Review: Gods of Egypt
PLOT: The fate of the world hangs in the balance when the evil Egyptian god of Darkness, Set (Gerard Butler), claims the throne of Egypt as his own. Now, mankind’s only hope is the legitimate heir, the fallen god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and a streetwise pickpocket named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) who set-out to restore balance among the gods.
REVIEW: Over the last few years, February has proven itself to be a rough-time for studios to release big-budget sci-fi epics. Despite genre favorite Alex Proyas at the helm and a lavish budget, GODS OF EGYPT follows in the tradition of other wannabe-tentpoles like JUPITER ASCENDING and WINTER’S TALE. GODS OF EGYPT is even worse in that it doesn’t have the camp appeal of those infamous flops, with the 127 minute wannabe epic coming off as a big, bloated prototype of empty CGI spectacle at its worst.
Forget all the controversy surrounding the white-washed casting of a Dane, a Scot and a bunch of Australians as Egyptians. This is not the first movie to do something like this, nor will it – sadly – be the last. GODS OF EGYPT, significantly, has even bigger problems. First and foremost is the story, which is so videogame inspired that it’s ludicrous. After a brief intro to set things up, where Coster-Waldau’s vain Horus gets his magic eyes torn out by his mean uncle Set, it becomes a long, quest narrative, the likes of which you’ve seen dozens of times before. After Thwaites’s Bek helpfully recovers one of Horus’s eyes, the heroes have to go around collecting tokens in order to defeat the big bad – who has tokens of his own – with the idea that Horus can’t get his full-power back until both of his eyes are restored.
Along the way there are a few big set-pieces but no suspense or intrigue whatsoever. A little romance is introduced via Bek’s endangered lover, the pure-hearted Zaya (FURY ROAD’s Courtney Eaton) and Horus’s former flame, Hathor – Goddess of Love (the beguiling Elodie Yung), but none that gets beyond a few longing glances and some gooey melodrama. At least Yung gets to join-in on the quest for awhile, poor Eaton is given absolutely nothing to do.
The worst thing about GODS OF EGYPT is how clumsy it is. The idea here is that the gods are giants compared to puny mortals, but the effects making Thwaites seem shorter than Coster-Waldau and Yung are never convincing. Even worse is the fact that Yung’s eye-line occasionally seems to be at the wrong height when addressing him, something that could have gotten a quick fix but only adds to the patchwork feel of the movie.
Likewise, some really good actors are given horrible material to work with, with Chadwick Boseman in particular getting a poorly conceived part as Thoth, the God of Wisdom. Being the only non-white male lead, one would expect Boseman to be prominent, but Thoth is used mostly as comic relief, with the character being given an effeminate touch that isn’t played-well at all. The same goes for eighties Aussie-legend Bryan Brown, who plays Horus’s wimpy dad in the prologue, and is forced to mouth dialogue that would be all but impossible for even an actor of his stature to make sound cool or significant. Only Geoffrey Rush seems to be having any fun as Ra, playing his scenes mostly for camp effect, a move that seems quite canny given the movie he’s acting-in.
As for the leads, while Thwaites is OK as the athletic pickpocket Bek, Coster-Waldau doesn’t have the presence to carry a massive tent pole movie on his back. Horus feels too much like a slightly watered-down version of Jamie Lannister, and his eventual transition to selfless hero comes-out of nowhere. He might have been better suited for Gerard Butler’s role, and vice-versa, with Butler’s star-power being wasted on a relatively minor bad guy part.
Despite all of this, GODS OF EGYPT does have a few small things going for it. The movie has a clear, bright look which is a nice contrast to today’s darker blockbusters, and works relatively well in 3D if you see it in IMAX. The score by Marco Beltrami is also quite energetic and better than the film deserves. There’s also one touch by Proyas that I thought was clever, with the Earth depicted as flat with the sun revolving around it (as per the ancient theory) establishing a wild, mythical vibe that could have gone a long way towards establishing a far-out tone. Too bad he wasn’t able to sprinkle any anymore cool ideas like that in, as GODS OF EGYPT winds-up being far closer to something like I, ROBOT than THE CROW or DARK CITY.
It’s always a shame when a big, ambitious effort like GODS OF EGYPT falls-flat, but it can’t be denied this is a pretty epic misfire and ultimately just a lot of empty spectacle. Very young kids and maybe some undemanding teenagers may have a little fun with it, but otherwise it’s best avoided and seems unlikely to spawn the sequel the ending sets up.
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