Thieves steal the show in Gods of Egypt and Hieroglyph

Not every story set in the ancient world is based on the Bible or on Greco-Roman history. Two major projects set in ancient Egypt are currently in the works — and one of them started filming just a few days ago.

Variety reports that Alex Proyas — who was actually born in Egypt, to Greek parents, and moved to Australia with his family when he was just a few years old — began shooting Gods of Egypt in Sydney last Thursday. The film reportedly has a budget of $150 million. (That’s Proyas pictured above.)

It’s not clear to me whether the story will be primarily about the gods or the humans who interact with them, but depending on who you read, the story either revolves around “a young thief who enlists the help of the ancient gods to bring his beloved back to life,” or it is “set in motion when a ruling god … kills another”.

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New movie gives Egyptian gods the epic-fantasy treatment

We’ve seen quite a few movies based on pagan European mythology over the last few years, from Clash of the Titans and its sequel to the Percy Jackson movies and the Thor superhero flicks. And of course, there are quite a few Bible movies in the works right now too, some of which, such as Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, will borrow heavily from post-biblical myths and legends. But now comes word that an even older religious-mythological system is about to get the epic-fantasy treatment.

The Hollywood Reporter says three actors have been tapped so far to star in Gods of Egypt under the direction of Alex Proyas, whose last film Knowing took some of its key images and ideas from the Old Testament; he also came very close to directing a big-screen version of John Milton’s creation epic Paradise Lost, starring Bradley Cooper as Lucifer, before the studio decided to pull the plug.

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Movies that flip their source material on its head

My friend and colleague Steven D. Greydanus tweeted the other day that the new Lone Ranger movie is not just one of those films that doesn’t “get” its source material but, rather, it is made by “people who do understand the source material—and dislike it.” He has since noted that this point is also made by New York Times critic A.O. Scott, who wrote that the film is “an ambitious movie disguised as a popcorn throwaway, nothing less than an attempt to revise, reinvigorate and make fun of not just its source but also nearly every other western ever made.”

This got me wondering about other films that have knowingly inverted their source material, rather than adapted it, per se — i.e., films that have explicitly challenged the themes of their source material. Two examples came to mind immediately.

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Review: Knowing (dir. Alex Proyas, 2009)

If you’ve seen any of the trailers, then you’ll probably have a good idea what to expect from the first hour or so of Knowing, the latest mind-bending bit of speculative fiction from Alex Proyas (Dark City, I Robot). But even that first hour has its surprises, and after that, the film veers in directions that go far beyond anything you might have expected — directions that will be all the more awe-inspiring the less you know going into the theater.

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Your Chip Is Showing / Four recent films show a battle for control among men, women, and machines.

Film is perhaps the most technological of artforms, and it relies increasingly on computers for its simulations of the real world. Not surprisingly, films have also expressed concern over the directions in which our technology is taking us, and these days, as spyware snoops around our hard drives and governments assume more powers unto themselves, the issue that crops up repeatedly in films is that of control. Who has it? Who uses it? And to what degree have the devices we created to serve us become our masters?

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Review: I, Robot (dir. Alex Proyas, 2004)

The movies have not been kind to Isaac Asimov. He may have been one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of the past half-century, but very few of his stories have attained that particular form of popular validation that comes from being adapted for the big screen — and this despite the fact that movie after movie has been based on the works of his contemporaries, including Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and especially Philip K. Dick. On the rare occasion that a major studio has given one of Asimov’s stories the green light, the story in question has usually been massaged into something rather formulaic and at odds with his sensibilities. Five years ago, Bicentennial Man was turned into a regular Robin Williams schmaltzfest, albeit one with loads of visual effects. And now, I, Robot has been turned into a regular Will Smith action movie, also loaded with effects.

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