GODS OF EGYPT
Director: Alex Proyas
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler, Elodie Yung, Courtney Eaton, Chadwick Boseman, Rufus Sewell, Geoffrey Rush, Goran D. Kleut, Alexander England, Emma Booth, Yaya Deng, Abbey Lee
MPAA Rating: (for fantasy violence and action, and some sexuality)
Running Time: 2:07
Release Date: 2/26/16
Review by Mark Dujsik | February 26, 2016
It's not just that the gods of Egypt exist. The entire scope of Egyptian mythology is on display in Gods of Egypt, and that means our current understanding of the world, the sun, the stars, and everything else in the known universe is tossed out the window. Earth is flat. Ra pilots a great ship in the sky, riding on waves of stars—the "waters of creation"—and hauling the sun behind him. Every night, a massive serpent of cloud and smoke arrives, threatening to gobble up the world and leave behind only chaos.
Conceptually, this is a daring approach, and perhaps it's also the right one. Instead of trying to figure out how a mortal man could survive the trip into outer space to visit Ra on his ship, the movie simply ignores the notion of outer space as we understand it. This is, after all, the stuff of myth, so why shouldn't the filmmakers do away with any pretense of reality? If there are gods—who stand about 10 feet tall, have gold running through their veins, and can transform into metallic beasts—in this world, why wouldn't we also see a view of the flat disc of Earth from high in the sky?
This ends any genuine appreciation for the movie, which quickly becomes a mismanaged mess. Everyone is doing their own thing, and none of it fits together. Director Alex Proyas is concentrated on building this world, but he's hampered by shaky visual effects, which seem to have been rendered using the philosophy that an abundance of bright colors and shiny surfaces will somehow distract from just how inadequate they actually are.
The screenplay by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless takes the clever setup of this world and offers only a generic adventure, in which the mythological foundation is just an excuse to get from one setpiece to the next, and whatever grandeur could have existed here is undermined by the characters' constant reliance on jokey dialogue and one-liners. As for the cast, there is the problem that only two of the main characters could reasonably pass for Egyptian (Even then, well, it's a stretch for different reasons), but that barely matters when everyone here just seems to be going through the motions—some more than others.
To even touch upon the extent of this plot in a short summary would be folly. Let's just say that there's a battle for dominion over Egypt between Set (Gerard Butler, maintaining his Scottish accent for reasons unknown), one of the sons of Ra (Geoffrey Rush, sleepwalking his way through his scenes), and Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who's fine by comparison to everyone else), the son of Ra's favored son Osiris (Bryan Brown). Set kills Osiris, taking over the throne, and blinds Horus before banishing him to the wilderness.
Years pass, and Set has enslaved the mortals of the land to build a towering obelisk to honor his grandfather. Bek (a bland Brenton Thwaites), one of the enslaved mortals who doesn't believe in the gods (Don't ask), comes up with a plan to steal Horus' eyes and return them to their rightful owner. He hopes Horus will free the human slaves, especially his beloved Zaya (Courtney Eaton, who at least looks the part of a fair damsel).
With that out of the way, there's actually a lot more, but let's, again, just say that Bek and Horus go on many adventures while encountering many allies and fighting many foes. In the former category of characters, there are Hathor (Elodie Yung), the goddess of love, and Thoth (Chadwick Boseman, who seems overwhelmed by the effort of affecting a British dialect), the god of wisdom. In the latter category, we have Mnevis (a computer-generated character performed by Alexander England), a tall warrior bull, and a pair of hunters (Yaya Deng and Abbey Lee) who ride massive, fire-breathing cobras. Of less definable allegiance is Anubis (another CG character performed by Goran D. Kleut), who rules over the underworld with the apathy of someone in middle-management. Of course, no piece of Egyptian mythology is going to ignore the Sphinx and its frustrating riddle.
In theory, all of this seems right, and one can almost admire the gumption of the filmmakers for so thoroughly embracing the absurd nature of accepting myth as truth. The execution, though, is all over the place, with wildly incoherent action sequences and characters who never seem to care about anything, either because the performances are so lacking emotion or because the screenplay has them laughing off anything of importance. Gods of Egypt possesses the seed of a unique vision, but every element of the movie seems set on salting the ground in which that seed is planted.
Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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