Happy 4th of July everybody!
I hope you’re all having a fun holiday weekend, filled with food and family to get your mind off how hollow this particular Monday morning must feel. That’s right, it’s monday morning and by now, some of you may be suffering from Game of Thrones withdrawal. You miss the action, the violence, the heartbreak, the fantasy. Well fear not! I have exactly what you’re looking for. How does roughly four hours combined run time of Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow sound to you?
Well you’re wrong!
Actors who play beloved characters on a hit T.V show does not a good movie make! It’s time for another Bad Movie Night Review. Tonight’s awful double feature – Gods of Egypt and Pompeii.
Pompeii is a love story set against the backdrop of a ready to erupt Mount Vesuvius. Kit Harrington stars as Milo, a slave turned gladiator who falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy merchant. As a child, Milo witnesses his entire village being slaughtered by Romans led by Senator Corvus (Keifer Suterland). He is then forced into slavery and forced to fight as a gladiator. On his way to Pompeii he catches the attention of a the wealthy merchant’s daughter, Cassia (Emily Browning) who is on her way back home from Rome.
It is love at first neck snap.
Anyway, Milo continues with the other slaves to the Amphitheater and Cassia returns home after a long time away. In the holding quarters under the Amphitheater, Milo makes a rival in the champion gladiator, Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye -Agbaje) when a fight breaks out between him and another gladiator. Later, the two are shown off at a fancy party, where Cassia and Senator Corvus are in attendance. It is revealed that Corvus has been pursuing Cassia all the way from Rome and wishes to marry her, but Cassia wants none of it. Her eyes are only on Kit Harrington’s SMEXY ABS! Anywho, there is an earthquake, which startles some of the horses and even though he’s not supposed to, Milo goes to calm them. In the stable, Milo and Cassia come face to face once again, and Cassia asks Milo to take her away. He does… for a moment. Then realizes that this is a really really bad idea and they go back. Cassia covers for Milo so he’s not killed on the spot but he’s now made an enemy of the jealous Senator Corvus.
The following day, Corvus arranges for Milo and Atticus to be killed during a gladiator match. They and other gladiators are chained to rocks and meant to be killed by gladiators dressed as Roman soldiers in a recreation of Senator Corvus’ battle against the Celts (Milo’s people). A fight ensues and things don’t go quite according to plan; Milo and Atticus win. When Cassia circumvents Corvus’ plan to have them killed anyway, he sends one of his decorated soldiers to fight Milo one-on-one. But the fight is interrupted when Mount Vesuvius finally erupts and all hell breaks loose. People flee and fight and Milo goes to rescue his lady love from the volcano and the Senator before everything goes up in flames.
Gods of Egypt is another love story set against the backdrop of a fictional ancient Egypt, where the world is flat and Gods live among the people. Osiris is about to abdicate the throne and intends to crown his son Horus (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) the new king of Egypt. At the same time, a mortal thief, Bek (Brenton Thwaites), and his lady love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) have plans to attend the coronation ceremony. Zaya is a very pious woman while Bek has very little faith in the Gods, but he goes anyway because he just loves her SO much. Things take a turn when Osiris’ brother Set (Gerard Butler) shows up to the coronation, kills Osiris, and defeats Horus in battle, taking his place as King. Due to Horus’ girlfriend Hathor (Elodie Yung) pleading, Set spares Horus’ life, but steals his eyes instead, and declares a new world order.
A quick time skip later, Set is in charge. The people are forced to build great monuments in Set’s honor, Set himself hunts down any God that would stand against him, and Zaya is now a slave to Set’s head architect. Being a woman of faith, Zaya asks her boyfriend to steal the eye of Horus and give it back to him so that Horus can take control back from Set. She gives him blueprints to the place it’s being held and Bek sets off. However, upon stealing back the eye, her master immediately pursues them and Zaya is killed. Bek must turn to Horus to bring his lady love back and Horus agrees, but only as an excuse to get his revenge. The two team up and battle against Set’s forces, gaining alliances with Hathor and Thoth so as to stop Set before he succeeds in his plans to engulf the world in chaos.
