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 Egypt. 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.
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.
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.
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.