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    Gods of Egypt - missing something?

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    mindspike
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    Gods of Egypt - missing something?

    Post  mindspike on April 24th 2016, 10:01 am

    So I finally saw Gods of Egypt at the local second-run theater. I thought it was pretty good, but it seemed to be missing something.

    The pretty good: Paeter says he had trouble connecting with the characters; I found the relationship between Horus and Hathor compelling and appropriately motivating as the driving force behind the movie. The ability of Horus to improve his selfish nature and the inability of Set to improve his own selfish nature is the principle conflict of the film and the driving force behind the story. I liked it; both characters were continually surprising me by seeming to improve and then reverting to type. The action is dramatic and stunning. The visuals are beautiful and iconographic.

    The writing team of Sharpless and Sazama also have The Last Witch Hunter and Dracula Untold (and the upcoming Power Rangers movie) to their name, but nothing else. I haven't seen either of those, but I'm willing to be they're the same kind of "flavored with mythology but we have our own ideas we'd rather develop" formula as in GoE. Director Proyas has a similar scant credit list: The Crow, Dark City, I Robot, and Knowing. Proyas seems obsessed with the quest for identity as the primary focus of his movies. It's served him well in all of these and Gods of Egypt is no exception.

    For all that, Gods of Egypt is missing a vital ingredient - it lacks theological focus. The plot is disjointed at times and that hurts the story significantly, but it's forgivable. The story is basically a showcase for the visuals and Proyas' thematic character development. Thematic focus revolves around the existence of the afterlife and entry into it; this, at least, is consistent with Egyptian mythology for whom the afterlife is either paradise or oblivion.

    Wealth is used consistently throughout the film as a metaphor for selfishness. Five statements are made in this order concerning entry into paradise: all lives are equal if they display virtue (Osiris), self-obsession is the only virtue (Set), all life is equal in the eyes of the creator (Ra), all life is not truly equal (Anubis), and self-sacrifice is the only virtue (Horus).

    1. Osiris displays the common view of both religion and secularism. If you are good, you will earn paradise by virtue of your deeds.

    2. Set displays an honest evolutionary view. This life is all that matters. What follows is only oblivion.

    3. Ra represents the universalist viewpoint. We are all equal. Even though our creator may not approve of our actions, he has no right to deny us entry into paradise. There are things and forces inherent to existence that are greater than the creator of life in Egypt.

    4. Anubis demonstrates reality within the story. Different souls go to different destinations in the afterlife. The criteria for this is never made clear within the film itself.

    5. Horus proclaims that it is our deeds that gain entry into paradise. This final proclamation of the film reveals that Horus is still self-obsessed and has yet to truly grow into his leadership position. It's a not entirely hopeless note upon which to end the film.

    Critically the scales of life are never explained in the exposition - we have to work to interpret them. I'm uncertain if this is intentional. Forcing the viewer to have a pre-existing knowledge of Egyptian mythology and put some effort into literary deconstruction is very much at odds with the spoon-fed popcorn action that comprises the rest of the film. Plus, the Egyptian lore here is only flavoring mixed in with the writers' own vision. We've done the work of literary deconstruction. Proper Egyptian mythology informs us that the scales we see briefly weigh one's place in the order of the universe (the feather) against the virtue of one's character (traditionally the heart). The film uses a slightly different scale, weighing one's virtue (feather) against one's selfishness (wealth). We see this when the old lady weighs her ring and the feather is heavier, while the clearly selfish rich man's wealth outweighs the feather. In addition, when Zaya says that all she brings to the afterlife is her smile, Anubis proclaims, "It is enough."

    I think it's important that the gods of Egypt are not truly divine. They are exceptionally powerful, but they are created beings who are still subject to mortality. Proyas consistently develops themes in his films that question the value of this life and opine that life's real value is where we cannot see it. This film, much like Dark City and The Crow, postulates eternal justice based on the virtue of one's life but provides no shape or form to this virtue and justice. Proyas excels at raising questions; all of his films seem to be obsessively focused on this point. I hope that one day he finds the answers he seems to be seeking.


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    Paeter
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    Re: Gods of Egypt - missing something?

    Post  Paeter on April 26th 2016, 9:31 am

    mindspike wrote:
    5. Horus proclaims that it is our deeds that gain entry into paradise. This final proclamation of the film reveals that Horus is still self-obsessed and has yet to truly grow into his leadership position. It's a not entirely hopeless note upon which to end the film.

    Do you think Proyas was intending to portray Horus as self-obsessed at this point in the movie, or is that your observation as a viewer applying your moral framework? (In the latter case I'd be in the same camp as you.) The "vibe" of the moment seemed to say "good has triumphed and this is the 'right' way to view the afterlife and we should all be happy about it." Do you think that was what Proyas intended us to feel/think at the end? Or do you think he intended a "dark lining" to Horus at the end of the movie?


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    mindspike
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    Re: Gods of Egypt - missing something?

    Post  mindspike on April 26th 2016, 11:04 am

    I think its consistent Proyas other films to end on a "darkish" note, one where the protagonist of the film isn't quite fully matured and still has some growing to do.

    I would have agreed with you that the film is saying "good deeds win the day" except for the behavior of Anubis throughout the film. Anubis and Ra, as the "adult" gods of the living and the dead, set the baseline against which the "child" gods (from Osiris and Set on down) measure their maturity.

    When Anubis escorts Zaya to the underworld, her concern is for the scales of judgment, saying she brings only her smile. Anubis assures her it is sufficient. When Hathor offers to pay the judgment price for Zaya, the only acceptable offering is her self-identity as the goddess of love. Crucially, Hathor does not forsake that identity, but succumbs to it entirely, yielding her link to the land of the living for the sake of love.

    I think the message Proyas is trying to develop is this: understand your nature and become the best version of yourself.

    I'm hoping for a Director's Cut with additional material where the theme is developed more strongly.


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    Re: Gods of Egypt - missing something?

    Post  Paeter on April 28th 2016, 10:27 am

    mindspike wrote:

    I'm hoping for a Director's Cut with additional material where the theme is developed more strongly.

    Dude, I would totally give that a try! I'd love to have my faith restored in Proyas. Ever since he confessed that he didn't know what the end of his own movie meant ("Knowing" director's commentary) he's lost major points with me.


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