These films are similar in many ways. They employed top billing to well known Game of Thrones actors who undoubtedly brought in viewers. They are both original stories set against a backdrop of real historical events or real mythological belief systems. They use a young romance to drive the story forward. But more importantly, they both stink to high heaven. They both are large budget films that felt as though they were better off going straight to DVD. They both had weak plots that were used only to showcase dubious looking CGI effects.
They were both trying to be Gladiator… and they both fail.
I first watched Pompeii, and let me tell you – this movie had me in stitches! Before any actor muttered even a single line of dialogue I was completely and utterly amazed. I am not one to notice bad graphics or green screen effects unless they are either very bad or pointed out to me. It’s just not something I typically pay attention to. But my word, this movie didn’t look real at all. I was struck by just how much I could tell that the background wasn’t really there, by how obvious it was that they were on a set, by how glaring it was that they were wearing COSTUMES. I was taken completely off guard.
Once I recovered from the shock, the giggles came. They rushed over me like a waterfall and would not stop. I’m not sure if some of the wonkiness was due to the fact that this movie was made for 3D and I was watching it at home on a regular television. With that in mind, I was willing to forgive some of the effects I saw later in the movie when the volcano was erupting, but everything else was unforgivable. There is no excuse for the set to LOOK like a set. This is a major motion picture with a decent budget not a scifi original movie, things like set design and costume should be seamless.
With those initial gripes out of the way, I was able to focus on the actual story. Or, in this case, lack there of. Now, the strong silent hero is a popular trope in film. Somewhat brooding, with the heart of a hero the “strong silent type” is meant to represent the best qualities of man; strong, capable, and confident without being a braggart. The problem is when they make the character too strong and too silent. The character Milo barely speaks for a large part of the film – which is a problem because he’s the main character. He’s also meant to fall deeply in love with Cassia (and her with him) but, again, they hardly exchange any words with one another. I don’t even think I realized what Milo’s name was until half way through the film. He’s called “the Celt” and “slave” quite often but there are moments where someone specifically asks for his name and he says nothing. The main character has to talk! Otherwise he is doing nothing to advance the story, simply reacting to what other people are doing – which is exactly what Milo does. He is forgettable as a protagonist because he is purely reactionary. His own actions do little to move the plot along and he barely has to work to achieve his goals.
By comparison, his love interest Cassia has much more to do with the advancement of this questionable plot. She is the one who journey’s home from Rome, who notices Milo’s compassion in killing the wounded horse, who tries to warn her father of Rome’s corruption, who actively secures Milo’s safety from Senator Corvus – not once but twice. Every major point of contention that is human based centers around Cassia and her connection to Corvus. Not Milo’s. None of this plot ends up going anywhere once the volcano erupts, but if there’s any plot to be had, it’s Cassia’s plot. But instead of making her the focus, she is relegated to a pawn piece Corvus wishes to acquire and a damsel Milo needs to save. And I’m not sure when or how Cassia becomes someone so important for Milo to save. He has more screen time, more interaction, and more chemistry with Atticus then he ever does with Cassia.
In general, this movie was a complete camp fest. It abused every single disaster movie trope including the forced love story, the destruction, a mindless battle amongst all the destruction and even the “saving a random child” hero moment. Everything felt fake and contrived but the movie took itself too seriously to be self aware. This movie was stupid. I’m sure that for some, it was just mindless and campy enough to be fun (and I admit, I did have fun laughing at it) but it’s still stupid.
Now Gods of Egypt, on the other hand, just made me mad. Mad and confused. This is another movie that just looked fake. Especially the costuming. Now, I’ll acknowledge that this is a fictional world where Gods live among the people, the world really does consist only of Egypt, and is actually flat and saved from destruction nightly by Ra defeating a giant space worm monster. This is not really ancient Egypt. If that didn’t convince you, possibly the world filled with blond haired blue eyed white people with conflicting English and Scottish accents gives it away. Still, the costumes and designs made this movie feel like a cheap syfy channel knockoff of an ancient Greek movie that they tweaked slightly to make it Egyptian… kind of. And as an admirer of Ancient Egyptian culture and religion, I was actually pretty offended by it. Still I held my tongue and attempted to watch and critic only it’s worth as a story.
