy of the "Crown of his Father."  How?  By proving himself "nice, generous, just" to "little people" like us ... represented in this case by a wily young thief named Bek (played by Australian born Brenton Thailes) and his lovely "could have been a swimsuit model" girlfriend Zaya (played by Australian born Courtney Eaton).

What are all these Anglo-Nordic type doing playing lead roles in a movie that's supposed to be set in ancient Egypt?  Well, as I said, this film is essentially Thor, er Horus, Goes on Spring Break ;-).

And while, if I were African American, African period, or Egyptian for that matter, I'd be pissed, even the aesthetics of this film fit the "cold, ice / steel" aesthetics of proper to sharp-edged glacier-strewn conceptions of a Nordic mythic landscape.   Instead, this film was supposed to be set in necessarily rounder, earthier "reed-boat, flax and stone" okay also "bejeweled" world of Bronze Age Egypt.

One wonders "what could have been" if the film-makers sought to transpose the aesthetics / feel of Prince of Persia [2010] to this story rather than Thor [2011].  Admittedly, the principal stars of that film were Jake Gyllenhaal (of Dutch ancestry) and English born Gemma Atherton but at least Indian born Ben Kingsley played a prominent role as well as other actors/actresses of Latino / darker complected descent.  Further, the aesthetics in Prince of Persia [2010] were far more authentically Middle Eastern.

Instead, in the current film we have the Nordic Asgard of Thor largely transposed to the banks of the Nile.  And this then produces another problem.  At least in Thor [2011], his icy / steel, sharp edged Nordic "realm" was "on another world."  Here, in the current film, the Egyptian Gods "lived among us" (in the film, they are simply conceived as being _much_ taller than us, but otherwise, living alongside "regular people" (us) who simply serve them).  The result is that the natural and supernatural ("stone and steel") mix _so often together_ that the film _often_ very becomes difficult to follow.

Anyway, I'd honestly like to see a "do-over" here, with the same film produced using _far more_ (not totally but _far more_) darkly complected actors/actresses and using then _far less_ "iron and steel."  There is NO REASON, for instance, why "Grandpa (Sun God) Ra's" (played in the film, once again English born actor Goeffrey Rush) boat could not have been _made of reeds_ like in the Ancient Egyptian conception, instead of something that, once again, looked like "left-over graphics" from Thor [2011].

If this were to be done, perhaps the film would easier to watch and actually serve the audience to teach it something of Egyptian mythology.

Instead, entire film felt like a "giant plastic Inca relic" that one'd "buy" at some street shop in Cancun, while on ...

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