Back to IndieWire

‘Gods of Egypt’ Is #MoviesSoWhite, But Not So Bad

'Gods of Egypt' Is #MoviesSoWhite, But Not So Bad

Gods of Egypt” was pre-condemned after it became the clear that the movie’s versions of Egyptians, divine and mortal alike, were almost universally played by white actors: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush, Rufus Sewell, Courtney Eaton, Abbey Lee and Brendon Thwaites, with only Chadwick Boseman and French-Cambodian actress Elodie Yung broadening its palette. And indeed, blogger and poet Scott Woods, who caught the film at a preview screening last night, immediately condemned it as “the most racist film ever“: 

“‘Gods of Egypt’ is the most racist film in the last one hundred years. It is the most diabolically conceived, politically incorrect, and unapologetically racist film since ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (the 1915 white one, not the 2016 black one, and how cool is it that we have to clarify that now?). It is more racist than ‘Song of the South’ and ‘Soul Man,’ which is no small feat. It is more racist than ‘Mississippi Burning,’ ‘The Revenant,’ ‘The Help’ and ‘Dragonball Evolution.’ It is more racist than the eye-rolling ‘Bringing Down the House’ and ‘The Last Samurai.’ It manages to somehow be more racist than ‘Blended’ and ‘Dances With Wolves.’ It is more racist than ‘Dangerous Minds’ and its didn’t-bring-shit-to-the-party cousin, ‘Freedom Writers.’ It is magically more racist than ‘The Green Mile.’ It has unseated my standing favorite, ‘The Lone Ranger,’ for most racist movie, and I thought Johnny Depp’s Tonto was going to get us to at least 2020.”

But while critics roundly condemn — or at least pause to disapprovingly note — the movie’s whitewashing, many of them seem to enjoyed the movie in spite of themselves. “Gods of Egypt” isn’t good, it would seem, but it’s knowingly bad in a way that brings it close to being an instant cult classic: The one critic who compares it to “Jupiter Ascending” doesn’t mean it as a compliment, but others might see it that way. 

Reviews of “Gods of Egypt”

Justin Chang, Variety

This is by any measure a dreadful movie, a chintzy, CG-encrusted eyesore that oozes stupidity and self-indulgence from every pore. Yet damned if Proyas doesn’t put it all out there with a lunatic conviction you can’t help but admire, immediately earning this Lionsgate release a place in the 2016 pantheon of gloriously watchable follies. Coming off “I, Robot” and “Knowing,” Proyas hasn’t exactly been in his element for a while, but every so often the elaborate kitsch and clutter of his visual design clears away for the sort of striking effect that reminds you of the impassioned fantasist who gave us “The Crow” and “Dark City” — a small sandstorm that becomes a portal between the lands of the dead and the living, or the enormous proto-Starship Enterprise that Ra navigates through the heavens, every night doing battle with what appears to be a thunder cloud with teeth. At times the camera stays still long enough for you to take in the ornately bejeweled details of Liz Palmer’s costumes, though unfortunately, this also gives you time to study the almost surreal disconnect between foreground and background in every artificial-looking frame.

Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter

Arriving just days before the all-white Oscars is Alex Proyas’ fantasy-adventure film set in an ancient Egypt almost entirely populated, mortals and gods alike, by Caucasians, including Gerard Butler. After all, when you imagine an Egyptian god, the first thing you think of is a burly Scotsman. But that’s only one of the many problems of “Gods of Egypt,” a film which seems inspired by a video game even though it wasn’t. This overstuffed, witless and bloated stillborn $140 million epic is unlikely to spawn the studio’s intended franchise — unless, as is so often the case, international audiences come to the box-office rescue.

Sarah Ward, Screen Daily

“Gods of Egypt” could follow in the footsteps of another American-Australian co-production released at this tenuous time of year: 2015’s “Jupiter Ascending.” The two movies share not only casts littered with marketable names — Gerard Butler, Geoffrey Rush and “Game of Thrones'” Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the current case — but prominent visuals that aren’t enough to divert focus from the flimsy romps that comprise their respective narratives. As audience-friendly as they may be, the cast is left wading through the middle ground between the unengaging narrative and over-emphasised aesthetics. It could be that the whitewashing controversy surrounding the majority of the actors’ inclusion is destined to remain the most remembered aspect of their involvement. Coster-Waldau hews close to his famous “Game of Thrones” television role, and while he conjures ample rapport with the likeable Thwaites and acrimony with the overplaying Butler, none are more than serviceable. 

Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com

“Gods of Egypt” has a vision, cockeyed though it may be. There are airborne chariots drawn by winged beetles and flocks of birds, an Indiana Jones-style treasure trove rigged with booby-traps, and a bracelet that repels 42 different demons. When gods are cut, they bleed gold. After Urshu walks in on Set during a post-coital moment, the newly-crowned king of Egypt rolls out of bed and dons a smoking jacket covered in multicolored metal beads; it looks like something Prince would wear to a bar mitzvah. The movie could have been a work in the mode of “Barbarella” or “Flash Gordon” or “The Sword and the Sorcerer” — larks that were cobbled together from  scraps of their decade’s cinematic and design and fashion cliches, yet formed them into works of true personality, films that were simultaneously self-aware and innocent. But the repetitious, unimaginative action kills the charm.  

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

‘Gods of Egypt’s’ been hounded for months by controversy around director Alex Proyas’ questionable (i.e. extremely white) casting choices. And while the film’s fantastical setting, full of impossible architecture and giant gods, is rewardingly unusual, its story is deeply and painfully conventional, as if someone tried to turn an experimental short an art student made after watching “Stargate” while smoking weed into a traditional Hollywood blockbuster. It’s a bizarre, goofy mess — and occasionally a beautiful one.

Scott Mendelsson, Forbes

Well, this is awkward. It would have been so much easier to hold up “Gods of Egypt” as another terrible movie that adds the additional insult to injury of featuring a whitewashed cast. And when we talk about this kind of thing, it’s convenient that the movies that usually commit said crime are mediocre or outright terrible movies. “The Last Airbender,” “Prince of Persia,” “The Conqueror,” and “Exodus: Gods and Kingdoms” are relatively terrible movies that are also whitewashed. But “Gods of Egypt” is stuck in that uncomfortable middle ground of being arguably immoral by having white people playing Egyptians but also being pretty good. Like say “A Mighty Heart,” “Touch of Evil,” or “The Social Network,” it is guilty of whitewashing at least one major character while nonetheless being a good (or, in this case, really enjoyable) movie.

Anthony O’Connor, Film Ink

The thing that works best about “Gods of Egypt” is that it knows its tone: it’s silly and fun. From the casting choices to the duelling accents to the fact that ancient Egypt looks like a shiny video game level, this is gloriously goofy stuff – and the movie is not at all embarrassed about it.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Reviews and tagged , , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox