Review: Gods of Egypt

Gods of Egypt alternative poster

Considering the popularity of the show, you’d think the Game of Thrones main eventers would all be in decent films by now. But, John Snow moaned his way through the laughable Pompeii, then Daenerys misfired with Terminator Genysis. Maybe Tyrion will do better with his forth coming biopic on the guy who played Nik-Nak in The Man With the Golden Gun. Will, his on-screen brother Jamie fair any better as leading man in Gods of Egypt?Let’s hope so…

Jamie Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau – Mama) is Horus, the Egyptian god of Air. He exist among the people of ancient Egypt with the other Gods including his Dad King Osiris (Bryan Brown – F/X), Uncle Set (Gerard Butler – Law Abiding Citizen) and Mum Isis – the God of Wisdom, not the terrorist group. There’s loads of other Gods milling about too, and they’re all giants compared to the everyday folk of the world. They all have alternative animal forms, like Power Rangers, that they can morph into when shit goes down. They also all have individual special powers and gold for blood.

They exist in peace with the humans who revere and worship them. Two such people are Bek (Brenton Thwaites – Maleficent) and Zaya (Courtney Eaton – Mad Max: Fury Road). He’s a thief, but not one of them ambush-an-old-lady-in-an-alley type thieves. He only steals clothes from fat opulent merchants. So we know he’s not too bad. He proper likes Zaya and aims to get her something new to wear every day. It doesn’t go into much details explaining how he’s going to pay the mortgage on their new house (maybe he does a teeny bit of mugging here and there).

Zaya and Bek in Gods of Egypt

He doesn’t give a damn about the Gods while Zaya, on the other hand, does. She reckons they should pay more respect. So to keep the peace he agrees to go to the coronation of the new King of the Gods. I mean it’s not like they’re gonna stop in and watch Netflix anyway. Stranger Things isn’t going to be out for thousands of years, Bek, get with it.

Like Wrestlemania, this coronation is a big deal. The old wise Osiris is stepping down to let his brash dickhead son, Horus, take the crown. He’s known he’s going to be king since forever, thinks it’s about damn time, and even threatens to ditch mega-babe Goddess Hathord (Elodie Yung – The Hitman’s Bodyguard) for the lol’s.

Any way all the humans and other Gods are at this big event. The other Gods get flown in in giant dove-driven carriages. The measly humans have to walk to this giant super temple place in the middle of town.

Gods of Egypt Coronation

Last to arrive is Osiris’ brother, Set. He’s the God of the Desert, and having such a massive responsibility as to looking after all the sand in Egypt, seldom gets out of work before dinner time. His praise for his brother is short lived as he starts getting all bitter at how their Dad Ra (Geoffrey Rush – Pirates of the Caribbean) made Osiris the God of All Things and him the Lord of Dust. Tempers flare, and a spear is pulled. Osiris ends up dying, murdered by his own brother.

Enraged, Horus the great hero, attacks his uncle. But Set is way too strong. They even morph into their true forms (a giant minotaur for Set, a silver Eagle-dude out of Stargate for Horus). Set batters Horus, pulls out his eyes – the source of his power – and is only stopped from killing the young bugger by Hathor, who says she’ll do whatever it takes to save him. Realizing that she’s the Goddess of Love, Set figures that she must know some kinky shit and agrees. Blinded, Horus is exiled.

Gerard Butler Gods of Egypt

“This. Is. Egypt!”

But it doesn’t end there. The humans, who have just stood about watching this whole time, are gonna get some shit too. See Osiris made it easy for people to get into the afterlife when they died. Giving a little to the Gods, be it money, food or fealty, was all he asked. So the rich and poor could both go to heaven. Set’s welfare plan isn’t quiet as inclusive: pay your way into the afterlife with gold, or be cast into the underworld (the place, not the movie series) forever.

Timeout for a moment. It’s interesting that all these super opulent Gods, all clothed in gold and gems and shit, all live off the stuff given to them by the people. It sounds very Communist to me, and maybe Set has the right idea. Why not be a fucking God, stomp over the little people, rule with fear and terror and make these little bastards pay up? Okay, he is being a little evil.

A year later, Bek isn’t a thief any more. He has a proper job building a giant obelisk monument to Set. Zaya is working too, in the library of Set’s architect Urshu. Despite the fact they’re bringing in decent money, it’s not the life they had planned out. The only way out they see out is if they usurp Set with the last guy who got spectacularly defeated by him – Horus. But he’s some blind drunk exiled dude now. The only way they could get him back into the game is by getting his eyes back which are kept under lock and key by Set.

