With the movie Gods of Egypt director Alex Proyas tries to give us a break from all the Greek mythology-based movies and show us some of the marvels of the Egyptian pantheon, alas what we get is nothing more than retreaded visuals from the 2010 Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia. Similarities to the second one are even more apt as Gods of Egypt is like watching someone else play a video game.
The basic premise of the film is war among the gods; Osiris (Bryan Brown) is not just a deity but a ruling King of Egypt who is abdicating in favour of his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and when Set (Gerard Butler) shows up at the coronation things go rather badly for all concerned. This movie’s version of Egyptian mythology comes across as if it was written by someone who glanced at the Wikipedia page on Egyptian mythology for a minute or two and then said, “Fuck it” and played a couple of hours of Gods of War instead.
The gods here are just really tall people that live extremely long, and who can turn themselves into bestial counterparts for fun and profit. So does that make them gods or aliens, because at times this could have worked as a prequel to Stargate. If these “gods” get old and need to retire that means they are not immortal so ipso facto that makes them in fact mortal, and thus not actually gods. And if they are gods, “Why would a god abdicate?” or “Why do people pray to these gods when posting a letter would seem much more practical?” These are many of the questions that will arise constantly while watching this film.
Set shows up and is pissy about having to wander the desert all these years (swap out the underworld for the desert and you basically have Hades), so he shanks Osiris and gouges out Horus’s eyes, and just as he is about to deal with the coup de grâce Hathor (Elodie Yung), the goddess of love and Horus’s girlfriend, begs for his life, and because Set has never seen a movie before he spares the one who will eventually kill him. Oops Spoiler Warning But Set isn’t the true hero of the film that would be Bek (Brenton Thwaites), an Aladdin style street rat that is in love with Zaya (Courtney Eaton), who like Bek is a just mortal caught up in the war of the gods. When Set claims the throne of Egypt he declares that only those with treasure can pass on into the afterlife, and then for some reason he goes around collecting all the treasure he possibly can. In most mythologies, the gods are all about fighting and fucking, with messing with mortals a nice diversion, but rarely do you see them amassing huge treasure troves. Next thing you know Set will be asking for a starship.
The film certainly is a visual feast, and director Alex Proyas knows how to move a camera, but as 99% of what we see is all created in the computer it kind of gets boring after a while. As I said earlier it’s a bit like watching someone else playing a video game and one can only do that so long before getting bored stiff. Story-wise there isn’t much originality going on here; Proyas and his screenwriters have cobbled together bits and bobs from many different movies; Bek and Zaya become slaves and she is forced to work for the Master Builder (Rufus Sewell), while Bek is stuck moving giant stones for Set’s monument which is all straight out of the Charlton Heston Ten Commandments. I guess this is a fair cop as their both about Egypt; though Alex Proyas was clear to announce to the world that this was not based on any historical version of Egypt. As if anyone watching this could make that mistake.
“The world of Gods of Egypt never really existed. It is inspired by Egyptian mythology, but it makes no attempt at historical accuracy because that would be pointless — none of the events in the movie ever really happened.” – Alex Proyas
Really, gods didn’t live in pyramids and pull the sun across the sky in a spaceship? Gosh, I’m glad he set me straight. How anyone could mistake this story for something to be taken seriously is beyond me. The movie is just your standard quest story with Bek teaming up with Horus to defeat Set, they will have to collect magic items and gain companions along the way as they move from one special effect set piece to another, and then they will have the final boss fight. Not really rocket science here. We have an extra little drama as the beautiful Zaya is killed and being a slave she will not be able to buy her way into the afterlife, so Bek is only helping Horus if the god promises to rescue Zaya from the land of the dead.
With a running time of just over two hours, the film does manage to move along at a fairly good clip, but as I didn’t really care about any of the characters it still felt rather long. The action sequences are of such low caliber graphics that they wouldn’t pass muster for a cut scene on an Xbox One. The cast are all hampered by the fact they are mostly staring at Ping-Pong balls on sticks in front of green screens for the bulk of their performances, and then you have Gerard “This is Sparta!” Butler over-acting to such a degree that his performance goes from comical to painful. It’s a shame that the director of The Crow and Dark City has been reduced to churning out this generic Hollywood crap. That it barely made back its $140 million dollar budget at least removes the fear of any forthcoming sequels.
Note: This film got a lot of flack for “White Washing” the cast as Alex Proyas version of Egypt is rather pale. He and the producers publicly apologized for this oversight, but racial insensitivity is the least of this film’s problems.
Gods of Egypt (2016)
When I first heard we were getting a movie about Egyptian mythology I was excited, but once I saw the first trailer I got a bit worried, now having seen the film I’m just sad.