Gods of Egypt Review
A DEPLORABLE EYGPTIAN FANTASY
When it comes to mythology, the world’s diverse cultures share their own distinct mythos within their respective time periods. Gods and goddesses, monsters and magic, benevolent rulers and ferocious beasts play host to these fantastical myths and legends, offering plenty of explanations (to the people of those eras) of the “hows” and “whys” of the world as well as cautionary distractions. From Europe’s bountiful stories of English, Norse, and Greek myths to the tales from the far eastern provinces of Chinese and Japanese legends, these folklore tales have transcended the span the breath of time, with a multitude of various stories still being told in today’s world (being retold from grade school to all the way to the collegiate / academic level). Even the moviemaking world of Hollywood has been captivated by these imaginative tales, producing many movies that are based on a variety of myths from around the globe. Now, director Alex Proyas and Summit Entertainment, take viewers into the ancient world of Egyptian mythology with the movie Gods of Egypt. Does this feature breathe new life into Eygptians myths or is it just another heavy CG visual fantasy flop?
In the mythological world of Ancient Egypt, the gods live on Earth as Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Lord of the Air, is about to ascend the throne of ruler of Egypt, talking over for his father, Osiris (Bryan Brown). Interrupting the celebrated ceremony is Osiris’s brother, Set (Gerard Butler), who refuses to accept the shift in power, claiming Egypt for himself by means brute force. Seizing Horus’s eyes and banishing his nephew to exile, Set begins to systemically amass power from his gods, ascending to an unstoppable god of immense power. Standing in his way, however, is the lowly human Bek (Brenton Thawaites), who’s eternal love for his murdered lover, Zaya (Courtney Eaton), is so strong, he seeks out godly power bring his beloved back from the head. Stealing a one of Horus’s eyes from Set’s treasure vault, Bek journeys forth to find the fallen Horus. Bek, eventually teaming up with a reluctant Horus, his somewhat paramour and Goddess of Love, Hathor (Elodie Young), and the god of wisdom Thoth (Chadwick Boseman), cross the perilous landscape, battle ferocious monsters, and test their courage in order to reclaim Egypt and protect love ones.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As a fan of history in general, I love reading and hearing about all the different types of mythologies from all over the world. Stories of heroes, villains, creatures, and cautionary tales are just so fascinating to me that I just get completely engrossed in their telling. Of course, if I had to pick one that I love the most, I would say that Greek mythology is my personal best (absolutely love the epic tale of Homer’s The Odyssey. Egyptian mythology was indeed palpable, with plenty of tales and legend to pull from, but not as widespread and well-known to the average person. It was because of this that I was interested in seeing Gods of Egypt as the movie itself would be used as media platform to bring to life the exciting tales of Ancient Egyptian myths, with a great sense using visual effects to brings its imaginative beings and creatures to life on the big screen. The final result, however, is not a savory one, for Gods of Egypt, beyond its own façade of Egyptian folklore, is a cheesy and unimpressive film that’s tainted with a multitude of problem (but being good is not one of them).
Director Alex Proyas, the directorial mind being the movies The Crow, Dark City, and I, Robot, helms this project’s undertaking of charting a cinematic course to the fantasy world of Ancient Egypt, where the gods dwell on Earth and monsters and magic are, more or less, commonplace in this era. In truth, The Gods of Egypt seems really good on paper (which is probably the reason it was greenlit in the first place). You have a reluctant hero, a treacherous villain, a love interest (the movie has two), and plenty of creative fantasy elements that are blended with together within a sword and sandals, and sorcery aesthetic with a classic fantasy hero arc to top it off. Yes, the movie had it (on paper at least), but the movie itself failed miserably when it makes the jump from screenplay to the big screen. I personally chalk it up to bad film execution and multiple levels.
Gods of Egypt’s screenplay was written by the pair who wrote Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter (Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama), who try to map out a fantasy adventure story, similar to the Greek myth feature Clash of the Titans (the 2010 version). That movie, which was steeped in heavy CG visuals, noisy action razzmatazz, and a shell of a story, was vaguely interesting that even spawned a sequel Wrath of the Titans (which I’ve only seeing parts of because it was so bad). Again, Gods of Egypt tries to follow in the veins of Clash of Titans, but fails miserably so that it makes the Clash of the Titan movie look better in comparison. Sharpless and Sazama offer a rousing display of story and character arcs for Gods of Egypt, but, while its intentions are dully noted, the whole story just seems cheese and campy (and not in a good way) as if the movie wants to be taken seriously, but can’t be. As I said above, the movie’s story is classic one, but is muddled with various plot beats that are glossed over quickly and with excessive amount of minor subplots (and a few that left unfinished by the film’s end). In amongst the cheesy and campy tone for the movie (and for Egyptian myths), Sharpless and Sazama try to add humor into the narrative and its painful cheesy, with a lot of jokes that are either flat or DOA. In short, Gods of Egypt narrative follows the stereotypical hero formula of trials, tribulations and revelations, but in a very disappointing way, with bad clichés and terrible story elements of progressions and examination.
