When the first trailers hit for Gods of Egypt, the general reaction was to deride the film for its predominately white cast and complete lack of Egyptians. But perhaps the forces of diversity were spared a bullet as Gods of Egypt is a mess of mythical proportions. This is a movie that’s so massively misguided that you’d have to consider that everyone involved might be the victim of blackmail. From the opening frames to the closing credits, Gods of Egypt is a visually repellent, punishingly paced, incomprehensible movie that must only exist in a Producers-like scenario to defraud investors when its eventually flops.
Gods of Egypt is about a rather generic struggle for power. Osiris (Byran Brown) is about to bequeath his throne to his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). During the ceremony, Osiris’ brother Set (Gerard Butler) arrives and slays Osiris and blinds Horus, taking the throne of Egypt and setting up a tyrannical system of government. This happens after both Horus and Set have transformed into animals, fighting for the throne before Horus has his eyes removed by his cruel uncle. Set’s tyranny has left most of the humans in Egypt bound into slavery, including the young couple Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and Zaya (Courtney Eaton). After passing through a trap-riddled chamber, Bek is able to secure one of Horus’ eyes, hoping that the god in seclusion will take his rightful place and overthrow Set. While trying to escape, though, Zaya is mortally wounded. Bek must soon form an alliance with Horus with the agreement that upon his victory Horus will restore life to Bek’s love. In order to defeat Set, Horus and Bek must enlist the help of Ra (Geoffrey Rush), the all-powerful sun god and father of Set, Hathor (Elodie Yung), the god of love, and Thoth (Chadwick Boseman), the god of knowledge. In the balance of the battle lies the future of Egypt and the existence of the afterlife.
Although you’d never know it from watching Gods of Egypt, director Alex Proyas is a talented visual filmmaker. There are brief moments where it’s possible to see how some of these sequences might’ve worked just fine if not for the artifice of the subpar special effects just begging for your attention. Whether it’s Bek trying to navigate through the deadly tricks to secure Horus’ eye, the cosmic realm where the Earth is presented as flat, or the afterlife where the dead must pay gold to pass through to eternity, there are moments of visual imagination that are constantly undermined by the computer effects that would’ve been laughed off the screen in 1998.
The visuals aren’t all that’s lacking in this dire film. Screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, who have previously written Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter, once again try their hands at making sense of their own muddled mythology. There’s little imagination or wit on display as this is nothing more than a simple hero’s journey story, except these heroes can transform into mythical animals and fight when it’s convenient. From the start of the film it’s constantly confusing as to who is a god and who is a mortal, though that is soon resolved by having the gods be distractingly taller than their human counterparts. And what exactly are each god’s powers? All these moments seem to arise on a whim, never coming from a place that makes any kind of narrative sense. For example, Elodie Yung’s Hathor is the goddess of love, but we’re only privy to that information once she’s been in the story for nearly 45 minutes.
It’s impossible not to laugh at practically every line delivery in Gods of Egypt, though more of a painful laugh of tragic embarrassment. Never does the film ever venture into so bad it’s good territory. This is just bad. And the whitewashing becomes all the more apparent with the first line delivery in the film, each and every one of the characters speaks with a dignified English accent for some reason. If there’s one thing I can take away from Gods of Egypt, it’s the anticipation of the gifs of Geoffrey Rush covered in ridiculous CGI flames.
There are a certain amount of ridiculous aspects to this whole misguided affair. Gerard Butler covered in a spray tan rides a chariot led by two giant insects. The aforementioned Rush is constantly covered in CGI flames and fights a mysterious space worm that wants to eat all of creation. There are massive snakes on which murderous gods ride. As crazy as all that sounds, they are just mere moments sandwiched between generic, incredibly fake looking action with dual romantic subplots sporadically included to make sure the story never gets too interesting. For over two hours, Alex Proyas bombards us with some of the ugliest frames to grace the screen in a long, long time. The only way Gods of Egypt can be regarded as epic is through its squandering of Proyas’ visual talents. From its overt whitewashing to its reported budget of $140 million to its actual story, nothing about Gods of Egypt makes sense.