Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gods of Egypt

Someday, if I ever decide to relax my rule about how making lists is stupid, I'm going to write something about "people I will never give up on because I liked that great thing they did years ago", and given that Proyas has two great things - Dark City is amazing and The Crow really deserves to be known for more than the tragedy that defines it - and then fifteen years of stuff that really should be better, including seven years between Knowing (also released in what is generally considered the winter/spring dead zone) and this movie.

I mean, I get it. The Crow had the worst thing that could possible happen on a film set happen when Brandon Lee was killed, and Dark City was difficult, with word quickly circulating that New Line messed with the movie by adding narration, and then when he did get a chance for another Hollywood movie (after going home to Australia and getting to use his musical side in Garage Days), it was pretty clear he wasn't pleased with That Will Smith Robot Movie, and while that got him a lot of credit with science fiction fans, you can see why the business might be wary of him.

Ah, well. It looks like he's writing his next one, which is encouraging. And if you want to see his first great movie, The Crow, with a crowd, it's playing at Apple Cinemas Cambridge in Fresh Pond on Thursday. Hopefully they've got a DCP or a 35mm print, and the audience will be excited for it rather than looking to mock, because it's great.

Gods of Egypt

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 February 2016 in AMC Boston Common #10 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

There is a not-unreasonable rule of thumb that says if you're ever going to see movies in 3D, it should be limited to ones that were shot and/or rendered that way. That's not bad advice, even if the post-conversion technology has improved by leaps and bounds since then and many movies shot flat are made with 3D in mind. Still, I think you'd miss something not seeing Gods of Egypt that way, not because it's done so well, but because there is a sort of wonderful silliness to seeing a movie that depicts the Earth as flat that way, and just going for it where silly things are concerned is this movie's strong suit, if only by default.

It is, after all, a movie that embraces the mythology in a literal enough sense to actually feature Ra (Geoffrey Rush) sailing a ship with the sun around the disc-shaped earth and fighting Apophis at every sunset, jams in a couple of plucky young mortals to serve as the audience's eye into this world, but is at its liveliest when it embraces the gods being basically human but larger than life in every way, especially their faults. It's a bumpy road at times - some of the first introductions to the gods are seeing Osiris (Bryan Brown) and Isis (Rachael Blake) at the ceremony meant to crown their son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) the new god-king of Egypt, and it's stilted; in particular, God of Knowledge Thoth (Chadwick Boseman) gives no hint of just how entertaining he will be when things circle back around to him.

Then Gerard Butler shows up as Set, God of the Desert, and if he's capable of being anything other than Gerard Butler, this isn't the movie where you'll see it. But that feels like just the kind of kick in the pants the movie needs as Set barrels in, kills his brother and then just starts taking everything for himself. It kicks the formality of the movie's exposition to the side and feels more natural than the kind of forced moments of humor where Horus is shown as a drunk while humans Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and Zaya (Courtney Eaton) banter in too-cute fashion. Once things start happening, though, it feels like the rest of the cast starts catching up to Butler, as we get to see the simple traits they're given at the beginning as part of what they do and how they do it - we get to see Horus & Hathor (Elodie Yung) as bickering estranged lovers rather than just be told there's something between them, while Bek & Zaya working toward a goal works in a way that "Zaya admonishes Bek for being an incorrigible thief with a smile" doesn't.

Full review on EFC.

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