Gods of Egypt Movie Review
Poor Alex Proyas just can’t seem to get a break. In a better world, he’d have gotten the same level of faith and funding from studios wasted on the likes of the Wachowskis or Shyamalan, as opposed to the bumpy career he’s had. Despite directing, what in my humble opinion, are two of the best movies of the 1990s, The Crow and Dark City, a successful, if loose adaptation of I, Robot aside, most of his projects since the turn of the millennium have ended up either canned or stuck in development hell. To make matters worse, the first movie of his to hit theaters this decade, Gods of Egypt, is looking like it will be more known for his think pieces than for the film itself.
Since the first trailer dropped, the movie has been at the center of any number of think-pieces weighing in or expressing outrage over how a movie set in ancient Egypt has an entirely non-Egyptian cast, and more specifically, a cast with a number of white actors in lead roles. This comes hot on the heels of a number of other recent films lambasted, in many cases, rightfully so, for white-washing the cast, ranging from Emma Stone playing an Asian woman to Ridley Scott’s casting in Exodus: Gods and Kings, to say nothing of the recent outcry over the Oscars ignoring films like Creed or Straight Outta Compton.
While I may weigh in on this later, I would like to point out that most of these op-eds seem to ignore the fact that Alex Proyas himself is Egyptian. Plus, I on the other hand, prefer to focus on the fact one of the men who made The Crow made a movie where Jaime Lannister fights King Leonidas atop giant, fire-breathing cobras. Sorry folks, I’m a sucker for any movie that promises that much cheese.
So does Alex Proyas deliver a fun, fantasy adventure, or will the controversy end up being the only sign of life in this mummy? Walk like an Egyptian my dear readers, and join me as I review Gods of Egypt.
The Gods have reigned over Egypt for thousands of years, with the land peaceful under their dominion, if deeply divided between rich and poor. This changes when the handing of power from Osiris to Horus is interrupted by Set, who kills Osiris and blinds Horus, claiming the crown of Egypt as his own. As Set settles in as a tyrant to both gods and mortals alike, a young thief named Bek seeks the aid of Horus to save the woman he loves. Along the way, the two will pair up to save all of Egypt in the process.
For all the talk about Gods of Egypt misrepresenting the Egyptian people, it may be something of a moot point having seen the movie, which has as much to do with ancient Egypt as the Thor franchise does Scandinavia. Set in a fantasy world that loosely incorporates Egyptian mythology, the movie makes no attempt to ground itself in reality, and embraces some of the stranger elements of the Egyptian pantheon wholeheartedly, from the weighing of the souls of the dead to see if they attain the afterlife to Ra sailing through the sky while doing battle with the chaos serpent Apophis. Even little touches like the gods being taller than mortal men show attention to Egyptian mythology.
Part of me is thrilled to see a fantasy setting on screen that isn’t just another expy of Lord of the Rings or medieval Europe. Part of me wishes they’d polished the script a bit more, and that we got something more than a fairly generic plot focused on recovering some magic icons and stopping an evil ruler from taking over and destroying creation. Still, what we get manages to be a fun enough adventure for the duration of the movie for me to complain too much about the journey.
Brenton Thwaites, while not bringing the same level of charisma like Taron Egerton might have, brings more life to the roguish Bek than we ever saw from the likes of Jai Courtney, Taylor Kitsch or Sam Worthington in roles like this. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau continues to show he can quite capably handle the big screen, and brings the signature Jaime Lannister snark to Horus. Gerard Bulter chews the scenery with a level of enthusiastic bravado that I wish he had more screen time as the villain Set – at least I’ll get my wish next week with the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen. You have a talented supporting cast in the likes of Elodie Yung and Rufus Sewell, but it’s Chadwick Boseman as Thoth who steals any scene he’s in.
As for the direction and special effects, its a bit rough around the edges, and its rather sad to see Alex Proyas, once known for his love of practical effects, so reliant on CGI. Some of the action scenes are disappointingly choppy, and quite a few CGI scenes end up looking not real in the slightest, but I think it ends up adding some charm to Gods of Egypt rather than taking away from it. Still, thanks to the Egyptian setting, the movie is certainly gorgeous to look at, and it throws enough crazy stuff at the screen to keep you interested, even if its rough around the edges. Sure, those giant fire-breathing cobras may not look real, but you’re still watching a movie that has an extended fight sequence involving giant fire-breathing cobras.
It really is a shame that the controversy has ended up overshadowing nearly anything else about Gods of Egypt, because all things considered, Gods of Egypt was pretty entertaining as a whole. It’s so over-the-top, energetic and creative that it manages to make you overlook some glaring flaws almost by charm alone, and if not by charm, then by cheese.
Gods of Egypt reminds me in many ways of the glory days of B-movie fantasy epics – think if someone had made something like Krull with a $100 million dollar budget, and you get an idea of what you’re in for. Is it worth a ticket? Maybe, maybe not, but I can certainly see Gods of Egypt as a favorite to be seen with friends with a drink in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other once it’s on Blu-ray.