Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler, Breton Thwaites, Chadwick Boseman, and Elodie Yung
Release Date: Out Now
In ancient Egypt, the gods were real, and walk among the people. They tower over humans in stature, bleed gold, and can transform into deities with animal heads. The King of the Gods, Osirus, ruled benevolently, but the time has come for him to pass the throne on to his son, Horus, God of the Air.
However, Osirus’ brother, Set, murdered him and stole the throne. A year later, human thief Bek is in slavery alongside his lover Zaya. She asks him to break into Set’s treasury to take back the source of Horus’ power.
…Boy, what a mess, right?
For a film with such a large budget ($140 million), Gods of Egypt has a whole bunch of problems that manage to cheapen it. Firstly, it’s hard to talk about this film without very briefly talking about ‘white-washing’.
For a film set in Fantasy-Egypt, there seems to be a few too many white people about, at least, in the main cast. To be fair, extras are at least diverse, and supporting characters are at least, ahem, ‘vaguely ethnic’.
The main cast, though, are mostly white, which is a problem considering most of them play literal gods, lording over the more diverse common folk. That being said, it doesn’t seem like a conscious decision, just a poorly considered set of casting choices, and this film isn’t exactly going for historical accuracy.
At the end of the day, Gods of Egypt it is what it is, and a more diverse cast wouldn’t have helped. Once you move past the casting problem, then you have ALL of the other little issues.
The visual effects are unconvincing and already appear dated. It’s as though this is a film made a decade ago but was locked in a tomb until now. In addition, the script is just as naff, trying to be grandiose but only coming off as hammy. Even in moments of utmost peril, the protagonists, Bek and Horus, are cheeky and quick witted. Rather than being endearing however, they simply come off as arrogant because the dialogue is very low quality.
It’s no fault of Thwaites or Coster-Waldau, who make the best of a bad job. But try as they might, they just aren’t able to make their characters particularly likeable.
Then you have the villain, Set, the God of the Desert. Gerard Butler does what he does best, but there is very little to this baddie, who appears to be evil simply for the sake of it. His actions at first make sense, even if they are despicable, but after a point, logic just goes out the window. Indeed, logic doesn’t seem to have been invented yet in this Ancient Egypt.
Characters fall out with other characters over their actions, despite their motivations being plainly obvious. For most of the film, instead of being upfront with other each other, working together on their respective goals, Bek and Horus are either defiant, evasive, or just flat out lying to each other. In most films, this might be a method of creating dramatic tension. Here, it simply becomes bothersome, wearing on patience that is already paper thin.
On top of that, the supporting cast is flat and uninteresting, with only a couple of the side characters standing out or doing anything of note. Hathor, the Goddess of Love and lover of Horus, has a genuinely interesting back story, as well as having more agency and sense than almost anyone else. Sadly, her character is barely fleshed out at all and utterly wasted.
Thoth, the God of Wisdom, has a couple of ‘sort-of’ funny moments and an (admittedly kind of clichéd) attitude that sets him apart from the rest, but he barely features. Anubis, the God of Death who never reverts to his more human form, is pretty cool, but only shows up for a sparse few seconds, scattered here and there.
Other than these examples, the rest of the characters are forgettable good guys or even more forgettable evil minions. This is a huge pity, because if there is one thing that a film set in Ancient Egypt should not be, it’s boring.
There is so much potential for a more interesting adventure here. There is abundant lore, a huge history to draw from, and indeed, at its core, the story of Set is fascinating.
But the end product is a kitschy, camp jumble.
To be fair though, it’s not a total disaster. The actors do what they can with the material they’ve been given. The first ten minutes are a goldmine of inadvertent entertainment, with Coster-Waldau in full on Jaime Lannister mode. The occasional fight scenes between metallic Egyptian deities are straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon at points, so uncool that they almost manage to be cool.
A couple of world building moments, such as the earth being flat, and Ra, the God of the Sun, fighting off a giant sky serpent every night, hint at the wealth of inspiration that the film unsuccessfully tries to draw from.
Even within this silly affair, there is some fun to be had, though admittedly much of it was unintentional. In the end, if the director had played up these naff elements, in a similar vein to the 1999 film The Mummy, it could have been a fun, guilty pleasure blockbuster. Instead, it’s a dull, dour affair that takes itself far too seriously, like Clash of the Titans but thankfully not as bad.
If you have an appreciation for silly or bad movies, or if you want a film you can enjoy for a couple of hours with your brain on low power mode, then maybe give this a shot. Otherwise, avoid but there is little if anything left to it.
Written by Will Whitty