And this film didn’t fail to give me plenty of ammunition to destroy it on that front either. Thank the Greek Egyptian Gods!
I first noticed something was amiss with the introduction of the character Bek. You see a young man sneaking through the streets of what I assume is meant to be Cairo, stealing trinkets and a dress for his lady love. As I watched this scene unfold I was overcome with a sense of nostalgia, and immediately figured out why. The revelation made me angry. This was Aladdin! I was watching white Aladdin in what was supposed to be an ancient Egyptian movie! I held my breath eagerly awaiting Bek to break out into:
One jump ahead of the bread line
one swing ahead of the sword
I steal only what I can’t afford
and that’s everything
But he didn’t. He’s not cool enough to be Aladdin.
When this movie wasn’t reminding me of Aladdin, it was reminding me of another movie that I enjoyed as a kid, The Mummy. Not the original, the remake with Brandon Frasier. Honestly, it made me wonder if I’d still enjoy that movie if I saw it today. I didn’t appreciate that either.
This inconsistent train wreck had issues with having very interesting visuals in some scenes, ie. the image of the flat earth and Ra’s giant spaceship, and then having truly cringe worthy visuals in the next, ie giant gods next to tiny humans, god’s fighting in armor, blood splatter, etc. The costuming was also an issue in this film, as the authenticity of the Egyptian fashion was on par with Party City in that regard. I state this again, other than scarabs and wings, it looked far more Greek and Roman than Egyptian.
Speaking of inconstancy… Gerard Butler as Set… my God. Please, find an accent and stick with it. He struggles mightily to match British accents along with the rest of the cast and fails mightily. I think in most of the scenes he phoned it in, but it was a valiant attempt. E for Effort.
It wasn’t all bad though. Chadwick Boseman seemed to be the only one who realized he was in a shit movie and had plenty of fun being a very British, very flamboyant Thoth. I daresay, the boy made me feel, mighty real, even!
But aside from that, this movie was some bullshit! The effects looked like something I would have played on my PS2, the dialogue is either contrived or filled with quips, quips and nothing but quips, Bek has no motivation for doing anything other than whatever his girlfriend asks, he has no history, no background, no redeeming qualities, he demands Horus’ help but acts extremely ungrateful the entire film, Set’s motivation boils down to “notice me Daddy” issues, it doesn’t get the mythology right, it doesn’t get the setting right, it makes no sense, and it’s bland! It fails to bring up any answers to questions like:
- Why is Bek such a capable thief?
- What kind of girlfriend would send her boyfriend on such a mission in the first place?
- What happened to Horus’ mother? In the end they say she’s been killed but when the hell did that happen?
- What’s the deal with Hathor and the bracelet? What was she going through before Horus gave her that thing?
- If Set overthrows Horus, that makes him the king of Egypt? Ok, but how the hell does that give you do control over the afterlife? How are you controlling that?
- How long was Set in power? Apparently long enough to have established slavery and built massive monuments already but not long enough for any of our mortal characters to have aged.
- Did Ra seriously think Set would take over his position? Did his actions thus far not prove anything about his character?
Why was this movie made? WHY!?
The movie also ends setting itself up for a sequel… Yeah, good luck with that. By the time the credits rolled I was angrily throwing popcorn at the screen.
Both Pompeii and Gods of Egypt are trash, but at least I could laugh at the dumpster fire that was Pompeii. Perhaps because I’m not as emotionally invested and offended by the choices that Pompeii made. But Gods of Egypt made me start questioning other movies I liked as a kid. I questioned my own sanity. That was totally not cool.
If you are a fan of Jon Snow and Jamie Lannister, do yourselves a favor and skip these. You’ll be glad you did.