gods of egypt director

Gods of Egypt opened this past weekend to turgid reviews and worse box office, making only $14 million against a reported budget of $140 million (before marketing costs, of course). The film is a Jupiter Ascending-sized flop, and like that film, it’s actually easy to see why it failed to perform: it’s really, really weird. Whether that weirdness works or not is the question, and that answer can only arrive with time. But right now, regular film fans and critics alike have rejected the film.

And now, director Alex Proyas has let his displeasure be known to the masses, unleashing a brutal tirade against film critics. It’s the kind of thing that’s going to promote knee-jerk reactions of all kinds, but the issue at hand here is a bit more nuanced than that.

Proyas is no stranger to bad and mixed reviews. 2009’s bizarre and batty Knowing (his last feature before Gods of Egypt) was savaged. Reactions to I, Robot were throughly mixed. Even his best film, the legit science fiction masterpiece Dark City, took a few years, a new director’s cut, and the championing of the late, great Roger Ebert to really achieve its current status as one of the best and most frequently overlooked films of the ’90s. Naturally, Ebert is the exception that proves the rule for Proyas, who took to Facebook to lambast critics for, well, being cowardly idiots with no actual opinion to call their own. Here’s his full statement:

Than reading reviews of my own movies. I usually try to avoid the experience – but this one takes the cake. Often, to my great amusement, a critic will mention my past films in glowing terms, when at the time those same films were savaged, as if to highlight the critic’s flawed belief of my descent into mediocrity. You see, my dear fellow FBookers, I have rarely gotten great reviews… on any of my movies, apart from those by reviewers who think for themselves and make up their own opinions. Sadly those type of reviewers are nearly all dead. Good reviews often come many years after the movie has opened. I guess I have the knack of rubbing reviewers the wrong way – always have. This time of course they have bigger axes to grind – they can rip into my movie while trying to make their mainly pale asses look so politically correct by screaming “white-wash!!!” like the deranged idiots they all are. They fail to understand, or chose to pretend to not understand what this movie is, so as to serve some bizarre consensus of opinion which has nothing to do with the movie at all. That’s ok, this modern age of texting will probably make them go the way of the dinosaur or the newspaper shortly – don’t movie-goers text their friends with what they thought of a movie? Seems most critics spend their time trying to work out what most people will want to hear. How do you do that? Why these days it is so easy… just surf the net to read other reviews or what bloggers are saying – no matter how misguided an opinion of a movie might be before it actually comes out. Lock a critic in a room with a movie no one has even seen and they will not know what to make of it. Because contrary to what a critic should probably be they have no personal taste or opinion, because they are basing their views on the status quo. None of them are brave enough to say “well I like it” if it goes against consensus. Therefore they are less than worthless. Now that anyone can post their opinion about anything from a movie to a pair of shoes to a hamburger, what value do they have – nothing. Roger Ebert wasn’t bad. He was a true film lover at least, a failed film-maker, which gave him a great deal of insight. His passion for film was contagious and he shared this with his fans. He loved films and his contribution to cinema as a result was positive. Now we have a pack of diseased vultures pecking at the bones of a dying carcass. Trying to peck to the rhythm of the consensus. I applaud any film-goer who values their own opinion enough to not base it on what the pack-mentality say is good or bad.

As someone who writes about movies for a living, it’s essentially my duty to not care about Proyas thinks of my profession. I think he’s an interesting filmmaker whose failures showcase someone of remarkable, if not always coherent, vision. His reaction is only human – of course you’re going to be pissed off if a bunch of strangers tear into a project that you have spent years of your life bringing to the screen. If I wrote off every filmmaker who tore into film critics and bloggers, I’d writing off some of the my favorite working directors. Not long ago, the brilliant Ben Wheatley lambasted critics, but it’s not like I’m going to take it personally. Film critics who take criticism of their professional personally probably should stop criticizing things for a living. If you dish it out, you have to be able to take it.

While many elements of Proyas’ post are worthy of an eye-roll or two (yes, the “whitewashing” of Gods of Egypt is a conversation worth having), he’s not entirely incorrect about the modern state of film critics. Some reviewers are unnecessarily cruel. Some reviewers aren’t remotely qualified to be writing about art. And yet, he ignores what the best critics do – they facilitate conversation. Gods of Egypt didn’t bomb because the reviews were bad. It bombed because the marketing was atrocious and real people weren’t at all interested in seeing int. Critics didn’t keep the crowds away. The best of them simply opened the door for those who did see the film to talk about it.

Gods of Egypt is in theaters now and I’m not being sarcastic when I say that I hope Proyas doesn’t have to wait another seven years before he makes another movie.

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