Why 'Gods Of Egypt' Couldn't Compete With 'Deadpool' And 'Zoolander 2'
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You probably haven’t heard of Gods of Egypt. It’s an original fantasy epic starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites, Chadwick Boseman, Geoffrey Rush, and Rufus Sewell. Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, it seems like a pretty standard fantasy spectacular, with magic and action and ancient Egyptian mythology, with the caveat that it is a $150 million motion picture (courtesy of Mystery Clock Cinemas and Thunder Road Productions) directed by Alex Proyas. It just moved release dates from its original February 12th, 2016 slot to April 8th, 2016. The reason it moved is pretty simple. Also slotted for that February 12th slot is the Ryan Reynolds Deadpool revamp and Ben Stiller’s Zoolander 2. Such is the current environment, where a big-budget fantasy spectacular (of unknown quality) is now an underdog and unable to fend off competition partially because it is original. With no expanded universe to trumpet, no childhood nostalgia to mine, and no gif-friendly subject matter to offer, Gods of Egypt is sadly outmatched in terms of the entertainment news cycle.
I have no idea of Gods of Egypt will be any good. The only reason it was on my radar is because (A) it’s a big-budget original studio release and (B) it’s the first theatrical feature from Alex Proyas since Nicholas Cage’s underrated apocalypse fantasy Knowing in early 2009. Mr. Proyas of course is the director behind the first Crow movie which starred Brandon Lee. He used the capital from that film’s relative financial success to make Dark City, which not only beat the somewhat similar The Matrix to theaters by a year but still holds up as one of the great science-fiction films of the last twenty years. But said film was a flop, one of many interesting films slaughtered during the great Titanic massacre of 1998. I like the 2004 Will Smith sci-fi actioner I, Robot more than you do, and I like Knowing more than you, but less than Roger Ebert who put it on his ten-best list for the year. Again, I cannot vouch for the quality of the film, but I don’t blame Summit Entertainment/Lions Gate Entertainment for getting the heck out of dodge.
In an entertainment media dominated by fan-friendly coverage of preordained blockbusters based on known properties, an original and non-kitschy spectacle like Gods of Egypt faced an uphill battle against the fan-entitlement sequels dropping on February 12th. Gods of Egypt won’t have its main players posing for goofy social media-friendly photo shoots. It won’t have actors showing up in character to various talk shows and morning news programs. It won’t have characters (ironically, but totally seriously) plugging various products in print and video ads that will be shared all over the Internet and thus drum up copious amounts of “free” publicity in the run up to its release. Its trailer won’t be breathlessly anticipated and hotly debated, nor will it be unveiled piece-by-piece in the form of riddles. No one will “Retweet the hashtag #GodsOfEgypt” to unlock the trailer, nor will news media cover the teaser for the teaser for the poster. We won’t get news articles about the ten things we learned, ten clues we found, or the ten questions we have after viewing the first Gods of Egypt trailer.
The film may be great, the trailer and poster art may be superb. But it is still at a distinct disadvantage because it doesn’t have the fan-friendly/geek-friendly/nostalgia-pandering elements necessary to dominate the news cycle in the weeks leading up to its release. April 8th is comparably a quieter week, at least so far. That week sees the release of the Jesse Owens biopic Race along Melissa McCarthy’s original comedy vehicle Michelle Darnel. For at least its opening weekend, Gods of Egypt will be the biggest movie of the frame. It arrives two weekends after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and it is followed by Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book on April 15h and Universal/Comcast Corp’s “Snow White prequel with no Snow White” action-er The Huntsman dropping the week after that. What’s fascinating, and a little sad, is how hard it is for a film like Gods of Egypt to find a weekend that doesn’t just have another big release but doesn’t have a big release that will have the advantage of free publicity and social media-domination due to its pre-sold awareness.
Gods of Egypt isn’t just at a relative disadvantage due to its lack of pre sold brand awareness, it is at a distinct disadvantage in terms of being noticed in the entertainment news cycle that thrives not just on covering pre-sold properties and their already-established characters but a social media community that all-but-markets the films on the behalf of the studios by turning any morsel of imagery or news into a full-blown media event. I don’t remotely blame Lionsgate for getting Gods of Egypt away from the combined might of Zoolander 2 and Deadpool. And I can absolutely blame myself and others of my ilk who will automatically treat geek-friendly properties as more important than everything else. Although of course that’s what gets clicks, so the responsibility can be shared. I hope Gods of Egypt finds the success to justify its investment and production come April 8th, and this whole piece should not remotely be a reflection on Lionsgate’s marketing department, nor am I remotely predicting box office doom for the picture. But February 12th was just asking for trouble, as the vast majority of media attention would be sucked up by Zoolander 2 and Deadpool.
The end result is that a big-budget fantasy film directed by one of our interesting directors is considered an underdog at least in the domestic box office arena purely because it doesn’t have a geek-friendly/nostalgia-skewing source material to exploit. So what this all means is, I… oooh, 20th Century Fox just dropped Fantastic Four character posters!
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