Gods of Egypt is directed by Alex Proyas and is mind-shreddingly tedious. I want to make it clear that I know absolutely nothing about the myths of Ancient Egypt so I cannot and will not discuss the accuracy of the film on that front. I will only judge Gods of Egypt in terms of its filmmaking and on that front it’s getting the fucking chair.
Our story takes place in Egypt where the Gods walk among men as beautiful, 10 foot tall, gold-blooded shape-shifters. The leader of the Gods on Earth is Osiris, a socialist God believing that the 1% take up 90% of the space in the afterlife and that needs to change. His brother Set, played by Gerard Butler, believes in the power of the Egyptian Dream (slavery) so he kills Osiris and takes the throne for himself. He declares that you now need to buy your way into heave with riches earned throughout your life. Osiris’ son Horus, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau or Jaime Lannister as he’s often known, takes exception to this and fights his uncle. He loses and Set takes his eyes, banishing him. A year passes and a young thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is in love with a slave girl with thoughts of revolution. His penis promises to steal one of the eyes of Horus so they can help him defeat Set. He succeeds, she dies and Bek and Horus team up to take down Set with the understanding that Horus will help bring back his lost love.
It’s a pretty standard plot but, as I’ve said before, you can get away with having an old structure by having good content. Having three-dimensional characters is a good place to start. Here Gods of Egypt had a massive stroke and slumped over the first hurdle. Our leads Bek and Horus are blandly written with half-assed attempts at character journeys and no personality to them. Bek is trying to pull an Orpheus and rescue his lady-love from the underworld. He distrusts the Gods but learns to trust them through his partnership with Horus. On the flip side Horus needs to learn that mortals are people too and through his relationship with Bek he does. Hurray! That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? It does until the added context that all the changes in their world views happens in the climax with the subtlety and grace of 9/11. Gerard Butler’s Set is the clichéd, over-the-top villain that is customary in this type of film but he’s the most entertaining character in this because of Butler who is clearly having a lot of fun.
In fact, Butler might be the only character with any kind of life to him. Brenton Thwaites as Bek is terrible. Yes it’s a nothing role but a good actor can make these kind of roles tolerable. Lines that would be harmless in a competent actor’s hands become thumb-screws painful in his. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as one-eye Horus is channelling his inner-Snake Pliskin but he’s very clearly just going through the motions, not that I blame him. The backgrounds don’t even want to be there why should he?
Which brings us onto the CGI. In one of my first reviews, I dragged Alice: Through the Looking Glass across the hot coals for basically being a shinier version of Sharkboy & Lavagirl. I thought that CGI was awful but I was young and foolish. I believed the world to be a better place then. I was wrong. Have actual sets become taboo in modern Hollywood? Are they not worth making your film infinitely more relatable? Did we learn nothing from Mad Max: Fury Road? I understand there are some settings in this film that you have to use CGI but there are plenty where sets were a viable option and weren’t used. Particularly in desert scenes, which may as well have been painted by five-year olds for all the realism they added.
The over-use of CGI negatively impacts on the performances as well. It goes without saying that an actor reacts differently to something that isn’t there than to something solid. A combination of good direction and design can hide this but God’s of Egypt insists on full body shots against the fake backgrounds just to make sure you know you’re in a (bad) movie. Poor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau suffered the most for this in the fight scene with the two giant snakes. It looks like he’s running on the spot. You can’t get sucked in to the proceedings or invested in the characters struggles because nothing feels real. The action is dull and weightless as well and if the action, characters and story are all sub-par then Gods of Egypt is up shit creek without a paddle.
But wait, what if the themes are interesting and discussed in-depth? Then it’s still a shit movie because it’s action, characters and story aren’t up to scratch. But to be fair, the themes had potential. As you probably put together from that plot description, there is a socialist ideology at the heart of the film. If you want to talk about inequalities in society, the relationship between Gods and mortals is a good way to go about it. Set Trump is the capitalist whose ambition and greed are all-consuming, nearly destroying the world before Horus Sanders can stop him and return power to his subjects, having learned that mortals are people too. That’s all well and good except that, like the character journeys, all discussion of the themes disappear in the second act because we need to go on our walking tour of Egyptian mythology. The sphinx is the most blatantly crammed in attraction in the film in a comedy action scene that doesn’t have either.
In conclusion, it’s boring. I joked about giving this film the death sentence at the start but honestly it wouldn’t be worth the effort. Gods of Egypt does nothing you haven’t seen before and does it worse. It has no manner of depth or character to it that would make it stand out and there is no reason anyone would go see it. Unless they’re writing a blog.
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