Gods of Egypt (Alex Proyas, US, 2016)

Gods of Egypt

On the evidence of Gods of Egypt, Gerald Butler might have found his calling playing villains. He’s terrific and so is the movie. It’s like the very best ‘Sword and Sandal’ films of the 50s — lots of gorgeous semi-naked people cursing fate and doing graceful things with their bodies they call ‘combat’ –but with more interesting and sophisticated visuals. The film shows us Gods twice the size of mortals in the same frame throughout. It’s visually extraordinary i.e. like he major spectacular moments of films like Ant-Man but treated nonchalantly, not really drawn attention to, just part of this magical world conjured up by Alex Proyas. It’s a look that becomes gobsmacking upon reflection and in retrospect — and that’s just one aspect of this gloriously imaginative film. Some of the acting, however, is still at moments bad enough to bring out a camp response. So, all in all, rather perfect.


I was surprised to see that the reviews have been so bad. It seems performances are all professional critics pay attention and performances are a problem in Gods of Egypt . However, Butler has never been better. Rufus Sewell, who was so memorable in Proyas’ classic Dark City is still looking very handsome and is very good as a cold and conniving architect. Some have expressed surprise he’s never quite become a star but he’s had lots of chances. People can’t seem to identify with him, one of the many reasons he’s so effective in this. There are a few duff performances, but not offensively so (Nicolaj Coster-Waldeau is no different in Game of Thrones and no one seems to mind; and except for the final speech he makes at the end, I thought he was fine); and I think the story is an interesting one (the origin of the kings of Egypt), well told, and timely (it’s partly about the need of the 1% to listen to the 99%).

I think Proyas is a master at constructing arresting and meaningful visuals. The film is tons of fun, with superb set-pieces, action that genuinely engages and thrills and is visually pretty breathtaking at times. I know there’s been a brouhaha about the casting. But no one’s wearing blackface; how exactly were Egyptian Gods supposed to look like at the Dawn of Creation? And even if we admit that there’s a tinge of racism to the casting of this film, why is this more the case here than in any other big budget spectacle film? Gods of Egypt will undoubtedly become a staple of television schedules for year to come but there may not be too many opportunities to see it in its full glory. If you can, go for the full IMAX 3-D treatment. It’s worth it.


José Arroyo

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