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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Fantasy > Mythology > Comedy > Egypt > Australia > Dramas > Faith > Religion > Christianity > Gods Of Egypt (2016/Lionsgate 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Risen (2016/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

Gods Of Egypt (2016/Lionsgate 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Risen (2016/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: B Sound: B+ & B/B+ & B Extras: C+ Films: C

Save action and superhero films, the biggest big-money feature film productions have been fantasy epics, thank to Lord of The Rings, its Hobbit sequel trilogy and all the new digital visual effects and digital HD cameras out there. In their wake, the low-budget faith film cycle has also led to a new group of Biblical Epics that have led to mixed results, though the fantasy films often have either fiction faith and/or other ancient religions of the past. It is also interesting that these big budget films have been among the first choices for release in the new Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray format, as Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods & Kings was one of the first titles we covered that way.

Now we can add two more....

Alex Proyas' Gods Of Egypt (2016) has a few interesting distinctions, one of which being one of the few big mega-productions out of Australia of late (Mad Max: Fury Road, also on a 4K Blu-ray we hope to see soon, is one of the few others) from an underrated locale of serious movie production. Thus, when you have the director of The Crow and Dark City making a big fantasy film, there, the expectations should be high and you'd think the makers would take advantage of both the talent and unique feel of Aussie productions. Unfortunately, we get missed opportunities, mistakes, formula and a lack of exposition that sabotaged a work that I still incredibly ambitious and has more interesting off-screen work than what we land up seeing.

Gerard Butler is boo-hiss villain Set, out to be the dark ruler of the a mythical Egypt of the past, nearly killing Horus (Nikojai Coster-Waldau) in an early battle, witnessed by young, barely battle-capable Bek (Brenton Thwaites, whose lost, underdeveloped role will remind one too much of the parts of the recent John Carter that did not work), setting the tone for the 2+ hours action epic. However, there are things that just come out of nowhere, staring with people (gods?) turning into metallic CGI animals as each fight begins. That I among many things that make no sense and if explained better, this would have worked instead of playing like a non-musical version of say... Xanadu!

The supporting cast is not bad with Rufus Sewell, Brian Brown, Geoffrey Rush and Chadwick Boseman all welcome additions. I simply never bought this and though some critics just bashed it mindlessly (Proyas rightly criticized that part), it is still a strange, awkward, mixed and sometimes messy work that needed thought out much better. Also, by trying too much to be like a big CGI Hollywood production, it did a disservice to itself. However, I wonder if this might become a cult item at some point.

Kevin Reynolds has also made his good and poor films, so I was surprised when he took on Risen (2016), a tale of the Christ having to do with his resurrection. Another problematic film, the approach to this religious, Christian landmark moment is being sold as a thriller (a manhunt for a man supposedly dead, suddenly disappeared after being slain and stored in a cave with a giant bolder under seal) and can the cruel, violent non-believer Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) find the body before the 'outrageous, preposterous, ridiculous rumors' that he has somehow risen form the dead ('idiots!') cause an uprising that may cause the rulers to start killing thousands of people (read believers) off. Only in this era could the resurrection of Christ be sold as a police procedural.

So that's the premise of this take and we get some good casting, like Peter Firth (Equus, The Hunt For Red October, Tess, Lifeforce, Pearl Harbor) as Pontius Pilot, Tom Felton (the Harry Potter films) as Lucius and Maria Botto (My Life In Ruins, Only Human) in an odd turn as Mary Magdalene as if she were a witch in the dark arts or some other kind of nearly Satanic clairvoyant. Needless to say the film plays so loose with the various Gospels on the subject from the many variant version of The Bible that even an atheist is bound to notice.

Therefore, this was not that impressive, memorable or did much with the material that we have not seen and done better in earlier filmed versions, but at least the approach is different, though I was not convinced of Fiennes' transformation despite his acting skills, but the material's structure is not a help. Now, you can see for yourself.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition image on both films in the 4K presentations here are better than the regular 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers, but they don't necessarily stand out as demo product, though Gods was mostly shot on a 6K RED Epic Dragon, it was finished in 2K (could that include some shots here with their iffy quality?) and a big helping of blue/green screen. Director of Photography Peter Menzies, Jr. juggles it as all well as con be expected. The Blu-ray is more disappointing than expected, but the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray I more like it despite other issues. Risen was shot on an Arri Alexa (2.8K) and is made to look a bit like film, plus they have made the image a bit dim throughout, with less detail on the regular Blu-ray and more on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, making that higher-definition format the better way to watch the film as well.

As for sound, both films offer 11.1 lossless mixes in their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray versions, with Gods offering a DTS: X such mix that is also on the regular Blu-ray edition and Risen a Dolby Atmos such mix, the best sonic presentations for each film, though Gods had a few moments I thought fell flat. Still, they are both mostly state of the art if offering nothing sonically outstanding or memorable. The regular Blu-ray of Risen only has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that is fine, but no match for the Atmos 11.1 version.

Extras from both releases include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices and the extras are all on the regular Blu-ray for both releases. Gods adds A Divine Vision: Creating a Cinematic Action Fantasy, Of Gods and Mortals: The Cast, The Battle for Eternity: Stunts Transformation, Costume, Make-Up and Hair, Deleted Storyboards, A Window into Another World: Visual Effects and On Location: Shooting in Australia featurettes. Risen adds Deleted Scenes, Script to Screen, a feature length audio commentary track by Producer Patrick Aiello and Writer Paul Aiello, The Mystery of the Resurrection: Making Risen, Creating A.D. Jerusalem and The Battle of the Zealots Deconstructed featurettes.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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