Gods of Egypt (2016) / Fantasy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for fantasy violence and action, and some sexuality
Running Time: 127 min.
Cast: Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites, Elodie Yung, Geoffrey Rush, Courtney Eaton, Rufus Sewell, Chadwick Boseman, Bryan Brown
Director: Alex Proyas
Screenplay: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Review published February 29, 2016
Gods of Egypt is what I would deem a 'rancid undies' kind of movie, a film so overblown in its ability to deliver nonsensical absurdity that only those with a curious penchant for the distinct odor of sheer awfulness will be able to appreciate it. One would think a mega-turkey of these proportions would be a thing of the past, but then we have 2015's Jupiter Ascending just the year before, another February release that only truly bloated, brain-dead, big-budget, bad-movie aficionados could champion as something to savor.
Inspired by mythology that it quickly sets about ignoring, the film is set in Ancient Egypt, at a time when gods and men co-existed in the lands. The gods were like humans, mortal and fallible, but were twice as tall and their veins coursed with gold instead of blood. Each of them also had unique superhuman abilities like flight and the ability to control minds. Our main protagonist is Horus (Coster-Waldau, The Other Woman), the god of the air, who is set to ascend to take over Egypt from his father Osiris (Brown, Along Came Polly). However, those plans are soon foiled when Set (Butler, How to Train Your Dragon 2), the arrogant and ambitious younger brother of Osiris, mounts a murderous coup and takes over the lands himself, plucking out Horus' eyes in the process, rendering him powerless. It's a dark time for Egypt, who all, gods and men alike, become subservient to their new king Set, who also immediately makes the newly dead pay a heavy fee in order to secure a place in the afterlife. Meanwhile, a roguish human named Bek (Thwaites, The Giver), seeking to resurrect his murdered love Zaya (Eaton, Mad Max: Fury Road) with divine help, allies with the banished Horus to thwart Set's quest to steal away all of the powers of the remaining gods.
Directed by Alex Proyas, who was once an up-and-comer with promise after The Crow and Dark City, finding his biggest hit more mainstream I Robot, only to turn in a bit of a clunker with 2009's Knowing. It has been nearly seven years since that letdown, and in the interim, whatever impressive skills that looked like he could build upon have completely eroded. Yet Lionsgate Pictures still had faith in Proyas to bestow him, along with screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (who delivered similarly substandard action-fantasies in their first two efforts, Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter), a sky-high budget to deliver on the hope of another major tent-pole release to replace the Hunger Games series. If The Hunger Games films made the smaller studio, another film like Gods of Egypt could break them, as no one had been clamoring for a new franchise to try to continue where Wrath of the Titans had left off.
Its "white-washing" of the cast, predominantly European and Australian performers, drummed up a bit of controversy prior to the film's release, coming just on the heels of another scrutinized film set in Egypt just the year before in Exodus: Gods and Kings. So worried about the negative press drowning out the marketing campaign for the film that Lionsgate issued a public apology for the cast, and had director Proyas do the same. They needn't have worried much, as the subject of the skin tone of the cast pales (so to speak) in comparison to the film's larger issues, namely, its nearly incoherent narrative, its horrendous dialogue, its shoddy and oversaturated CG work gone amok, obvious greenscreen in the background, shaky digital 3D rendering in the foreground, kitschy video game aesthetic, and its ridiculously hammy, scenery chewing performances, requiring its actors to strut like raving-mad peacocks in a movie that struggles to find the tonal compass to know which direction to go for success other than to increase the bombast and throw more and more eye candy on the screen.
What's the biggest disappointment about Gods of Egypt is that it appears to be built on trying to generate awe in audiences who've paid money to view it, but the only time your mouth will be agape is in seeing how goofy the "creative" minds behind this misbegotten fiasco are willing to go in order to entertain us. At least the Stephen Somers Mummy trilogy knew they were cheesy monster movies and tried to deliver big fun for those in the mood for innocuous old-school adventure. It's hard to make out whether Proyas wants is to take his film seriously or not, as it's not nearly humorous enough to think he's trying to make a fun film, and it's not concerned enough with telling a proper story enough to think we should be investing our energy in deciphering such things as character motivation or intricate plotting. It's the kind of film that seems like the makers changed their minds about a dozen times during its production which way they wanted it to play out, sometimes more than one way within the same scene. The only mystery or intrigue generated at all will come as you sit and ponder how such a cinematic glitter-bomb travesty like this could actually get past the initial pitch at the ideas meeting, much less get $140 million to back it up.
Uneasy on the eyes and numbing for the brain, Gods of Egypt is a woefully inept, soul-sucking experience meant only for those who regularly find their favorite films pepper the Razzie nominations at the end of the year. Its unintentionally campy qualities may gain it a bit of a following over time, mostly among those who find the putrid stench of over-cooked turkeys like this alluring. For those that don't secretly enjoy the pungent smell of bad cinema, I'm guessing we should expect a second apology from its makers once they realize how badly they botched this one from inception.
©2016 Vince Leo