More noise than signal

Gods of Egypt

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

On a personal level, the thing about Alex Proyas movies is that no matter how poor the general consensus of them is, I’m still going to watch them because at one point he made Dark City, and there’s always the chance that might happen again, even if what we actually get is I, Robot or this dumpster fire.

In the midst of a nice orderly transition of godly power between Osiris (Bryan Brown) and his still somewhat hedonistic, irresponsible son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), all-round bad apple Set (Gerard Butler) reappears from exile, seizing the Egyptian throne, killing Osiris, defeating Horus, stealing both his eyes and his girl, Hathor (Elodie Yung). Bad times.

Horus is exiled, and while Set and his cronies wage war against other gods refusing to kowtow to Set’s brutal regime, two mortal lovers Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and Zaya (Courtney Eaton) are separated in the chaos. Bek eventually tracks Zaya down, finding her enslaved to Egypt’s master builder (Rufus Sewell). After taking a swatch at the plans for the more devious traps in Set’s treasure vaults, Zaya asks Bek to steal back Horus’ eye and return it to him, in the hopes he will fight against Set.

Bek meets with some success, retrieving one of the eyes, but on returning to Zaya to break her out of enslavement she’s killed during their escape. Arriving at Horus’s distant temple, he bargains with Horus to return Zaya from the dead in exchange for returning Horus’ eye and helping to obtain the other. Horus promises he can do this, but only after defeating Set and reclaiming his position as rightful King of Egypt. The two team up against the overwhelming odds of Set’s forces, in what I’m sure in at least one draft seemed like an entertaining action adventure.

It’s difficult to know where to start with Gods of Egypt, really. Casting isn’t the main problem, and most of the people working here I like or, at worst, don’t really mind, but there’s an indication very early on that something’s badly wrong as soon as Bryan Brown opens his mouth. And I don’t really mind Bryan Brown, but the role clearly calls for a measured, stately, and, well, regal, tone, and that’s not the primary fire mode on Bryan Brown’s acting arsenal. He does his best, and it’s hardly embarrassing on its own merit let alone relative to the rest of the film, but there just seems to be no thought behind the casting decision.

Or most of the rest of the details. There’s a general overarching concept that, to be honest, isn’t too bad of an idea. It’s the same as fellow clunkers Clash and Wrath of the Titans_, doing something along the lines of Jason and the Argonauts, but with the CG horsepower available to us in space year 20XX. It ought to be a welcome change of pace from the tentpole comic book adaptations that dominate the landscape of late, but this is poorly executed on pretty much every level.

As mentioned there’s a lot of actors in here I like, but they are to a person terrible in here, and in particular the double act between Coster-Waldau and Thwaites is a charisma vacuum, and as that’s pretty much the lynch-pin of any human interest in the story that’s a problem. I’m reluctant to apportion any blame, as the dialogue they have to work with is sub-standard, to put it politely.

Likewise the supporting cast is given no help script-wise and understandably flounder, in particular the exceptionally poorly written God of Knowledge Thoth (poor Chadwick Boseman). There’s perhaps a few moments where the patented Butler brand bombast ties in well with the overblown dialogue, but not many of them, making Set a roundly average antagonist.

Clearly the bulk of the money handed over to director Alex Proyas has went into the CG, of which there is all of it, and of which nary a single frame looks convincing. A decision was made for Gods to be substantially taller than humans, which is again the sort of decision that seems reasonable in the abstract, but someone should have taken one look at the first composite scene with Little and Large and rethought the idea. I’ll give it this – throughout the two hours it never stops looking laughable, which is some small achievement, at least.

The politest thing I can say about the CG style is that it’s consistent – unfortunately it’s consistently ugly, brash and cheap-looking, but at least they’ve remained true to their aesthetic. To be fair some of the virtual sets and landscapes pass muster, but the action scenes certainly do not, particularly in the Godo-a-Godo fight between Set and Horus at the film’s conclusion, against a backdrop of the sandworm from Dune eating the Nile after Set backstabs his Grandfather Ra (Geoffrey Rush) for reasons I’m not sure were ever explained, apart from “Set’s a total dickhole”.

Now, I’m no longer the roundly negative bucket of anger and hatred that I was in my earlier years, and as such I’m not often prone to crucifying films any more. I’m very tempted to make any exception for this, but it veers too often into ‘boring’ rather than ‘horrible’ to truly lay into this. But even giving Gods of Egypt my rosiest possible write-up, it’s still challenging for the title of “Worst Film I’ve Seen This Year”.

Just leave it. He’s not worth it.