Gods of Egypt
Director – Alex Proyas
Cast – Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites, Elodie Jung, Geoffrey Rush
Rating – 1/5
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor
– Regina Spektor
But what if the Gods in question are the glittery ones from Gods of Egypt? What if they ride on flying chariots kept aloft by bugs and trees and birds? What if they had the power to transform into metallic statues and fiery bulls? What if they bled gold and fought snake monsters by hissing at them?
There’s a scene in Gods of Egypt where Gerard Butler, still hungover from 300, bellows at the camera, “You think I’d put any effort into trying to amuse you?” And it makes you wonder, considering the levels of insanity that this movie has been assaulting you with (for 2 hours!), if Gerard Butler was in on the joke the whole time. Because not only is Alex Proyas’ new film borderline unwatchable, it’s irredeemably so.
After floating across an atrociously rendered CG Egypt for a solid minute we are introduced to Bek, an Aladdin-type mortal who spends his days knicking valuables for himself and his beloved Zaya. And that is the absolute extent to which his character is defined, which is not ideal, because bear in mind, he’s the protagonist. Meanwhile, the God of Disorder (and Desert Storms), Set kicks into motion his nefarious scheme of world domination by killing his brother Osiris in the most inconvenient and inconspicuous way possible. Set blinds Osiris’ son Horus, our second protagonist, and sends him to a cellar to spend the rest of his blind days. When something really bad (death) happens to Zaya, Bek is sent on a quest that will force him to team up with the curmudgeonly Horus as they seek vengeance on the evil Set and attempt to bring Zaya back to life. Hilarity does not ensue.
Honestly, the film grows stupider by the scene. Gods of Egypt plays out much like a video game: One that feels like watching a particularly ill-mannered teen play. Badly, I might add. On a whim, they decide to consult Ra (the Zeus of Egyptian Gods), who happens to be living a zen life on a spaceship (a spaceship! In ancient Egypt!), not unlike Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy. For those of you keeping score at home, this movie has flying chariots kept aloft by butterflies, really angry metallic statues, plans that involve “killing the desert,” giant serpents and now, Ra on a spaceship. Oh, and I forgot to mention: Ra has a tendency to spontaneously combust and is played by screen legend Geoffrey Rush.
As some of you may have already guessed, the central relationship between the Gods sounds a lot like the Odin-Thor-Loki dynamic. And speaking of Norse Gods, let’s talk a little bit about that great, big alabaster elephant in the room: Racial whitewashing. Horus, noted Egyptian God, is played with striking emotional blankness by the whitest, most Scandinavian man imaginable, the Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. You know him as Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones. Who you probably don’t know is the Australian Brenton Thwaites, who delivers a performance so mind-numbingly dull that it can put sleeping pills to sleep, which is unfortunate because he was quite good in Oculus. And then there’s Gerard Butler as Set, not even pretending to give a fart, with his almost comically exaggerated Scottish accent. This movie is the worst example of a very important problem and there is no defending it. The sooner they accept they goofed up the better. And in all its narrow-minded negativity, the dialogue it has incited on this issue is perhaps the only good this movie will ever end up doing.
What’s most disappointing is the fact that this film is directed by the truly talented Alex Proyas, the man behind Dark City, I Robot and Knowing (a film most people detest, but not me). And it’s clear he came armed with a vision, but when that vision resembles the inside of a blingy Dubai nightclub, we’re all in trouble. Once again, we have a respected sci-fi filmmaker falling into an ugly CG pit of his own making, because what we have here is this year’s Jupiter Ascending.
Gods of Egypt makes that Wachowski atrocity look like a masterpiece. Hell, it makes Clash of the Titans look like a masterpiece. In fact, it resembles Clash so closely that you almost start looking around for a confused Sam Worthington to show up. And guess what, they’ve even shoehorned their own ‘Release the Kraken!’ moment here.
Look, at least Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, The Rock’s Hercules, and yes, Clash of the Titans and Jupiter Ascending had the decency to be a hoot. They fully embraced their silliness. Gods of Egypt on the other hand, is horrible at even the one thing it should have made sure it did well: The CGI. It’s extremely ugly, it looks plastic and noticeably fake. In an age where we have small-budget films like Anonymous and Chronicle redefining CGI, here’s a $150 million eyesore. And there’s no scenery-chewing Eddie Redmayne to save them this time.
The film, pun fully intended, is an ungodly mess. What could have been an adventurous buddy comedy, an old-fashioned, Ben-Hur style epic, or a knowingly deranged B-movie ends up being an early contender for the worst film of the year. Too bad. Those trailers looked good.