Zaya Gods of Egypt

Zaya steals the blueprint for Set’s impregnable vault from work, which Bek easily impregnates. Set isn’t an idiot though, and he’s only stashed one eye there. For her trouble Zaya get’s executed as a traitor and Bek barely manages to escape with his perfect blonde hair (and her body) intact.

Carrying out into the desert he rides to another temple. Here Horus is drinking his way to oblivion, living off the scraps that pilgrims leave. Bek cuts him a deal; he’ll give him back his eye and help take down Set if Horus will resurrect Zaya. Somehow her corpse hasn’t decayed into some rotting carcass, and Horus puts her into a weird stasis pod. But Horus knows he doesn’t have the sort of power to bring her back to life. He still agrees to the plan. See Horus is still a selfish prick. It takes a full 90 minute adventure for Bek to learn to appreciate the power of the Gods and Horus to learn to appreciate the resourcefulness of humans. That’s their arc, see?

The only way to show this character growth is to have them hating each other from the beginning. And they do. How it’s relayed on to the screen is via bickering. And not fun bickering. Not Game of Thrones level of bickering. We’re talking PG-13 lame-as-hell bickering.

Thankfully, there’s a time limit. Because Zaya’s soul will go to the underworld in seven days. So they better stfu and get moving.

First on the list of things to do is to go and see Horus’ grandfather, Ra. He’s some ancient dude who rides a giant sky-chariot, spaceship, pleasure-barge thing. He controls the day and night cycle, and wages a daily battle with a giant shadow worm. Basically, if Ra dies, Egypt is going to get eaten by a giant cloud worm. So we know he’s going to die at some point. From the barge Horus and Bek take some special water which is apparently super powerful and can weaken Set. How are they going to make him drink it…well they don’t go into that.

Speaking of Set, he’s wanting to conquer more worlds. Hathor, formerly the guide for dead souls on their way to the next world (she got replaced by a weird cat-thing called Anubis), knows all about the Underworld. Set wants that to be his next mission, but she knows that place is full of dead people and skeletons and things. He’s mad etc. But he’s also the boss, and has grave plans for the world, his father Ra, and all humanity. It’s down to Bek and Horus to learn to work together and stop Set from ending the world (Egypt)…

Gods of Egypt Beast

You’ll be right in thinking that this film shares so much in common with Thor. And it does in concept, story and execution. However, what it lacks is all the things that made Thor so much fun. Take away the sense of humour, interesting characters, their dilemmas, the decent special effects, fucking Loki, and what do you have left?

A pile of shit basically.

Gods of Egypt‘s primary problem is the complete dirge of personality possessed by any of the characters. They’re all totally unlikable! The main dude, he’s so spunkily upbeat you want to vomit. His wide-eyed, it’s going-to-be-okay, it’s all a grand laugh fucking about with these Gods mentality makes me want to pluck out his eyes and scream “IS THIS SHIT REAL ENOUGH FOR YOU NOW?” Even when his beloved dies, he doesn’t seem that bothered. Richard E Grant could barely dress himself after Sarah dies in Jack and Sarah. But Bek is totally chill about going on some super fun adventure here. Not even a tear is shed.

gods-of-egypt-image-elodie-yung

And the adventure takes us all over the place. Ravines, some sky-barge, giant cities, underground lairs. Where it doesn’t really take us is the desert, which is what I’d kind of expect from a film about Egypt. Pyramids? Check. Sphinx? Check. Other weird cat shit? Check? Desert? DESERT? Hello?

Because Horus and Bek are travelling between one vastly different location the next, it just makes the entire world seem small. There is no scale. It doesn’t feel like a real, lived in world.

Gods of Egypt City

CGI has no doubt allowed people to create whole new worlds that would be otherwise impossible to find and shoot in. I get that. But there is a cost to that freedom. Having restrictions is a good thing. Ever hear that old saying that adversity is the Mother of all invention? Well the reverse is true with CGI. Back in the day when you needed to see some something on screen it would have to be physically shot. So it would either have to be found, built or cut by the director. Now ANYTHING can be created and all that freedom just makes films like this where there are way too many locations. We’re all over the place in Gods of Egypt. Considering the variety of locations we do visit, I’m surprised they didn’t sneak in a snow world.

But it’s not just the locations that CGI botched here. Lets not mince words. The effects everywhere are terrible.

By making every little thing CGI and filming everything on some giant greenscreen-swathed soundstage, it completely kills any sense of atmosphere. The Hobbit suffered a similar fate. It’s all so antiseptic and bright and not how you’d expect Egypt in those days to even remotely look. Everyone and everything glistens with perfection. There’s no dust. Everyone looks clean and fake.

