Published on March 2nd, 2016 | by Dan Gvozden0
GODS OF EGYPT – REVIEW
We’ve all had the experience of walking through a mall and coming upon a standalone booth selling foreign martial arts films. We laugh at the poor Japanese dubbing, the chintzy special effects, and the bizarre designs and concepts, typically featuring a man turning into a tiger, and wonder what compels people to both make and watch such insanities.
Well, I can almost guarantee you that somewhere in Japan, Gods of Egypt is playing in a mall kiosk and getting equally strange looks. And yet there is a reason that these purveyors of film “garbage” exist: a ravenous audience ready and eager to watch a man, with the power of the ancient tiger gods, dropkick some vile gangster before he assumes his alternate form as a vile Japanese pit viper.
To be perfectly honest, I’m exactly the audience for films of that like. The minute I saw the first trailer for director Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt, I knew that I had to be there opening night to delight in its straight-faced lunacy and to indulge myself in whatever nonsense a team of Hollywood executives thought might capture the imagination of teenagers with a loose understanding of Egyptian myth. Call me a masochist, but in an era of studio filmmaking where every film feels assembled, as if by committee, I find it exciting to see a film risk everything on new ideas, even if they are all the wrong ones, particularly if they are all the wrong ones.
To be sure, the film’s choices are wrong from the start, beginning with the casting of white British actors as Egyptian gods, but I never doubted that the creators of this film thought that every second of the film was as pure as the gold running through the veins of its protagonists. Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bek’s (Brenton Thwaites) quest to save Egypt and all of its spiritual realms from the evil Set (Gerard Butler) moves from one goofy set piece to the next with a seriousness that’s undermined by its indulgence in unfinished CGI that wouldn’t have been accepted by audiences in the early ‘90s. A fight sequence between Horus and a group of bull-men at the top of a waterfall seems to have been farmed out to a group of YouTubers desperate to make a fan-video and told they only had a weekend to finish the effects, only then to lose an hour to Daylight Savings Time.
At other times, the effects are larger than life, displaying concepts that riff on Egyptian myth in clever ways, from an afterlife tribunal to a giant battle between snakes ridden like angry chariots covered in teeth. The standout design choice of the film comes when audiences meet Ra (Geoffrey Rush), the ruler of all the gods, who sails a ship through a sea made of stars, high above a flat Earth, pulling the sun behind him on a chain, all while firing flaming missiles at a chaotic space worm that must be a distant cousin to the Sarlaac pit from Return of the Jedi. It’s utter nonsense, but boy, if it isn’t fascinating to watch – as if the longer you think about it, the closer you might get to unlocking the thought process behind the creation of such a thing.
The key mistake that Gods of Egypt makes is that its actors don’t seem to be having as much fun as the filmmakers, and when they are, the jokes fall flat, every single time. Not a single actor exhibits an ounce of charisma to match the outrageous spectacle, and so, instead of embracing its own silliness, the film declares war with it. Even worse are plunging to nonexistent necklines on the costumes of the heroines, who are quickly relegated to roles as damsels in distress with ample bosoms always on display. Also, for every sequence featuring some strange new design or concept is another that is downright derivative, if not stolen from a far better film, specifically Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even the central storyline can’t figure out which genre to crib its clichés from and instead trucks out all the familiar beats audiences are familiar with from buddy cop, romance, adventure and science fiction films.
Gods of Egypt is a kind of mess that rarely manages to find its way into theaters on its fast track to the $5 DVD bins at the local Walmart. Yet neither venue is worthy of being its final resting place. “Gods of Egypt” is both too ambitious and too dumb for both and will likely find its home in the minds and hearts of viewers who, with their friends, have had a few drinks and are looking for a good laugh.