It took longer than anticipated, but after some unexpected successes, unexpected flops, and a lot of personal pain, the 2018 Gods of Egypt Award is finally being given out. Andrew Clark had some scheduling conflicts this year, so I’m doing this one solo. Don’t worry, he’ll be back next year.
To refresh everybody’s minds, Alex Proyas’s Gods of Egypt blew my mind when it was released into theaters in 2016 with just how casually bugnuts it was. To the point where, when 2017 came around, me and Andrew spent the whole year trying to crown a spiritual successor, and gave the award to none other than Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
But 2018 proved to be quite a bit more difficult. Some films that I thought would be surefire contenders, like The Meg and Venom, ended up making boffo bucks. Other possible nominees, such as the near-guaranteed winner of the 2019 Gods of Egypt Award, Alita: Battle Angel, ended up getting pushed back into 2019. But in the end, we ended up getting a sizable number of nominees, including quite a few surprises.
- A Wrinkle In Time
- Pacific Rim Uprising
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
- The Predator
- The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
- Robin Hood
- Mortal Engines
And now, a basic rundown of what qualifies a movie for this award. Since last time, me and Andrew have created a more strict and ironclad set of rules, and if a movie satisfies at least two of these requirements, it qualifies for a nomination. Those rules are:
- It must have a budget of at least $60 million.
- It must be a critical and commercial flop.
- It must be ill-advised in concept.
But even if it satisfies at least two of those rules, it must pass the final test: do I, our resident transgender lover of blockbuster flops, enjoy the film despite its many flaws? So without further ado, let’s get into it.
A Wrinkle In Time
Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time was my favorite film of 2018. It, more than any other film released in 2018, spoke to me in a way that I will never forget. The performances are brilliant, the visuals unique and wonderful. While it’s a bit messy in that way that many films from indie auteurs jumping into the world of nine-figure budgets can be, A Wrinkle In Time makes up for that by being the most sincere and earnest blockbuster released since Lily and Lana Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending. The ending of this movie is so extremely, wonderfully cathartic, and I can make myself cry just by thinking about it.
And it’s because of that that I do not feel like I can give the award to this film. While this is easily my favorite of the nominees, I feel like it is just too close to my heart to give it an award that, while loving, is meant for ill-advised stuff like the movie where white people play Egyptian gods. A Wrinkle In Time is just not ill-advised, which ultimately means that it is a loser. However, it is still my favorite film of 2018, which is its own form of award, and if you don’t watch it, I will find you and make you watch it.
Pacific Rim Uprising
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
I could tell from the first trailer that Steven S. DeKnight’s Pacific Rim Uprising would not live up to the gleeful spectacle of the Guillermo del Toro-directed original film. Instead of using the first film’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio to highlight the height of the mechs and monsters, the movie goes wide at 2.40:1, resulting in the frames feeling cramped and cluttered. Instead of shooting from low angles that further highlighted the extreme height of the creatures, the action was shot at the chest level, just making the scale feel like that of your average early-90’s episode of Power Rangers. And to seemingly overcorrect from CinemaSins-type nitpickers who disliked that the fights were set at night, ignoring the atmosphere set by the nighttime setting in order to complain about not being able to see the fights (blame poor projection/bad TV settings, you dumbasses), all the fights were set in the day, even furthering the loss of scale that ultimately makes the fight scenes feel cheap and utterly disappointing.
I’ve soured on the film even more since my lukewarm review of it from last year. DeKnight has hinted on Twitter that he lost many battles with studio executives with this movie, and I’m willing to believe him. The movie checks off all three nomination requirements, but ultimately it is not entertaining enough to win the award, and that’s a darn shame.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
One could argue that Ron Howard’s origin story of scoundrel extraordinaire Han Solo shouldn’t qualify as a result of its fresh 70% score on Rotten Tomatoes, but I would counter-argue that if a Star Wars film doesn’t have a score over at least 90% on RT, the franchise’s incredibly fickle fanbase will consider it a failure. And consider it a failure they did, as the film mostly went over like a wet fart with the fanbase and became the first live-action Star Wars movie to flop at the box office, as the result of both a subpar marketing campaign and a bad release date.
