Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 7 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Fantasy Violence and Action, and some Sexuality
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Written by: Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless
Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler, Chadwick Boseman, Elodie Yung, Courtney Eaton, Rufus Sewell, Geoffrey Rush & Bryan Brown
Let’s ignore for a moment that GODS OF EGYPT is a colossal box office flop that only grossed a tenth of its budget back in its opening weekend. Let’s not even begin to get into the controversial white-washing of ancient Egyptian deities. Let’s just totally wipe aside that director Alex Proyas took to Facebook in order to scold movie critics and compare them to vultures pecking at a carcass. With these three major things put aside, let me just examine GODS OF EGYPT as a film, as pure entertainment. When taken as a big dumb Egyptian version of CLASH OF THE TITANS, GODS OF EGYPT is awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, and mind-blowing. Before you rush to crucify me or watch this movie, please hear me out.
Before putting context to my earlier descriptions, let me lay out what I can of GODS OF EGYPT’s plot. The story takes place in ancient Egypt (duh!), but this isn’t your history teacher’s ancient Egypt. This ancient Egypt lies on a flat world and is populated by gods and mortals alike. The only differences between gods and mortals is that gods are tall, strong, bleed gold, and can occasionally transform into shiny animal forms. If that sounds stupid, just wait. Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is an Aladdin-type street rat and isn’t exactly a fan of gods, while his slave girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton) has faith in air god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Bek’s prejudice seems justified when evil god of the desert Set (Gerard Butler) crashes Horus’s coronation, kills Osiris (Bryan Brown), and rips out Horus’s eyeballs in front of…well, everyone else’s eyes. He also induces a toll on death, so the poor will vanish into thin air and only the rich will gain access to the afterlife. Bek decides that he isn’t having any of Set’s bull and steals one of Horus’s missing eyeballs in a sequence that rips off RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. With his sight partially restored and screwy depth perception, Horus takes Bek and a variety of smaller gods on a seemingly never-ending quest to take down Set and restore Egypt to its former glory…but Set is already up to a bigger evil scheme of his own.
To be fair, Horus and Bek’s quest feels never-ending because the story seems to be making itself up as it goes along. It’s truly awe-inspiring that two writers penned this screenplay together, got it funded to the tune of 140 million dollars, and that was completed by a director who has delivered quality genre entertainment in the past (ala THE CROW and I, ROBOT). The cold, hard truth is that GODS OF EGYPT’s script feels like it wouldn’t support a subpar video game. The 126-minute running time certainly doesn’t help matters, because the movie crawls along at a glacial pace. I know a lot of people hate the CLASH OF THE TITANS remake (I seem to be in the minority of those who actually enjoy that film), but at least that film had the decency to be thirty minutes shorter than GODS OF EGYPT.
The performances are jaw-dropping in how utterly confused everyone seems. It’s as if the cast read the script, shrugged their shoulders, and said “Well, I’ll do my own thing and this movie will work itself out.” Every actor seems to be going in an entirely different direction with the material. Brenton Thwaites is playing Bek as Egyptian Aladdin. This means his dialogue is filled with lame quips passing for humor, e.g. asking aloud “Where do you even get that many scorpions?” while looking down at a scorpion-infested booby trap. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister from GAME OF THRONES), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther from CIVIL WAR), and Elodie Yung (Elektra from Netflix’s DAREDEVIL) all seem to be playing their roles as straight as possible. Meanwhile, Gerard Butler sounds like he’s trying to pull some sort of indescribable accent…or simply got drunk as a coping mechanism for starring in this pile of sphinx excrement.
GODS OF EGYPT is downright mind-blowing when you consider that this film had a budget of 140 million and the computer effects look like they belong in a subpar PlayStation 2 game, complete with herky-jerky movements. This movie tries and utterly fails to bring cool moments to the screen. There’s a couple of fire-breathing monster snakes here, a riddle-spouting giant Sphinx there, and not to mention spiky death traps, a hazy afterlife, the creator’s realm, a giant cosmic leech and many other creatures. However, none of these visuals look good or completely rendered. All of this CGI looks half-assed, stupid beyond reason and laughably awful.
If you want to sit through a bloated plot that makes up its own rules as it goes along and drags for over two hours, GODS OF EGYPT might be your movie. If you want to watch poorly rendered CGI take up every inch of your screen and a half-drunk Gerard Butler hatch out a senselessly clichéd evil scheme, then GODS OF EGYPT might be your movie. If you like scenes filled with spinning cameras to a nauseating degree and slow motion that’s clearly being used to somewhat obscure poorly choreographed fighting, then GODS OF EGYPT might be your movie. If you want a well-written story, cool stylized action or enjoyable big dumb entertainment, then pick another film…because GODS OF EGYPT is not your movie!