Gods of Egypt director Alex Proyas has taken aim at the current crop of movie reviewers in the wake of his film’s critical mauling, calling them “diseased vultures”.
US critics have been scathing in their coverage of the latest work from the typically ambitious Proyas; at time of press, the US$140million production, shot largely in Australia, is at 17% on the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus site and was posting opening weekend numbers in the low teens domestically.
Born in Egypt of Greek heritage, the Australian director debuted with the startling sci-fi vision, Spirits of The Air Gremlins of The Clouds (pictured, right) in 1989 and has an acclaimed resume of commercials and music videos to his name. Having relocated to Los Angeles in the early 90s, his feature film trajectory has endured a turbulent path; his 1994 American debut, the ill-fated The Crow, was a profitable hit, which he followed with the underperforming Dark City (now, a cult classic; 1998). He enjoyed blockbuster box office with the Will Smith hit, I Robot (2004), only to feel the sting of expensive failure with the 2009 misfire, Knowing, starring Nicholas Cage.
Proyas’ films have often divided critics, as he points out in the extensive diatribe that he posted on his Facebook page earlier today. Each work is a unique, complex genre vision that rarely fits comfortably within mainstream expectations. Even I, Robot, superficially a studio-backed/star vehicle summer tent-pole, was a morally ambiguous, thought-provoking murder mystery at its core. Critics have struggled to define Proyas’ work, usually praising his technical prowess and visionary scope but remaining bewildered or unengaged by his plotting.
But no work has been so savagely attacked as Gods of Egypt and Proyas clearly felt the need to even the playing-field. In his post, he addresses the accusations of ‘white-washing’ (the casting of Anglo actors in ethnically diverse roles); questions whether or not freedom of thought within the critical community exists anymore; alludes to the nature of social media and the need for acceptance within the ‘likes’-driven landscape. With the kind permission of the director, SCREEN-SPACE reproduces the post verbatim:
“NOTHING CONFIRMS RAMPANT STUPIDITY FASTER...
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.”
In subsequent correspondence with SCREEN-SPACE, Proyas did acknowledge that his film, "seems to be getting a very good response critically and commercially everywhere outside the US."
It is the latest rebuke from a film community frustrated with the standard of modern film writing; last week, British director Ben Wheatley (pictured, right) aimed his own barbs at the current standard of film criticism. The director, whose films Kill List, Sightseers and A Field in England have enjoyed critical warmth, spoke out after a mixed reaction to his latest thriller, High Rise. “Talking about other people’s stuff is weird,” he told Flick Reel. “Why aren’t you making stuff? And if you aren’t, why should you really have a voice to complain about things until you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes?”
(Editor’s Note: SCREEN-SPACE gave a ‘4 star’ rating to Gods of Egypt on it’s official Letterboxd page on February 24. In 2009, this writer gave a mixed review to Knowing when contributing to the SBS Movies site.)