But as someone who generally likes most things Star Wars, including the much-maligned prequel trilogy, I found a lot to enjoy with Solo. While it ticked all the prequel boxes at an almost-parodic level, the Alden Ehrenreich-led ensemble did excellent work, Bradford Young’s cinematography brought an interesting moodiness to the proceedings, and I have to give all the props in the world to editor Pietro Scalia for managing to keep everything going at a nice, zippy pace that did a lot to glaze over the film’s issues for me. In short, it’s a fun film. Y’all are just mean.
I disliked The Predator with such a strong intensity that it has forever tainted my opinion of writer/director Shane Black. While part of that has to do with the scandal that surrounded this film upon its release, the rest of it has to do with the film itself, which is such a mess on every level that I have to imagine that the movie would have been bad even if the studio hadn’t chopped it to bits. The actors are misdirected, the action is limp and near-formless, the cinematography by Larry Fong, one of the most unique DPs working today, is okay at best and bland the rest of the time. And the way the film treats autism is offensive and terrible, and as someone with autism, I simply cannot let this slide.
Fuck The Predator.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
My Letterboxd entry for Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms simply reads “THAT SET DESIGN GODDAMN”, and that about sums up why I found this movie so pleasurable. Shot on film by Oscar-winning cinematographer Linus Sandgren, this movie was an absolute pleasure to my eyes. Just outstanding design work all around. The story structure is definitely familiar in a lot of aspects, but I’m okay with rudimentary beats if a movie can sweep me up in the aesthetics, and this movie definitely did that. It’s probably going to have a legacy of being a Christmas favorite for artsy children, and I am definitely looking forward to that.
Also, the movie has superstar ballerina Misty Copeland doing what she does best at multiple points during the film, and I cannot wait for resident ballet fanatic La Donna Pietra to watch the film for that reason alone.
When the first trailer for Otto Bathurst’s Robin Hood hit the internet, Andrew Clark said to me that “you wanted a sequel to King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and this is the universe doing its damndest to give you the next closest thing.” And after finally watching the movie, I would like to thank the universe for giving me exactly what I wished for. Robin Hood is ill-advised nonsense for pretty much the entire runtime, and I loved it for that. The movie portrays the Crusades using war-on-terror imagery! There are semi-automatic arrow launchers! Ben Mendelsohn hams it up as a greedy, power-hungry Sheriff of Nottingham! F. Murray Abraham cameos as a corrupt Cardinal! There’s a weirdly prescient metaphor for Rose Twitter grifters in the form of Jamie Dornan! And the action is actually pretty well-done a lot of the time, save one chase where the green screen is quite bad. Robin Hood left a sizable impression on me, and I cannot wait to annoy my friends into watching it sometime.
While Robin Hood appealed to me in the way that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword did, Christian Rivers’s Mortal Engines appealed to me in the way that the fantasy films of the 1980’s did. It’s cut down to a length where it is neither long enough to be a fully engrossing epic or short enough to be a no-frills good time, alternates between looking cheaper than the CW and having massive scale for days, and yet never feels half-assed at any point. The film’s main problems come from Rivers’s obvious lack of experience behind the camera, but between the game cast of character actors (including an amazing mo-cap turn by Stephen Lang) and the fantastic production design, Mortal Engines definitely has cult potential further down the line.
The year’s most unexpected surprise for me was that an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture ended up qualifying for the equally prestigious Gods of Egypt Award. Adam McKay’s Vice, at a budget of $60 million, managed to lose its distributor $15 million when all was said and done at the box office. And even with the Best Picture nomination, the film’s reviews were split down the middle. So, as a result, Vice ended up in the fray for my silly award alongside the expensive Nutcracker movie and a prequel to the Star Wars franchise, which was maybe the wildest twist of 2018 for me.
It’s a shame that the movie was a complete disaster, though. Vice is an unmitigated disaster, a movie full of hot air that’s convinced of its own importance, screaming at viewers that they’re idiots while having nothing to offer besides information that is already known to the public. Add in the incredibly insulting and hypocritical mid-credits scene, and Vice becomes a legitimate contender for the dubious title of the worst movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture, and this was in the same year that Bohemian Rhapsody was nominated and Green Book won.
And with that, it’s time to crown a winner. The 2019 Gods of Egypt Award goes to…
Congratulations to Otto Bathurst, Taron Egerton, and everyone else involved in the production of this gonzo movie that stole my heart.
I’ll leave you with this quite frankly wonderful character poster for the film featuring the incomparable Ben Mendelsohn. Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you next year, hopefully before the end of January next time.
See y’all then.