Gods Of Egypt Review: Bombastic Spectacle, No Controller Needed

Gods of Egypt could have been amazing. Two things I enjoy very much are Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City, I, Robot) films and Egyptian mythology. So when the two came together, I had high hopes that Proyas could deliver a visually-stunning film that hit the right notes, story wise; was cast with fine actors stepping outside their comfort zones; and had some heart. I got one out of three.

Gods of Egypt is the story of a battle between two mythological Egyptian gods, the handsome, charismatic Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the gruff, always-shouting Set (Gerard Butler), who battle each other for the right to rule the land of the Nile after their father, Osiris (Bryan Brown), decides to abdicate. Horus is the chosen god, the righteous, yet cocky and selfish god of the air, and Set is the war-driven god of the dark. One good, one bad; you figure out which is which.

Gods of Egypt Review

This war brings bloodshed to the people of Egypt, and two young lovers are caught in the crossfire. Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and Zaya (Courtney Eaton) begin the film hopeful for Horus’ pending rule, but when Set makes his move, both are relegated to slave duties, because Set is bad — and Proyas and writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless throw in every conceivable trope to show just how evil Set is.

Gods of Egypt Review

A lot has been said about the casting here, and while I agree with some of it, my issues aren’t all because of the color of the actors skin, but because the actors themselves. Proyas seemingly cast the film with actors who speak with accents — any accents — to someone show that this is a “foreign land.” Whether the accent is English, Australian, Scottish, as long as you have an accent, you were cast — save for poor Chadwick Boseman, who plays Thoth, the god of knowledge, an American actor, who has to try and speak with an accent and comes off sounding like the second lead in a high school stage production of The King and I.

Gods of Egypt Review

And yes, it is kind of bothersome that there was no one of actual Middle Eastern decent in the film. The closest was the exotic-looking Elodie Yung’s Hathor, and she’s part Cambodian, which is NO WHERE near the middle east. It doesn’t make or break the film, but it does cast a pall over the production.

Gods of Egypt Review

Poor casting is where Gods of Egypt begins to totally unravel. Another fault lies in the poor character development. The audience is introduced to many gods, some more popular (and more well known) than others, but every character in this film is a sketch — underdeveloped and unrefined. I was left asking “why?” more often than not. Why was Set seeking to destroy the Nile? Why was Horus such a pathetic wimp, before and after Set’s coup? Why does Ra (Geoffrey Rush) have a spaceship? Why does Zaya spend the entire film as walking cleavage, with no other discernible motivations? These and so many more questions came up throughout the film and sadly, none of it was ever explained.

Gods of Egypt Review

And the answer I personally came up with is that Gods of Egypt was not destined to be a film; it should have always been a video game.

Gods of Egypt is the greatest-movie-based-off-a-video-game-that-wasn’t-a-video-game ever. It has the visual spectacle of a AAA game title; it has the silly dialogue and situations that one expects from the cut scenes between action of a video game; all female characters are strikingly beautiful and are dressed way too scantily for the character; there are sets of armor that are epic, and fantastical beasts and special effects that are so much larger than life; there are some incredible boss battles; and the pacing is even very video game-like. In fact, they could change all the gods’ names to Greek gods, make Horus into Kratos (and cast someone else), and this would be the perfect film adaption of Sony’s God of War. Easily.

Gods of Egypt Review

The pacing is near-perfect for a video game. It has a short, character-building scene with dialogue and some humor, and then a veritable “video game level” scene of all action. Break into the tomb and steal this item; find a way to board Ra’s spaceship and confront him; sneak into Set’s temple and face the Sphinx; collect items to prepare for the final battle with a now-overpowered Set. It’s all there. By the time the closing credits began to roll, I felt like I do when I wrap up an action-adventure game. And I don’t think that is a coincidence.

And the fact that Proyas and company nailed this aspect of the film shows that there was, at one time, something really cool here. Even with all of the problems, mainly due to casting and the fleshing out of the characters — which could be the same problem — Gods of Egypt has some pretty fun moments. And it could end up finally finding a proper audience in the home video market, once the audience realizes how over-the-top and eyeball-popping the film is. I mean the gods themselves are over nine-feet tall, transform into metallic-armored warrior versions of the animals they are based on, and bleed pure gold. How cool is that? It could be destined for cult status.

Gods of Egypt is one of those movies that people will pile on. Whether it is the white-washing of the cast, or the over-reliance on CGI, or the loose interpretation of iconic Egyptian myths, it’s almost easy to just say this was a film that was set up to fail and die a quick death at the box office (and by the looks of its opening weekend, it did). But, as with all things ancient Egyptian, death was not the end, only the beginning of a much longer journey, and quite possibly, Alex Proyas’ film may end up finding an audience once it stops being cool to talk about how bad it is. Only time will tell.

Gods of Egypt is rated PG-13 and is in theaters now.

Gods of Egypt Review
out of 5

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