“Gods Of Egypt”
An Epic Embarrassment
“Gods of Egypt” is a modern big budget epic blockbuster with bankable and up and coming stars and expensive special effects yet it is a mess. There is no depth, it is filled with clichés and stiff acting.
The film’s director, Alex Proyas, is an ambitious yet taut master of tone and genre. He has had more misses in his career, he’s a filmmaker who always employs a specific and unified approach to each film. It seems that Proyas and his team set out to recreate one of those 1950s B-movie fantasies full of swashbuckling heroes battling monsters based on ancient myth without a hint of irony or an attempt at tinkering with the material to make it more palatable for a modern audience. It is neither an homage or a throwback to those films, it is one of those films but a bad one.
The incredibly simple story follows the episodic structure of those old films, most of which set a basic goal for our hero, then spends a chunk of the story as the hero goes on a journey to find the magical items needed for that goal, only to quickly end the story with the goal is finished.
The screenplay of “Gods of Egypt” has some attempts at contemporary banter between Horus (Nicholaj Coster-Waldau), a god who’s bent on revenge after his uncle Set (Gerard Butler) kills his father Osiris (Bryan Brown) in order to rule Egypt, and Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a lowly human thief who helps Horus on his journey in exchange for the possibility of his loved one coming back from the dead.
They is a silly film about gods and mortals in ancient Egypt that sinks into sword and sorcery. Set, god of disorder wrests control of his kingdom from his brother, Horus in an opening hand-to-hand combat sequence where the siblings clang swords and beat on each other for a while, until they both assume the form of armored creatures that look like android warriors and leap through the air, knocking each other against pillars until Set finally tears Horus’s eyes out. At first, Set wants to kill Horus outright, but relents when the goddess Hathor (Elodie Yung) begs him to be merciful. Set then banishes the blind Horus to a crypt where he’s eventually set free by the intrepid mortal Bek, a resourceful thief whose beautiful young lover, Zaya (Courtney Eaton) died from an arrow wound and is now trekking through the underworld en route to her final judgment. According to lore, only the king of Egypt can free a dead person from the between-state and return them to the land of the living. That means Horus has only a few days to gain control of the kingdom from Set. If he doesn’t, Bek’s girlfriend will stay dead forever.
“Gods of Egypt” is an adventure in what used to be called the “swords and sandals” genre. Every chest is waxed and every bosom heaves. The characters address crowds of thousands of extras, and run their enemies through with swords and spears and zap them with death rays and swear fealty to this and vengeance against that, and tromp around in metal tunics. The actors have great bodies but do not look Egyptian. Proyas sort-of-apologized last year for the casting, saying he would’ve hired more actors of color if it hadn’t made the movie so hard to finance at the budget level he needed. As is, the most prominent nonwhite actor is Chadwick Boseman who plays an incarnation of Thoth, the father of science, religion, philosophy and magic. Nevertheless, it’s a good cast. And there are extras galore:
Storyboards: A series of animatics with CG that doesn’t look that different from the final product.
A Divine Vision: A fairly superficial look at the overall design of the film.
Of Gods and Mortals: A 10-minute EPK where the poor actors have to find anything good to say about the film. Truly cringe inducing.
Transformation: Another 10-minute EPK, this one about the costumes and make-up.
On Location: Footage of the shoot in Australia. Nothing really interesting here.
The Battle for Eternity: Another superficial, self-serving EPK, this one about the stunts.
A Window into Another World: Okay, now this is getting really sad. This is a 10-minute featurette where the visual effects artists talk about the “groundbreaking” CGI used in the film.
If you like modern cheesy B-movies without any hint of irony or an attempt to modernize the episodic structure of those old films, you might love “Gods of Egypt”. However….