Monday, April 11, 2016

Gods of Egypt (2016)

Ah, Egyptian mythology. So ripe for big budget fantasy films...and beautifully casual racism. Yeah' we're not going to beat around the bush here. Let's talk about a major problem with this movie and many Hollywood movies featuring Egyptians: they're often portrayed by an overwhelmingly white cast. I'm sorry, but that's really hard to defend. Yet, whenever one of these big budget schlockfests comes out, there are always some people looking to defend it. In my experience, they tend to always be white guys who unironically use the terms "bro" and "brah" or are big fans of old Hollywood.

Although there were at least a few other notable exceptions who defended it.

And yes, that actually did happen. An employee of Lionsgate went onto Facebook and dedicated time and effort into defending the whitewashing that went on in this film, to rather ridiculous level. She made massive leaps in logic to make sense of her argument and even used the excuse that there were a few non-white actors in the film. Now, it's not old Hollywood anymore, folks. We've got a broad spectrum of talented actors of many races, colours, and creeds. There isn't an excuse for casting white people with makeup on to make their skin appear darker. Hell, it only got a pass in the old days because Hollywood was such an overwhelmingly racist place that many actors of other ethnicities didn't think they had any choice. Gone are the days where it should be seen as okay to put a white guy in a movie playing a Mongolian warlord.

Yeah, I know I should review that movie. I'll get to it, don't worry.
The point is, it's 2016 and this shit isn't cool. It never was, honestly, and it's getting worse the longer it goes on. When members of the cast of the movie acknowledge that the whitewashing is happening, you really need to wake up and smell the reality bearing down on you. Of the central cast, two aren't lily white. Chadwick Boseman and Élodie Yung both contribute something a little darker to the mix, but then even Yung often passes for white in many of her roles. Like Keanu Reeves or Pete Wentz, if you didn't look up the background on her, you'd likely be unaware of her ethnic makeup. Even Reeves himself has said that he had issues getting jobs early on because he looked too Asian. Just wow. Keanu Reeves looked too Asian for Hollywood at some point.

Now we know why he was so sad.
But we're not gonna just sit here and talk about Keanu and whitewashing, because that's better left for another movie that was actually a lot better than this one that also suffers from some pretty major problems. Without further bitching about obvious issues, let's delve into this barrel of "ugh". Basic set-up is this: gods live among us, or rather they live among the Egyptians. They look like really big people, bleed gold like Midas pissed in their veins, and are all Animorphs.

Yeah, that's about right.
Our main gods are King Leonidas and Jaime Lannister...alright, they're Set and Horus, but fuck that. I'm calling them Leonidas and Jaime Lannister, because if the movie isn't going to act like it cares about anything, why should I? Oh yeah, I should probably mention the world is flat too. I think that is a thing here, because why not? Egyptians are white and the world is flat. I bet used tampons taste like cherry Pop-Tarts too.

Just remember, that flavouring doesn't add itself.
Osiris, the de-facto king of the Egyptian gods, is looking to pass leadership over to his son, Jaime Lannister. Leonidas gets jealous of this and decides that he's going to outdo ol' Loki, killing his brother and ripping out his nephew's eyes. Yes, this time Jaime isn't the Kingslayer. How quaint. There is a brief fight scene before the eye removal, but we all know where it's going because this is a movie that really only exists for the movie trailers. Jaime's banished, Leonidas is king of shit mountain, and some thief and his girlfriend got to watch this all happen from the audience. I'm sure they won't be important at...yeah, they're main characters. In actuality, said thief is the main character, despite this being a movie about gods literally lording over mankind.

And they don't stand out at all in crowd scenes either! Nope. Why would they? They're totally Egyptians!
A year later, we see Leonidas has married Elektra because he's a huge fan of Netflix's Daredevil series and he's had a tower erected to represent his father's giant penis, because Spartans always seem to have daddy issues. His dad is that one guy who looked remarkably like Vincent Price in that remake of a Vincent Price film. You know, the one about a haunted house that was actually a mental hospital? I think it had some other people in it and it only vaguely resembled the original movie. Man, what's that guy's name?

Eh, it'll come to me. There's no reason to get in a Geoffrey Rush.
Bek and Zaya (our thief and thief's girlfriend) decide that, as the only other white people, they need to do something to save all these brown people. They break into the library of that dickhead from A Knight's Tale and steal some plans, which Bek will then turn around to use for stealing one of Jaime Lannister's eyes from Leonidas' treasure trove. Rufus Sewell ain't having it though, because he works for the big bad and Dark City was a much better movie to be remembered for, dammit! So, Zaya dies, and Bek now faces a future of learning to adjust to sleeping with people who aren't as white as he is. Since that won't fly, he goes with returning Jaime's eye to him in exchange for him bringing Zaya back from the dead. Jaime can't actually do that, but he lies because who cares.

