This week my brother took me to see Gods of Egypt in a 4D screening in Vietnam. It was my first experience with 4D seating, and was pretty fun. I hadn’t heard of Gods of Egypt, despite it having such a large budget and star crew, so I went in without expectation. It was so close to being so bad I loved it. Close, but no cigar.
Gods of Egypt is set in, controversially, not Egypt. In the very beautiful establishing shot at the beginning, you see this fantastical city with impressive buildings, which have been loosely based on what can be considered Egyptian designs. This confused me, but as the film goes on I realised that it wasn’t even earth, and I kind of wish I had known that from the start. A very minor thing, but it bugged me the entire way through the movie.
Now I really want to point out how much I wanted to enjoy this film. I loved Egyptian mythology as a child, I love fantasy as an adult. Gods of Egypt had the concept and budget to be able to pull off something really amazing. It had elements of things I love seeing on screen, Gods transforming into beasts, rich scenery and with a diverse variety of settings, mythology. Yet despite having all the ingredients, the final dish was disappointing.
The plot is very simple, King is killed by evil brother, who takes over kingdom. Prince must go on a journey to defeat the evil new king and take his place as rightful ruler. Helped along by a mismatched sidekick. With such a classic plot line and colourful costume arrangement, I really would have expected the film to be marketed towards a family audience. However the addition of sex (which was omitted by Vietnamese censorship) and blood (although the blood is gold, which makes it rather dazzling rather than gory)
The film instead takes itself seriously to be an epic adventure, and the actors deliver the shoddy script with as much vigor as they can. Some scripts however will sound wooden no matter how much effort one puts into delivering it. The few jokes and banter that is written between the main characters Horas (Nikolaj Coster-Walda) and Bek (Brenton Thwaites) fall flat as I can only assume there is no chemistry between the two characters. That and their size difference, made by cgi, is a bit disconcerting.
Overall, I don’t really want to write much about this film. I felt like it had everything it needed to be something I really enjoyed, as a fan of hollywood blockbuster films and Egyptian mythology, and I’m still sort of dealing with the disappointment it left me in. I feel like you should see it in the cinema, simply to enjoy the beautiful scenery work, which won’t come across as well on TV.
The 4D experience was really interesting, possibly more so than the film. Also possibly never, ever going to do it again. 4D seating in the cinema involves seats that move and vibrate, fans, flashlights, air pressure technology and smell-ology. It’s meant to give you a more immersive film experience, but I found it pulled me out of the film, and on a much worse level than simply 3D, pushes the film into doing things it doesn’t need to.
For instance, there is a thing with 4D seats that it can spray water into your face. So in Gods of Egypt, I had my face sprayed at least 3 times, and I’m wondering, did the director do those water shots, which added nothing to the film itself, simply because he wanted to give 4D viewers something?
The air pressure technology stuff was very weird. It sort of whipped at your ankles in scenes where there is dust clouds, or fights and it hurts. I actually started sitting crossed legged because I didn’t enjoy the pain in every fight scene (which by the way, seemed to have a lot of ankle wipes). I mean, I understand you want the audience to feel the film, but surely not feel the part where characters are trying to kill each other?
Luckily this time there were no scenes of farting or other bad smells. Instead I had the occasional whiff of flowers and incense, which I did enjoy. However I do know that some films do give you unpleasant smells, and the question I have to ask is why?? Why would I want to smell that??
The flashing lights, used in scenes when the camera pans directly at the sun, or in the final sword fight as the swords clashed against each other, was blinding and horrible. So off putting in fact that I closed my eyes when I anticipated it. It ruins the next 3 seconds of fight scene when my eyes have to readjust. The fans used to show wind also made the room really cold at random times and I ended up wearing my coat for the entire film.
I did however love the moving chairs that vibrated because it was fun and also felt like I was getting a massage at the same time. Overall however it didn’t make up for everything I hated about the 4D experience. Instead of immersing myself into the film, the gimmicks really helped pull me out of the film.