The films of Alex Proyas—The Crow, Dark City, I, Robot, Knowing—have always been curiosities to me. I appreciate them more than I like them, and I’ve watched them all many times trying to cross the threshold from “appreciation” to “liking.” I can’t do it. Proyas’ films’ stories don’t always make logical sense, and Proyas seems more interested in the visuals of the film than he is in the narrative. Any meaning in Proyas’ films seems to be wrapped up in those visuals.
Now, some would argue that cinema equals visuals, that the story is largely irrelevant if the visuals make you feel and think, but that’s only true when the film doesn’t have a story. Another way of saying that is to say that whatever plot is included in the film, even if it’s sparse, has to make sense. So, a film like 2001: A Space Odyssey can have barely any plot and put its emphasis on its visuals instead because its plot is very simple. Proyas’ films are heavily plotted though, and the first time I watch them, I can’t enjoy the visuals (and respond to them emotionally), because I’m busy trying to make sense of the plot.
Proyas’ new film, Gods of Egypt, appears as visually fantastic and narratively dense as ever. The film creates a mythology on top of the existing Egyptian mythology about a pair of god-kings at war with one another for control of the Egyptian kingdom. The film looks spectacular, like the ancient mythological films of yore such as Jason and the Argonauts and Wrath of the Titans, but with Proyas’ typical, contemporary visual flair. But I wonder if those visuals are going to compete with a complicated plot.
Proyas’ films—all science-fiction so far, except for Garage Days, which I haven’t seen—are thought provoking thematically. They all deal with conflicts between the world we think we know and the world that is truly at work behind the scenes, whether those worlds exist in reality (The Crow, Dark City, Knowing) or in characters’ minds (Dark City, I, Robot). Gods of Egypt appears to belong among the former, though in contrast with the contemporary world, the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians are a difference in world perspective. The difference in that world and ours is as much a facet of mind as it is of matter.
As always, we won’t know until we see the film. It looks like the kind of bonkers Spring release I look forward to each year. And, if the history of Proyas’ output has taught us anything, don’t trust the trailer for the tone of the actual film. In the meantime, it’s a great opportunity to catch up on Proyas’ earlier work if you haven’t seen it already.