Movie review: Gods of Egypt
Director Alex Proyas brings a shallow and distracted superhero style to a story about ancient Egyptian gods in a sibling power struggle
Gods of Egypt
Starring: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Elodie Young, Courtney Eaton
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Running time: 127 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
By Katherine Monk
Osiris stopped the Egyptians from cannibalizing each other by introducing the cultivation of corn. Then his brother Set, also known as Typhon, came home and killed him, causing his widow Isis to cruise the Nile in search of his 14 mangled body parts.
Not a good ending for the God who was celebrated every November 11th, but it’s not a bad beginning for a swords and sandals saga set in ancient, really ancient, Egypt, when Gods and humans lived side by side – just like in the paintings.
Gods are bigger. And they have veins that flow like Fort Knox under a blowtorch: pure liquid gold. But other than that, they seem to behave like humans, only with bigger tempers and a few more accessories.
Gods get to go over-the-top. That’s the fun part of watching movies like Gods of Egypt or Clash of the Titans or any Tom Cruise movie: There’s an immovable conceit to the whole exercise that lets you write it off as complete silliness.
Gods. Superheroes. It’s all popcorn in our eyes – which isn’t just a sad tribute to poor Osiris, who gave us corn, it’s a tragic statement on how we consume belief systems as entertainment.
Not that the ancient Egyptians are going to pick any fossilized bones with this nonsensical translation of myth to the big screen. They’d probably start worshipping the projector as the sun God Ra.
The point is, Gods of Egypt is an empty movie – completely void of any deeper meaning, which means it probably missed the point of the original narrative, scanty and distant as it may be.
They get the first part right: Osiris (Bryan Brown) is about to give Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) his crown so he can take over as the God-King of Egypt. Set (Gerard Butler) returns, kills Osiris, and blinds Horus – taking over as the ultimate ruler of men.
Close enough. The next part is where the story really swerves off the donkey path: A plucky young human named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is trying to save his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton). But he has a big problem: she’s already dead.
The only way he can see her again is to broker a deal with the demi-gods of the demi-monde. Before long, he’s got one of Horus’s eyeballs and the two of them are a Set-busting tag team.
The only thing that makes the movie somewhat watchable through its ever-rotating digital disco-ball of special effects is performance value.
Alex Proyas (Dark City) hired some top-notch players to fill out the parade float, and it’s a smart move. Put someone like Liam Neeson in as Zeus, or Anthony Hopkins in as Odin, and you’re able to dig past the cheese layer and access a Shakespearean vein.
Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) has chops. So does Geoffrey Rush, who takes on the shimmering reins of Ra. The kids are fine, too, but as much fun as it is to watch Gerard Butler look buff, he’s always ham and cheese on a bun.
Butler’s bravado out-muscles his co-stars, and it lacks any sense of dimension. Set has one look: Angry. It’s a look Butler can manufacture just by saying “Ahh,..” But it doesn’t make Gods of Egypt interesting.
This movie lacks a sense of what it wants to be. You get the idea someone was thinking: “Hey, we’ve done Norse Gods and Greek Gods… how about those Egyptians. Think of what we can do with the Sphinx!”
The logic was sound enough. But this movie doesn’t really have anything to offer – not even lessons about ancient Egypt.
Geoffrey Rush looks all too aware of the film’s black hole every time we see him floating over a flat Earth on his golden cloud. The imagery bears little resemblance to anything you’d see at a museum or a textbook. For the most part, Gods of Egypt looks and talks like a comic book: In agonizingly melodramatic monosyllables, in two dimensions.
THE EX-PRESS, February 26, 2016