Gods don't care about your white people problems. They have their own white people problems.
Our heroes decide to go seek out Captain Barbossa, father of Leonidas, because having only one eye means Jaime can't get his Animorph on to go whammy his uncle. Grandpa is pretty busy though and is above all their bullshit. He's up in the sky fighting Apophis so the whole world isn't eaten like a box of Fiddle Faddle in a room full of stoners. That's a bit more important than dead girlfriends and family pissing contests over who is more manly and has more eyeballs. They take some magic water from his ship though, because Leonidas is cousins with the Wicked Witch and has a severe water allergy. Okay, not really. They can douse the flames at his shrine and it will weaken him. Fair enough. Meanwhile, Leonidas has decided to go play a scavenger hunt by stealing the abilities of other gods, because apparently the whole being king by killing his brother isn't enough to make the audience know he's the bad guy. At least it explains how a snake god has wings though. I was wondering how that was going to come about, honestly.

Who's the real thief here, Leonidas? The white guy with the dead girlfriend or the man who rips parts off of other gods?
Things happen that barely matter, eventually leading the heroes go to hang with Thoth, who may be the biggest surprise of the movie. Why do I say that? Because he's an Egyptian god who is played by someone that would likely get threatened if he were to approach certain places in the state of Mississippi. Yes, an actual black man playing a god from a place located in Africa. How novel! So, he joins them to go help out with all the traps and whatnot that Leonidas has left for them. Also, a big CGI sphinx shows up and does its whole thing, and it is what it is. Jaime Lannister admits to Bek that he isn't just into incest and king-slaying, but also being an awful liar who lies to get what he wants. Our hero. Leonidas...and I am not joking here...destroys the water they had and runs off with Thoth's brain. I'm going to let that sink in.

Seriously, I'm so just gone right now that I just picked this screenshot because it looks amusing. Be amused, please.
Leonidas then goes to visit daddy and to tell him about the giant dick tower and show off all of his cool stolen stuff. His dad basically says "that's nice" and then tells him that he wants him to take his place and protect the world from the giant fucking monster that he's been protecting everyone from for all this time, so he's got no real use for a dick tower. He doesn't take it well, deciding the best way to deal with the complex issues regarding his father is to simply toss him off the ship and let the giant monster eat everything so he can start over. I mean, I don't know why the monster wouldn't then turn around and eat him too, but whatever.

"My plans are as brilliant as my career is! Dracula 2000 was a great movie!"
Oh yeah, and Jaime's ex, Elektra? Yeah she gives herself up to buy Zaya's soul some time before it is judged. She got toted off by some demons or something. Homestretch time! The heroes make up, resolve to go kick ass, and Jaime gets his other eye back so he can turn into Birdman again. He fucks his uncle, gives gramps back his magic staff, and the big monster is chased off again before it can eat Discworld. In all the commotion, Bek got killed, but grandpa decides to be cool and brings the thief and his girlfriend back to life. All the gods get their pieces back without needing a single surgeon, and Jaime Lannister becomes king with his little pet human buddy as his new advisor. Oh, and he goes to get his ex out of Egyptian Hell, because Elektra is pretty awesome.

Most of the time...Elektra is cool most of the time...when Jennifer Garner is nowhere near her...
So...that movie was terrible. I get that it was trying to give us a big high fantasy version of Egypt and all, but then why not just set it in a mystical realm where the gods live apart from humans? Honestly, the humans didn't need to be characters here, as there are plenty of gods who could fill the roles Bek and Zaya have. Ultimately they just feel like they're there as token characters rather than being important to the overall concept. And yeah, I didn't take the movie seriously at all during the review, you caught me. That's probably because the movie is so by the numbers and frankly kind of boring. It's not as epic as it wants to be, relies too heavily on CGI, is full of bad writing that feels like it can't really get a proper footing, and it doesn't do anything to make it stand out in the crowd. It just feels like a SyFy movie with a massive budget, when you get right down to it, and that's actually pretty heartbreaking.

Heartbreaker you got the best of me but I just keep on comin' back incessantly. Oh, why did you have to run your game on me...I should have known right from the start you'd go & break my heart.
Why do I say that? Because this is a movie from Alex Proyas, the man who gave us Dark City, The Crow, and Garage Days. Hell, I, Robot wasn't even that bad and still felt like a movie from him. But this? This feels like a studio executive's idea of what an Alex Proyas film would look like. It's not dark or moody, it's not atmospheric, it's just a cluttered mess full of a whitewashed cast of characters and a story that feels weaker than the Clash of the Titans remake. Hell, I'd rather watch that movie again than sit through this a third time, because at least I kind of liked the weird creepy djinn dude who joined them.

Fuck it, give me a movie about that guy! It's gotta be a better sit than this was.
Ultimately, this movie feels like a massive waste of time and feels like a massive step down for a great filmmaker. Knowing wasn't that great either, but it was leagues above this movie. Had the film kept up the tone in the opening, it might've been salvageable on some level, but as it is it's nothing more than a wart on the ass of Alex Proyas' career. I cannot recommend when there are so many much better fantasy epic films out there that succeed  where this one completely fails. So, until Proyas puts Rufus Sewell in another movie that's actually worth a damn, I'll be here hoping this thing gets forgotten rather quickly. Later days, bleeders.

Sure, give us a sphinx but not one single spooky cat tunnel. I hope Bast pisses on your carpet.

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