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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Gods of Egypt movie review: those whom the gods wish to punish, they force to watch this movie

Gods of Egypt red light

Hilariously, casting white Westerners as mortals and deities of the ancient Nile is the least offensive thing about this crime against goofball cinema.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of director Alex Proyas

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

No, this is the other movie that whitewashes ancient Egypt, after Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings in late 2014. (As Oscar Wilde might have said, one such movie is unfortunate. Two seems like crassness.) Hilariously, however, casting white Westerners as mortals and deities of the Nile is the least offensive thing about Gods of Egypttweet. I mean, sure, that’s bad. But for a movie such as this, so clearly aimed at high cheese, to take two gorgeous brutes such as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gerard Butler, get them half naked, set them to sweaty wrestling, and then render that this boring? That is an absolute crime against goofball cinema.

The unbearable whiteness of actors with speaking parts.

The unbearable whiteness of actors with speaking parts.tweet

What this movie really needs is Caesar Flickerman commentating, Capitol District style and with no trace of irony at all, on its end-of-empire vulgarity. Not the empire of the gods, the empire of Late Hollywood Decadence, on the ostentation of robust storytelling replaced by CGI, on the corruption of clichés not even indulged but merely alluded to in passing, as if movies no longer need to be movies but may merely be feature-length trailers for themselves. This is like a collection of “highlights” — though that makes them sound more exciting than they are — from a nine-hour epic. (We may count our blessings that schlockmeister director Alex Proyas [Knowing, I, Robot] did not, in fact, make three three-hour films out of this emptiness.) There are scenes here that are compositions made up entirely of computer graphics that resemble low-res screengrabs from a game; we talk about movies sometimes feeling like you’re watching over someone’s shoulder as she plays a game, but this one actually looks like that.

Entire wars pop up outta nowhere, and then are just as instantly forgotten.

The god Ra — played by Geoffrey Rush (Minions, The Book Thief) in the most outrageous case of miscasting ever — has a spaceship. In space. Like in Stargate. I repeat: Geoffrey Rush is on a spaceship, and he is a sun god. As boggling as it is to read this as words, I promise you that it is even more baffling onscreen.

“Are you not entertained?” Nope.

“Are you not entertained?” Nope.tweet

The putative “hero” of Gods of Egypt is less interesting and less developed than a videogame avatar, which is somehow ironic for a movie that appears to wish that it had as strong an underpinning as “based on a game.” He is a mortal thief, Bek — played by Brenton Thwaites (Son of a Gun, The Giver), who is among the blander of the white-bread Ken dolls Hollywood has been attempting to push as movie stars of late — and is he subjected to the hoary trope of being driven to Do the Plot by the death of his ladylove, Zaya (Courtney Eaton: Mad Max: Fury Road)… and he doesn’t even seem all that upset about it. By now, this sort of motivation for a male protagonist is as offensive for its unimaginative laziness as it is for its sidelining of a would-be significant female character, so he should at least have the grace to experience the emotion it’s supposed to make him experience.

The plot that needs doing surrounds the game of throne that the gods Horus (Coster-Waldau: A Second Chance, The Other Woman) and Set (Butler: London Has Fallen, How to Train Your Dragon) are locked in over the rule of Egypt: Bek gets in the middle of it because he’s tired of being a slave for Set. Slavery seems kind of like a lark and not so bad, though: it doesn’t prevent Bek from slipping away to visit Zaya, who is also a slave, a sort of secretary to one of Set’s mortal underlings, who is notable only for the ridiculous fact that he is played by Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle, Hercules).

For a movie about gods who can transform into golden winged creatures and who sometimes live on spaceships and in which the Earth is depicted as a flat disc, the casting is truly the most fantastical thing about it.

In this exciting action still, the god Set removes the eyes of the god Horus; you will pray to Set to bestow such a kindness upon you, too.

In this exciting action still, the god Set removes the eyes of the god Horus; you will pray to Set to bestow such a kindness upon you, too.

Anyway, there are sandworms from Dune and a riddle game from The Hobbit and an Indiana Jones-style obstacle-course temple in the midst of which Bek gets to say, “Where do you even get that many scorpions?” which is supposed to be a tossed-off joke, but it’s no “Snakes, why’d it have to be snakes?” and Brenton Thwaites is definitely no Harrison Ford and this movie will just make you want to cry.

The only good thing about Gods of Egypt is that it was a total flop at the box office.tweet Perhaps there is hope for us yet.


red light 0 stars

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Gods of Egypt (2016)
US/Can release: Feb 26 2016
UK/Ire release: Jun 17 2016

MPAA: rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and action, and some sexuality
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate fantasy violence)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It’s worse than just “Westerners”. Almost every part is played by an Aussie of clearly British descent. The only exceptions are a Dane on summer vacation, a couple actual Brits, and Chadwick Boseman, for some reason.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m not sure I’d call Alex Proyas a schlockmeister yet. Yes, he’s 0-for-3 in a row, with each film getting worse by an order of magnitude (this, Knowing, and I, Robot), but he did give us The Crow and Dark City.

    Of course, M. Night gave us The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, and at least half of Signs…

  • I hated *Dark City,* too… :-/

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Whuuuuuuuuuuuuu? Really? Wow, I love that movie.

    But in that case, yeah, Proyas would seem pretty schlocky. :)

  • bronxbee

    “Driven to do the Plot….” a brilliant bit of phrasing there.

  • Maria Niku

    Spaceship eh? I once read this guy called Erich von Däniken, who in the 60s and 70s insisted that the Egyptian pyramids were the work of ancient aliens. Seems that stuff is still going around, then.

  • I strive to amuse.

  • I read those books too. They were more fun than this movie.

  • Hank Graham

    He is the one god!
    He is the sun god!
    Ra! Ra! Ra!

  • Danielm80

    Remarkably, I managed to “upvote” that comment even though I was curled in a fetal position and whimpering.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Ra! A drop of golden sun…

  • Izha Forsure

    I just can’t get past the cast. Why, why must this foolishness continue after all of these years. It’s a conspiracy to make sure an all melanated cast be played in movies based on places in Africa, especially this one being that it’s portraying Gods. of Egypt. What a disaster!!! I’m super disappointed.

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