It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two years since Alex Proyas’ introduced the world to the insane-but-titillating Gods of Egypt. We here at Lewton Bus have a storied history of loving this movie since it’s premiere, and thought it would be only just that we try and find it’s successor in the years following. Can any movie approach the greatness of giant Geoffrey Rush shooting lasers at an infinite space worm? Of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau turning into a winged golden gundam to fight Gerard Butler? How about old Gerry Butts riding a gigantic scarab? Well, it’s a tall order. But it’s time to see how 2017 stacked up. Without further ado, Mavis Roberta McGee and Andrew Clark present:
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Ghost in the Shell
Transformers: The Last Knight
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
You might be wondering what qualifies a movie to be nominated for the Gods of Egypt Award. For a movie to be considered, it has to satisfy a number of requirements:
It has to be a film with a fairly high budget that ends in both box office and critical failure, but also acquires a small but concentrated group of people who enjoyed it. It also has to have been raked over the coals…probably more than it deserved (except in one case we’ll discuss below).
Now you might see some of these movies and say “Hey, Mavis and Andrew, that movie made EIGHT HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. How is THAT a box office failure?” Ah, our wonderful readers, something can make lots of money and still be a failure relative to what it should have made, or compared to it’s budget and clout. But it’s all very amorphous. Really the most important quality (other than a Gerard Butler performance, which is almost an automatic nomination) is that it has the same madcap qualities that make Gods of Egypt such a wonder to behold. And that, dear readers, can come in all shapes and sizes.
Our points system is fairly simple: the higher a film is listed on our rankings, the more points it gets. If a film is ranked at number 1, it gets 7 points. If a film is ranked at number 7, it gets 1 point.
We’re going to go through each movie and write a little about it and what makes it a contender for the new and highest film honor in the land. Afterwards, we’ll post our rankings and then tally up the winner!
The Mummy turned out to be one of many disappointments in 2017 which failed to live up to the insane wonders of Gods of Egypt. Originally high on my list of predicted contenders, if fell considerably after I got to attend the New York premiere and was thoroughly whelmed.
There’s plenty going on here that still qualifies the movie. It has monsters, hammy performances (with the Dark Universe DOA, we’ll sadly miss out on more Russell Crowe’s Jekyll & Hyde), Tom Cruise frequently and hilariously dying or bumbling around unbelievable physical mishaps (which few people do as well as Cruise) but it never solidifies into the kind of entertainment I want out of a top Gods of Egypt Award contender. For a movie to really be considered my number one, it has to have some serious redeeming qualities I don’t mind pulling out to shush the naysayers. Sadly, The Mummy just doesn’t bring that to the table.
The Mummy is completely and woefully misguided in every way imaginable… as a franchise starter. When looked at as the kick-off to Universal’s already shuttered Dark Universe franchise, the whole nature of it feels bland and perfunctory. But when you take into account that the multi-film saga that the studio promised didn’t end up happening, the whole film starts to feel a lot more bearable.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s still incredibly misguided, especially in its questionable gender politics (the fact that the film ends with Tom Cruise’s character essentially date-raping the titular Mummy to death should not be ignored), but when you realize that all that misguided-ness has resulted in a film that starts with Tom Cruise and Jake Johnson running away from ISIS, features a middle section where Russell Crowe shows up as Mr. Hyde in order to throw Cruise around while spouting one-liners in a ridiculous Irish brogue, and ends with Tom Cruise basically becoming Satan. It has to be seen to be believed…
and yet as far as I’m concerned, it’s only in the middle of the nominee pack.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
As far as I’m concerned, this is our winner. Semi-auteur director slathering an age-old tale with his sensibilities? Check. Nuttiness on every corner? Check. A total bomb at the box-office? Check. A lot of fun regardless? Check.
Everything I said in my review stands: this is pure adrenaline — Ritchie doing what he does best in a setting that is unconventional for him. I genuinely love this movie and I’m sad that I’m not getting another one of these in a year and a half.
It’s hard for me to decide if what I really wanted out of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was for Guy Ritchie to lean more into his proclivities or less. There are moments when his vision and choices turn the legend of Arthur and his knights into a pretty engaging romp that eschews most of the typical beats from the legend. But then there are just as many moments that ring flat or boring because we’ve seen it all before. There’s a balance at play, between explosive scenes of visual pique (the above image does little justice to how beautiful this scene is on film) and then plodding or disconnected storytelling that feels like a chore.
All that said, King Arthur may well have been my top contender for the GoE Award this year if not for an unexpected addition to the race. It has giant monsters, over-abundant CGI, and, perhaps most importantly, it does not give a single fuck. Not giving a fuck is perhaps the single most important element for a movie to qualify in this race, and King Arthur lives and breathes this quality. It is bizarre and nonsensical, but also sometimes fun and entertaining.
It also has one of the best scores of the year:
To anyone who might posit that Geostorm isn’t crazy enough to qualify for this list, I will direct your attention to the scene where a smart car outruns a humvee while avoiding exploding gas mains. As someone who has driven a smart car many times, I can tell you that this is the most unbelievable thing I saw all year. Geostorm is like someone watched The Martian and then declared that it’s message of globalism could only be improved by adding into it a plot to assassinate the President.
Geostorm is special for a number of reasons. Most important is a full-on Gerard Butler performance where he plays essentially Mike Banning but with a degree in mechanical engineering. Near the end of the film, Butler disarms and beats the holy hell out of a man with no explanation as to how he’s so good at close quarters combat beyond the fact that he is Gerard Butler, dammit, that’s why.
