I’ll admit, GODS OF EGYPT surprised the hell out of me…maybe “stunned” is the better word. Considering that the filmmaker Alex Proyas has made some solid works in the past, including THE CROW and DARK CITY, I can’t believe how much of a steamy, free-floating piece of garbage his latest is, and not even in a fun way. No, this is two hours-plus of a fantasy world version of Egypt, which I’m fine with (that’s the only thing that explains the proliferation of white faces playing Egyptians) that looks like crap, is front loaded with some of the worst writing and acting I’ve seen in my life in a big-budget film (or any film, honestly).
I was prepared to ignore the white-washing of this story if it was in any way a quality film, but the sea of mostly white faces is only about the third or fourth worst thing about this movie. The story is set in a version of Egypt where the local gods interact regularly with humans. You can spot the gods because they’re twice as tall and can change into any number of mythical creatures from Egyptian folklore. Again, I like the idea of pretending that the gods of Egyptian art were actually real creatures at one time. As a fantasy idea, at least it’s not a concept that has been used to death on the big screen. We join the story during a transition—the king of Egypt is handing over power to his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of “Game of Thrones”). At that moment, his uncle Set (Gerard Butler) decides he wants the throne to impose his crushing will on the people. They battle and Set ends up plucking out Horus’s eyes, the source of his power, and casting him out.
At the same time, a young thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites, an all-around terrible actor, previously seen in THE GIVER, MALEFICENT, OCULUS) is madly in love with his lady friend Zaya (Courtney Eaton, one of the pretty ladies from MAD MAX: FURY ROAD), when all hell breaks loose among the gods, and the two end up getting separated. She ends up becoming a slave to a master architect named Urshu (Rufus Sewell, because any casting agent knows when you need a shortcut to identifying a character as a weasel, you hire Rufus Sewell). When he attempts to rescue her from Urshu, Zaya is killed, which isn’t actually a spoiler, since the entire film is actually about Bek attempting to retrieve her from the land of the dead with the help of the fallen Horus.
You can almost see the actors all choking on the ridiculous dialogue (courtesy of writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless). No one can quite deliver their lines without a smirk on their face, except Butler, who instead decides to scream every line, as he did in 300. I could almost see GODS OF EGYPT becoming a cult hit many years down the road, based solely on how stilted the writing is and how brain-dead the acting feels. The film is such a complete failure, it’s almost admirable. And I haven’t even mentioned how god-awful the special effects look, and I’m not usually a stickler for such things.
I don’t know how Proyas went so wrong, but somehow he’s taken a fairly unconventional idea for a fantasy story and turned it into the work type of standard-issue drivel. I think one of the worst moments is when Chadwick Boseman shows up as the scholarly god Thoth. If you’ve ever wanted to see an actor look simultaneously humiliated and angry at their agent, look no further. Oh, and then there’s that time when Geoffrey Rush shows up as the leader of the gods, Ra, who swears off interfering in these affairs and then goes ahead and does so anyway.
There are unnecessary love story subplots that will make you cringe. Elodie Yung shows up as Hathor, the goddess of love, who is having a fling with Horus before his downfall, and attempts to help him and Bek with their quest to bring Zaya back from the dead and set Horus on his rightful path to the throne. Yeah, it’s all smelly, sticky garbage, and I’m done talking about it. I know people tend to shit-talk bloated Hollywood productions and being vacuous and pandering, but I’m still capable of finding quality in some of them. But GODS OF EGYPT is the worst of a bad bunch. The fact that this movie is even seeing the light of day seems like a minor miracle. Every one in this thing has a great deal to answer for.