Ancient Egypt is once again delivered to screen by Hollywood, except this time no one will want to take credit.
Gods of Egypt is surely a movie nobody really wanted to make. The result is a movie nobody will ever really want to see. This is a production, I am sure, that spent no time at all on a real film set, and thought it could get away with hammering in a stupid plot, driven by young actors who seem totally unsure of themselves. The movie stars Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Geoffrey Rush as the seniors, and Brenton Thwaites and Courtney Eaton as juniors.
Coster-Waldau plays the almighty Horus, one of the most worshipped and beloved of all Ancient Egyptian deities. At his coronation ceremony, his father Osiris (Bryan Brown) is betrayed and murdered by Set (Butler), Osiris’ brother, who is upset that he’s had to endure countless eons decorating sand dunes while Osiris decorates opulent temple walls in the adoration of thousands. Horus, of course, vows vengeance for his father, but is beaten by Set and cast out into the vast wilderness where, if the right person comes along, he may just be persuaded to return to Egypt to save the day and restore balance. That old, insufferable chestnut.
You’d think, since the Ancient Egyptian deities were all animals (or at least half man half animal), that it’d be odd to see them in complete human form, slightly oversized so that they tower over all the mortals, but you’d be wrong. It’s not odd. It’s comical. Especially when they look like King Leonidas and Jaime Lannister on a Greek vacation out in the desert sands.
This movie looks bad from just about every angle, and is written worse. It is coated in a thick, ungainly layer of CGI, so that some of the characters’ costumes seem to exist purely in an intangible, digital dimension. We are not even treated to consistent high quality stuff; the CGI drops in and out of acceptable visual standards. Some effects look amazing (as when a giant wormlike creature threatens to devour the Earth whole). Some look like leftovers from an After Effects tutorial.
Gods of Egypt is directed by Alex Proyas, whose masterful Dark City (1998) and sufficient I, Robot (2004) seem like timeless classics by comparison. Where is the attention to detail here? Where is the intellectual innovation and bravery that made I, Robot entertaining and Dark City such a threatening noir thriller? I fear Proyas filmed this movie with a horde of studio executives shovelling up behind him, inching him closer to the edge of a cliff. Only such hurry could explain this mess.
I grew up reading about Ancient Egypt, and have in my adulthood come to fully appreciate their heritage and culture. I know my fair share about Horus and Set, and Osiris and Anubis, and can admit to holding their stories close to my heart. So you can imagine how tragic Gods of Egypt is, since it completely washes away all the charm and mystery of the civilisation, and replaces them with witless action that becomes very tiring to follow. Add to that the weak performance of Brenton Thwaites as the human Bek, and the absolutely befuddling Chadwick Boseman as the god Thoth, and you’ve got yourself a prime candidate for the year’s worst movie.
Gods of Egypt is available in Australian cinemas from February 25th
Image (c) Entertainment One Films 2016