The other big factor that really elevates Geostorm on my list is how fully committed everyone is to the insane world and circumstances. I wanted to give a standing ovation to all the featured extras uttering lines about malfunctioning weather satellites going critical and causing Geostorms. No one bats an eye at any of this, whether it’s Jim Sturgess’ increasingly sweaty Max or Ed Harris’ nefarious Secretary of State. Much like the in-it-to-win-it cast of Gods of Egypt, the Geostorm crew is here to play.
This is the most earnest film on this list, by far. Geostorm is a film that really does think that the world can come together to save itself from itself, and that’s endearing and absolutely lovely. Geostorm is exactly the movie you think it’s going to be based on the title, and it’s amazing for that reason. I own a Geostorm T-shirt and I wear it frequently, and I even wore it to my screening of the film. I love Geostorm and I do not care who knows it. Geostorm.
Ghost in the Shell
How bad was Ghost in the Shell? For me, it was bad enough that I managed to work in how much I hated it into an academic paper. I’m the kind of filmgoer who can forgive a lot of thing if I can get sucked into the visuals (hell, I recently made the turn into becoming a bit of an apologist for the Star Wars prequels), but despite Ghost in the Shell throwing a bunch of beautiful production design at me, it just wasn’t enough. It’s boring, it’s perfunctory, the action is lame as all get out, and most of all, it’s racist as shit. Justified complaints can be made against the namesake of this award, but Gods of Egypt doesn’t call as much attention to its racism as Ghost in the Shell does, with that truly awful mid-film twist that made me want to get up and walk out of a theater there and then. Fuck Ghost in the Shell.
I ended up being fairly lenient to Ghost in the Shell after first seeing it. I was swept up in the visual imagination on display (at least the new parts, since most of the visual vocabulary was taken from the original film and replicated to diminishing returns) and by it’s willingness to dip into a world without explaining too much about it’s machinations. But in the end, while it certainly was a box office and critical failure with a substantial budget, it’s honestly just too boring to really recommend or even consider a real contender for this award. That’s not even getting into it’s face-slappingly bad racial politics, which I dug into quite a bit at the end of my review.
It might qualify as a nominee, but I could never have the love I have for Gods of Egypt for Ghost in the Shell.
On the back of Henry Cavill’s handsome, handsome face, Gal Gadot’s endless charisma, and Ezra Miller’s wit and charm, I do declare Justice League to be my top contender for the Gods of Egypt Award this year.
It’s an unconventional choice, but with little adjustment, it fits our parameters perfectly. It was a critical failure by most accounts, it has a small group of people who enjoyed it (well, a small group of rational people, anyway. Let’s leave the rabid DC fans out of this), and, technically, it was a box office failure.
It also, I think, fulfills the more amorphous qualities that define a movie following in the footsteps of Gods of Egypt. It’s fun but also kind of banal. It has both boring leads (Ben Affleck here, Brenton Thwaites in GoE) and charismatic ones (Henry Cavill and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). It has insane, CGI-laced action sequences and a sweeping plot that feels feather-light despite it’s seemingly large-scale consequences. Both movies even have characters coming back from the dead!
Really the biggest thing I can say about why Justice League fits the award best is that, despite all the many critical things that can be said about it, I have a ton of affection for it and everything that it gets right. It was a genuine joy getting to watch Henry Cavill really play Superman on screen, something I hope I get to do again soon.
I liked Justice League! Quite a bit, actually. It’s a total Frankenstein’s monster in terms of construction, but it made me laugh, smile, and care about DC characters that weren’t named Wonder Woman, so I say that it did its job. But at the same time, it’s in the lower-end of my list, mostly for one reason: it didn’t have enough stand-out, “out-there” moments. Outside of the bizarre grave-robbing plot point, it didn’t have many things that hit the level of “Gerry Butler flying with scarabs” or “Geoffrey Rush v. Space Worm: Dawn of Flat Earth” in terms of inventive nuttiness. That said, I’ll happily ride this “I liked Justice League” train. Let me have fun.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
I love basically everything about Valerian. It’s visual panache. It’s imagination. It’s performances (only one movie this year featured Rihanna as a shape-shifting dancing alien, remember). The tirade against this movie wasn’t only wrong-headed, it was regrettably par for the course. Audiences constantly seem to clamor for movies that push boundaries or are bold in their choices, but then ignore or even resent those movies when they come along.
Luc Besson’s latest sci fi epic might not be perfect, but it is fun, exhilarating, and full of the kind of sci-fi goodness that isn’t nearly as common as I’d like given how much visual effects have grown in the last two decades.
It really is worth your time, if you haven’t seen it. The dimensional-hopping extended sequence that introduces us to Valerian and Laureline alone is worth the price of admission.
I was positive on Valerian upon release, to the point where I devoted a digs column to it. But as time as gone on, I’ve found myself growing colder on the film. It starts out great with the “Space Oddity”, planet destruction, and “Big Market” sequences, but when the film gets to the titular City of a Thousand Planets, things start to slow down and become more uneven. It’s still a perfectly enjoyable film, but it’s hard to ignore some of the aspects of the movie that feel more retrograde, especially in today’s climate.
Big Market still rules, though.
And there’s our nominees! And now, the point reveal!
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – 12 points
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – 11 points
Geostorm – 10 points
Justice League – 10 points
The Mummy – 6 points
Transformers: The Last Knight – 5 points
Ghost in the Shell – 2 points
And the winner is… King Arthur: Legend of the Sword! Guy Ritchie’s medieval romp has won the 2017 Gods of Egypt Award! Congratulations to all involved with the film, and here’s hoping that 2018 brings us some more great craziness.
Be sure to let us know down below what you think of our nominees and winner for this year, and stop by our upcoming twitter poll where we’ll let the people have a say on our top four contender so for the prize!
For now, we’ll leave you with the scene where a giant snake wrecks shop. Happy New Year, y’all. Be nice to each other.