GODS OF EGYPT Review

Gods of Egypt is one of those movies that is so bad that even the inherent campiness of it can't make things the slightest bit fun. At the very least, given the extravagance of the visuals and the outlandish reaches director Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Dark City) goes for here I expected the film to be a good ole' slice of pure entertainment value for the sake of nothing else, but even under these minimal expectations Gods of Egypt fails to be anything but conventional; which is saying a lot for a film that has gigantic flying beetles and Egyptian God transformers dismantling one another. There is seemingly no point to the construction of this universe as far as financial reward goes and the idea of whitewashing these ancient mythological idols is the least of the films problems. Sure, we have Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Geoffrey Rush all doing variations on their European accents, but none are as distracting as the fully CGI backdrops that look as if they were "completed" in a rush two days before the film's release. Beyond all of the obvious complaints there are to make about this movie though, there was certainly some ambition behind the attempt as well. Unfortunately, these strides end up counting for very little. Still, there are risks taken in the way the Gods are portrayed as being larger and more looming than the mortals who worship them, there is an effort to take the historical context of the film and blend in elements of weird science fiction and fantasy, and the actual world building of this strange universe can be immersive, but more times than not these attempts fail to be what they should be and that is to be cool and appealing. Instead, the ugliness of the shiny yet granular images and the fight scenes that look as if they were ripped from a video game circa 2001 reek of a director out of touch and a storyteller too far removed from these adjectives that everything going on here feels as if it's trying too hard to please too broad an audience. Proyas has always been one to try something outside the box or at least be up for going after the unexpected, but with Gods of Egypt there is no amount of CGI that could cover up the scars it leaves.

Zaya (Courtney Eaton) and Bek (Brenton Thwaites) wait to see the mighty Horus crowned king.
Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless AKA the guys behind both Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter maybe the most offensive thing about this movie is that despite all of the effort in the production design, creature design, and general strides to be downright strange the story the movie is telling is an all too conventional chapter from Edith Hamilton's Mythology. Even as the film begins and we are introduced to Bek (The Giver's Brenton Thwaites) who is stealing from street vendors in his all yellow and tan environment it feels like some strange, alternate universe telling of Aladdin before it slips into the whole Hamlet/Lion King premise where one brother kills another brother to take over his throne and banishes his son inevitably leading to a triumphant return where good defeats evil (sorry, spoiler, but be for real). In this scenario Bek is the mere mortal in love with Zaya (Courtney Eaton) who worships and believes in the power of Horus (Coster-Waldau) who is set to become king. Horus will take over for his father, Osiris (Bryan Brown), who has a younger brother named Set (Butler) who is hell-bent on ruling over all of Egypt. With this in mind Set shows up at Hourus' coronation and ruins the party by removing Horus' eyes, taking over the kingdom from his fair-minded brother, and forcing everyone under Osiris' rule into slavery including Bek and Zaya. Zaya becomes a servant for Set's personal architect, Urshu (Rufus Sewell), whom she steals the plans for the trap-laden temple where Set keeps Horus' eyes from and gives them to her brave and curiously skilled boyfriend. This leads Bek back to Horus who is sulking in a nicely decorated tomb somewhere where he encourages him to get off his ass and take back what is rightly his. Along the way, Horus reconnects with his former lover, the God of love herself Hathor (Elodie Yung), and several other Gods including Chadwick Boseman's Thoth who is more or less the God of all knowledge. Through this heroes journey it isn't hard to know what to expect despite the unabashedly goofy qualities of the production and the overarching goal of Butler's Set to destroy the existence of the afterlife.  

On one hand it is especially courageous for a studio (or studios in this case) to take such a bet on an "original" property in hopes of it taking off to become something bigger. More times than not if one begins with that intent they also tend to get ahead of themselves and end up crafting an empty first installment that isn't strong enough to get said franchise off the ground. To go anywhere one has to have a solid foundation and while Gods of Egypt proves to have a world worth exploring both the characters and the execution of their adventure give audiences little reason to want to re-visit that world again. There was something in the beginning-within the first, maybe half hour or so, that spelled promise in the realm of at least being aware of the ridiculous aspects it presented-but as the film digs into its second act and its pacing begins to lag it becomes more clear that maybe Proyas never had the intent of laughing with us at the campy extremes he's reaching for. Instead, we end up laughing at the film. As the film begins to drag though, even the laughing subsides as the journey becomes tiresome and there is nothing compelling us to be invested or care about these characters despite the fact we have serious thespian Geoffrey Rush on a transparent space boat fighting Galactus nightly with his ponytail never far behind. The fact the story begins to turn in on itself from the time Rush's Ra is introduced doesn't help either. We are given details of Set's handful of plans that have him killing any fellow Gods that won't bow to him including his ex-wife Nephthys (Emma Booth) and using their greatest skills to enhance his own power (at least when in transformer mode) as well as Hathor's need to remain in the mortal realm where only a magical bracelet keeps her from the land of the dead where the deceased prey on her. There are caveats for each of these occurrences that explain why they're imperative to the main narrative, but it all feels overly complicated considering the ultimate goal of the film is to personify and bring dimension to the hieroglyphs we've seen in text books since the sixth grade. Less than this, the main objective is to craft a creative and enthralling action/adventure tale, but while the creativity is on something of an overload the enthralling adventure aspect could have used a tenth of that visual energy and likely been a movie one hundred times better because of it.

Thoth (Chadwick Boseman) attempts to solves the Sphinx's riddle.
It's hard to even point a finger at anyone in particular when a film fails on the scale this one does and while Gods of Egypt will undoubtedly be held up as something of a cult favorite in three to five years' time if not for nothing else but the appreciation that comes with certain quirks after repeat viewings (or the drinking games, opportunities abound for as much here), it will be immediately designated as the latest evidence as to why original blockbusters are a thing of the past. Gods of Egypt was never going to be a good movie. It was never going to break any new ground and it certainly wasn't going to redefine the current cinematic landscape in terms of bucking the train of thought that it's safe to spend $140 million dollars on something that's not a PG-13 super hero movie or a Hunger Games adaptation, but I at least hoped it would be entertaining on the basis of nothing more than fun. That it is so often boring and so frequently dependent on nothing more than whatever Proyas might be doing with his camera to make scenes interesting is the actual disappointment. It doesn't help the very Scottish Butler makes no effort to hide his accent, that Coster-Waldau's performance comes off as a parody of the performance he's supposed to be giving, and that Boseman hits the same notes every time he delivers a line. The acting could be taken as the actors playing up the campiness of the material they've been given as they certainly couldn't have taken seriously what they read in the script they were offered, but there is a sincerity to each of these aforementioned performers who seem to be giving it their all in hopes the green screen behind them will be filled in with enough legit epicness to make up for the lines they're spouting. Thwaites barely registers as the mortal who may or may not actually be a mortal (it seriously never answers this question) and the writing in what is supposed to be his comic relief moments is cringe inducing. The only source of actual sympathy comes in the form of Zaya whom the emotional core of both Bek and the movie rests on while Hathor is arguably the most complex character who of course gets the least amount of screen time. There's really no point in complaining though as there is so much bad outweighing even the promising that Gods of Egypt would have to be approached in a different way altogether for it to resemble a good movie.