I hate to criticise a movie with a production so heavily rooted in Australia. Homegrown director Alex Proyas, coming off a string of cult classics (Dark City, The Crow) and Hollywood blockbusters (I, Robot, Knowing), assembles our national film industry’s best and brightest. Unfortunately, Gods of Egypt plays upon all of Hollywood’s worst impulses. When people shrug off cinema as being “just all special effects”, this is what they refer to.
From the outset, Gods of Egypt hits the skids and fails to gain traction or even bother to get back up. Thanks to unnecessary narration, the movie immediately introduces us to every significant and insignificant detail of its plot, characters, and ancient Egyptian lore. The gods – literally and figuratively – look down upon mankind. Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is set to take over the throne from his loving father Osiris (Bryan Brown). Simultaneously, thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton) prepare for the coronation. Their paths all cross after Set (Gerard Butler) kills Osiris, sends Horus into exile, and ascends to the throne.
Right off the bat, Gods of Egypt is marred by its whitewashing practice and peculiar casting decisions. Caucasian actors, donned in silly fake tans, stand front and centre. Meanwhile, minority actors – more suited to the North African/historically significant setting – are pushed into minimal supporting roles or sidelined as extras in expansive crowds. Although obsessed with Egyptian iconography and architecture, this action flick further dampens Hollywood’s reputation as out of touch and uneducated.
Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, known for Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter, are two of Hollywood’s least inspiring screenwriters. Like with their preceding works, Gods of Egypt’s lacklustre screenplay hampers the cast and crew’s talents. The plot, fuelled by stolid exposition and laughable ‘human’ moments, resembles a rough draft. Following the typical ‘hero’s journey’ for revenge/love narrative, shifting lazily from plot points A to B to C.
Of course, audiences don’t go to over-the-top, sword-and-sandal action-epics for revelatory narratives or spot-on themes. Sadly, everything is shocking bland and uninspired. The film avoids anything unique or even comfortingly predictable, pulling several backflips into ‘WTF’ territory. The movie is chock-a-block with strange sequences – Ra (Geoffrey Rush) blasting a gigantic tapeworm with a laser-sword on a spaceship, the gods turning into Transformer-esque monsters, scenic vistas with Playstation 2-level effects – that establish tone but fail to thrill or even mildly engage.
The lack of care or consideration is evident in its blatant use of CGI over practical effects. Every frame is filled in with shoddy green-screen effects, giving its flawless cast little to work with. Even the action is stale and lifeless, with CGI creations crashing into one another throughout its interminable 127-minute run-time. Aiming for the dizzying heights of Ray Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts, Gods of Egypt contains zero originality, ingenuity, or even joy.
Despite duelling accents and high-school-play type line delivery, the cast, at the very least, attempts to spin this CGI-laden void into an alluring final product. Coster-Waldau, earning himself a quick paycheque in between seasons of Game Thrones, is a charismatic presence as the damaged superhero-esque lead character. Thwaites and Eaton, however, struggle to overcome their thin British accents, lagging behind their A-list co-stars. Butler is almost worth the admission cost, bellowing every line with a recognisable, lion-hearted Scottish brogue. Elodie Yung and Chadwick Boseman, soon to be seen in Daredevil – Season 2 and Captain America: Civil War respectively, are suitably charming.
Gods of Egypt is yet another forgettable sword-and-sandal epics in the vein of Immortals, the Clash/Wrath of the Titans instalments, and Conan the Barbarian. If anything, if there is any justification for spending your hard earned money on it this weekend, it’s still better than Zoolander 2.