Jamie Lannister Gods of Egypt

Listen, director Alex Proyas had atmosphere oozing out of the pours of Dark City and The Crow. You almost feel the oppressive tenements, the steam, the cold rain, the danger of the street people. Here there is nothing. And the actors can’t pull off the forced, exposition-spewing dialogue. Few actors can, unless you’re coaxed by an effects wizard turned authoritarian taskmaster like James Cameron.

This shit is doable. Take a gander at Raiders of the Lost Ark. Or Stargate. They all pull of desert/tomb raiding atmosphere perfectly. Gods of Egypt is trying to be a bit of both, and succeeds in neither. The costuming of the leading men is also totally uninspired. Set just looks like Gerard Butler in some cheap etsy-store bought LARPing costume. He doesn’t look like some evil war bastard. Horus fares little better. You know you’ve got a problem when you look at the poster and struggle to pick out the good and bad guy from each other.

Gods of Egypt Poster

Nice poster. Oh, did you notice that everyone in this film is white and distinctly non-Egyptian too? With the exception of God of Knowledge Thoth (Chadwick Boseman – Captain America: Civil War), everyone is of the Caucasion persuasion. Even Anubis, the CGI Catgod of Death is voiced by a skinny white dude.

This caused a whole heap of bother. There was loads of press releases, loads of bad reactions and apologies etc. Researching for this piece also brought up the idea that Thoth was the “Magical Negro” (basically the helpful Blackguy movie stereotype) role, which seems highly likely. I seriously suggest you do your own research into that term. You’ll suddenly realize how prevalent it is in Hollywood.

To be fair to director Proyas, I can understand his frustration in regards to all the claims of whitewashing. I mean, The Crow didn’t feature an actual bird as the titular character. But then I guess people would have taken a stand if the late Brandon Lee had dressed in bright colours and be distinctly un-crow-like. Because that is what is happening here. Proyas argues that this isn’t an actual history (no shit) of Egypt. Then why fucking call it Gods of Egypt then?!

Part of me naiviely thinks “Hell, why not pick the right person for the role, and screw what colour/race/gender/age they are”. But Like I said in my Wonder Woman review (go read that shit), I can’t appreciate what it’s really like to feel so undermined because of my gender or race purely because I am a white guy. Racial and gender equality are important things, and stupidly like Gods of Egypt exasperate problems which are now hundreds if not thousands of years old.

Anubis Gods of Egypt

“Yep, I’m a white guy too”.

Forgetting race, the casting is otherwise pretty decent. However, Rush is at a point in his career where he doesn’t need to make nonsense like this any more. Gerard…well Gerard has made some trash, despite enjoying a major Hollywood career. This kind of crass rubbish isn’t above him. And that’s not to mock him. I like Butler. Yet this seems like a bit of a harkening to his time in 300. But that’s ten years gone, and the abs just aren’t as prominent any more. Saying that, he’s the only one with a bit of gravel in his voice and spunk in his junk, but even he can’t elevate the two dimensional baddie.

Jamie Lannister isn’t great. He does have an unusual accent which fits here. And his arrogance comes across really well. You can genuinely feel the disdain for Bek in his words (I would have had disdain for the gimp too). But he’s also getting a little long in the tooth. I feel that he should have been played by some young heartthrob actor. His body just isn’t as heroically honed for this as it needs to be.

gods-of-egypt-nikolaj-coster-waldau-brenton-thwaites

Look, I try and find something interesting and worthy in every film I watch. Making movies is hard work and it’s difficult to remain objective while you’re balls deep into a project. It’s damn tough to step back and go “shit, this is bad, really bad”. Kind of like looking back on an abusive relationship, it’s only after the fact you realize how terrible it was.

Coming from the writers of Dracula Untold which I didn’t like, and the Power Rangers reboot which I won’t watch, I don’t know what I expected with Gods of Egypt. Regardless, I did expect more from Proyas. True he had a lot to answer for after making the Knowing (who knew, hehehehe), but this? This is a by-the-numbers Hollywood hackjob.

There is room for some mythology. Some world building. But it’s all quashed by the weak effects and terrible characters. There’s just too much going on, too many weird things that by time you see one God replicated a thousand times, or two babes riding giant sand snakes, you’ve zoned out.

I guess the only type of person who’d get a kick out of watching this would be the same kind of person who liked those new Clash of the Titan films. Because they’re very similar. So go knock yourself out fella, get this one watched too.

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