Coinciding with that is the understanding of Egyptian mythology. As I said, people (majority speaking) don’t know a whole lot about myths, legends, and folklore of Egypt as it a mythology that not as popular as other. Even Hollywood hasn’t produced that much in that mythical category, with the exception of The Mummy franchise as well as Stargate (my personal favorite). Gods of Egypt tries to bring that mythology into the foreground, but glosses over its examination and explanation into this imaginative world and to fantastical beings that live there. So when the movie start throwing around names like Ra, Apophis, Seth, Anubis, and Osiris, I’m pretty sure that many viewers won’t know who they are talking about or the mythical understanding behind their respective character.
Gods of Egypt’s biggest selling point was its usage of CG visual effects of bringing the fantasy world of Egyptian myths to life. To be honest, I think some of the concept ideas and designs for the movie are actually pretty creative. Costumes and set designs, and various locales offer a color palette to Egyptian fantasy world of gods, mortals, and monsters. Even the creature designs and fantastical places (i.e. the Egyptian Underworld and Ra’s vessel) are conceptual cool-looking. However, when it comes to the visual representations that are in need of visual effects, it’s a mixture of okay to downright horrible. Shoddy effects are bountiful, including several of them where I could definitely see where green-screen would be in the backdrop. As I said with the movie Pan, there’s so much CG visuals being thrown into the movie that it sorts feels like the feature has transferred over from a film to a video game. In truth, there are some video game cut-scenes out there that are more cinematic and impressive than God’s of Egypt’s lackluster ones. Proyas and his filmmaking team have “big” visual ideas of a lavishing world and fantasy creations, but, with poorly rendered visuals, fail into that realization in an unconvincing manner. As a side note, I did see the movie in 3D and I can tell you that I wasn’t impressed with it. Sure, there’s a couple of “gimmicky” moments that utilized the 3D, but, for the most part, it’s not worth paying the extra money. Lastly, even the musical score sucked.
Of course, the movie has (and will continue to be) scrutinized for its whole “white-washing” its cast controvsery. Moving past that, Gods of Egypt’s cast is a mixed bag of sorts, comprising from the development of the character and / or the performance given. Of course, the big “showcase” star of the movie is Gerard Butler as the villainous power hungry god Set, the film’s main antagonist. While I do like Butler as an actor (and a lot of movies), his role in Gods of Egypt, is under-whelming and too cliché, following his vague machination of amassing power throughout the movie. However, there are a couple of scenes that work in Butler’s favor (when the actor chews through cheesy dialogue with great effect). Likewise, actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau can only formulate a clichéd archetype within the reluctant fallen hero role of Horus. He gets the job done and does (like Butler) chews through several scenes with greatness (even if its badly written). Just don’t expect his “Jamie Lannister” performance from him in this movie. Lastly, of the main leads, is the character of Bek “the cheeky thief with a well-placed attention” (aka Aladdin), who is played by Brenton Thwaites. His archetype is clear from the get-go and sort of stereotypical for the fantasy adventure genre, but, Thwaites lacks the charisma to make an impression on the character of Bek, who is pretty much forgettable.
The rest of the cast are pretty much in supporting roles and are too a mix bag of results. Courtney Eaton does her best as Zaya, the mortal love interest for Bek, but her character is a two-dimensional one and doesn’t really have “participation” role in the movie (even though she’s somewhat important in the narration). Similarly, Rufus Sewell’s Urshu, a self-absorbed and self-serving architect is nothing more than a forgettable villain sidekick. Perhaps the best role in the movie goes to actress Elodie Yung as the flirtatious goddess of love, Hathor. She looks the part, acts the part, and overall pull off a convincing performance with Hathor. Alongside Yung is Chadwick Boseman (aka the MCU’s Black Panther) as the Throth, the god of wisdom. It’s interesting to see Boseman in this role (being quirky and eccentric), but it just seems a little odd for the actor to play this role (at least it is for me). And what’s up with that accent he uses in the movie? Finally, Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush plays the all mighty Ra, Horus’s grandfather. Rush hams it up as Ra’s dialogue cheesy lines, but proves to work in the movie’s favor and Rush seems to relish that chance to do so. While Yung’s performance as Hathor is the best in Gods of Egypt, Rush’s performance as Ra is indeed most memorable.
Egyptian mythology, classic fantasy aesthetics, and heavy visuals clash and collide in the new movie Gods of Egypt. Proyas’s latest film is indeed imaginative with plenty of interesting concept designs along with some creative “world building” nuances of both fantasy / and Egyptian lore. From then go, the movie is riddled with plenty of cheesy storytelling elements, shoddy green-screen effects, bad acting, and a complete misfire in entertainment quality. I really wanted to like this movie (I really did), but the sad truth is that this is a bad movie. Plain and Simple. If you’re interested in a creative and imaginative world of Ancient Egyptian mythology, I suggest forgone to see Gods of Egypt (a definite skip in my opinion) and visit your nearest Barnes and Noble to purchase a copy of Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid (the first book in The Kane Chronicles trilogy). It roughly cost the same as a movie ticket and you’ll definitely get more mileage of reading this book than watching Proyas’s poorly executed movie.
2.2 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Released Date: February 25th, 2016
Reviewed On: February 25th, 2016
Gods of Egypt is rated PG for fantasy violence and action, and some sexuality