Synopsis – Mortal hero Bek teams with the god Horus in an alliance against Set, the merciless god of darkness who has usurped Egypt’s throne, plunging the once peaceful and prosperous empire into chaos and conflict.
My Take – From the seriously sketchy trailers & negative pre release criticism of white washing, it was quite evident this was going to be another below the belt hitting gods-versus- mortals epic aka Clash of Titans in Egypt! And guess what? This film by director Alex Proyas (The Crow, I Robot, Dark City), who hasn’t had a release in seven years, is actually as bad as it seemed! The main news about this movie prior to its release was how no Egyptians were cast even though the story is about Egypt and its inhabitants. Now that it has finally been released the major talk should be about how silly it is, like 140 million dollars was spent to make this? Far beneath the thick, thick muddy, CGI-ed to death veneer of this film, there’s evidence that filmmaker Alex Proyas was looking to get back to this lost era, which effectively with the Clash of Titans sequel Wrath of the Titans. Like that film, this film tells the story of ancient deities taking an interest in the affairs of morals, whose fate falls into the hands of a youthful heartthrob with questionable acting skills. Set in a fantastical world of steampunk-meets-Power Rangers Egyptian mysticism, the film sees the titular deities kindly lording over the land of Egypt. (Egypt, by the way, is depicted as an entire world comprised of a flat disc floating in space, with the underworld on the other side, in one of the film’s few interesting creative decisions) The story follows god Horus (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau), who is selected by his father Noble god Osiris (Bryan Brown), as a successor to his throne. But this decision displeases Osiris’ banished sibling Set (Gerard Butler), who returns on his nephew’s coronation day to murder Osiris and usurp the kingdom while plucking both of Horus’s eyes. As with most such power tussles, there is a familial dimension – Set who isn’t just resentful that his father, the sun god Ra (Geoffrey Rush), had given rule of Egypt to Horus but also seemingly banished him to a bleak and barren wasteland.
A year passes and the people of Egypt find themselves wholly enslaved by the despot. While they toil away building massive obelisks in tribute to the evil monarch’s conquests, their cries for help remain unanswered as Horus lies in exile at his father’s tomb. When rebellious young thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is coaxed by his true love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) into stealing a valuable artifact from Set’s treasury, he sets in motion a monumental quest that will partner him with a god to save his beloved from the land of the dead, and thwart a tyrant’s diabolical plan to destroy the world. And so begins a series of bedazzled action sequences, including a thrilling chase by two evil goddesses Astarte (Abbey Lee) and Anat (Yaya Deng) atop two giant fire-breathing serpents and a near-death escape from Set with some help from the goddess of love Hathor (Elodie Yung) inside the chamber of a towering Sphinx. Oh yes, there is no such thing as subtlety here. The chariots are pulled by giant scarab beetles. Sedan chairs take flight with hundreds of birds. Gods transform from their 11, 12 feet in height human form into glistening animal-headed robots and bleed liquid gold. Ra lives in a spaceship hovering above the Earth, bursts into flames at will and spends each night doing battle with the Lovecraftian ancient Apep by shooting fireballs from his spear. Seriously, where has the 140 million dollars gone? It seemed most of it had probably gone into the visual effects which is predominantly CGI. It’s not even state of the art CGI with some scenes looking decidedly fake. There is one scene involving a waterfall which is obvious to everyone that it has been generated by computer. Seriously the CGI used is just atrocious! So many special effects are laughably bad. The problem, though, is everything else. For the most part, the film’s CGI makes the film play like one huge Playstation 2 cut-scene, and the novelty of the ridiculous, gold-heavy production design wears thin pretty fast. When Butler and Coster-Waldau morph into their texture-less, winged Deity Beast Modes, it’s hard not to start thinking of Green Lantern, especially when the actors’ heads are crudely pasted onto the animated bodies. However, the film does pull off some mildly interesting forced-perspective gimmicks with the gods, as they stand several feet taller than the human characters. It’s a simple effect that stands out among st all the over designed sets and costumes. Even then, you may spend more time gawking at the green-screen blurs around each actor as they walk through yet another endless desert. Several of the monsters are amusing, with their designs matching the might of the “Clash of the Titans” movies, but they fail to present formidable danger for the dwarfed heroes who sprint around on the ground, always millimeters out of reach of enormous fangs or breaths of fire.
It also doesn’t help that new rules and ideas are continually devised on the spot to prolong the story. The loss of an all-seeing eye, or the momentary inability to sprout wings, or the portal-jumping transitions between the land of the living and dead are never given much thought; they just happen, spontaneously lending to a premise already too unnecessarily complex for the straightforward fantasy picture this should have been. The script is weak and riddled with cliches. Any problem the characters get in is easily fixed by movie magic. There are no rules for the characters in this world. They can go anywhere and do anything that gets them to the end of the movie. Also the amount of cheese is strong in the dialogues. If we try to look hard from a different perspective, silliness certainly isn’t lost on director Proyas; indeed, along with his writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (‘Dracula Untold’ and ‘The Last Witch Hunter’), Proyas gleefully embraces its absurdity with campy humor. For one, Bek is never too far from an amusing squib usually directed at Bek. For another, the god of wisdom Thoth (Chadwick Boseman) is a ball being haughty and all full of himself – and we mean that literally in the context of the hundreds of copies he has made of himself to serve him in his lair. It never does take itself too seriously, nor too flippantly to be completely dismissed, and the levity is a nice counter-balance to the elaborate kitsch on display. Although the narrator states that the gods have gold running through their veins, and that they can transform into beasts to do battle, it’s not enough to prepare audiences for just how outrageous those concepts will appear. Credit that too to Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau and Brenton Thwaites, who sustain a lively bicker-some chemistry as a pair of mismatched buddies forced to work together rather than apart. Coster-Waldau and Thwaites admirably quip their way through some awful dialogue, but even they can’t escape the film’s failings. Coaster-Waldau oozes sheer masculine charm, while Gerald Butler often chews up the scenery with pomp and swagger. Both actors are no stranger to the swords-and- sandals genre – the former from the HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’ and the latter of course from ‘300’ – and have no trouble convincing us of their place in Egyptian mythology. Geoffrey Rush also lends his trademark eccentricity to Ra, looking just at home on his solar barque. Chadwick Boseman gives an impossibly bad performance as the god of wisdom, who minces every line like he’s trying to be as off-putting as possible. The ladies, Courtney Eaton & Elodie Yung look unbearably sexy and emote their parts well. On the whole, ‘Gods of Egypt’ is a mammoth disappointment, run down by poor scripting & bad visual effects. The film’s awfulness was probably its only selling point, but unlike ironically entertaining turkeys like Batman & Robin, Battlefield Earth and Clash of Titans, its badness isn’t even particularly interesting. Gods of Egypt takes bonkers ideas and whitewashes them into generalized mediocrity. It’s so bad it’s just bad.
Director – Alex Proyas
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 127 minutes