Having already faced controversy for its blatant casting of white actors in roles of colour, Gods of Egypt faces another uphill battle in drawing audiences to what is a rather chaotic and over done production. Directed by Alex Proyas, who delivered such classics as The Crow (1994) and Dark City (1998), but is more recently known for the less than stellar I, Robot (2004) and Knowing (2009), the film is jam-packed with action clichés and subpar CGI.
After centuries of Egypt living under the peaceful rule of Osiris (Bryan Brown), his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is set to ascend the throne until an interruption occurs at his coronation. When Osiris is murdered by his jealous brother, Set (Gerard Butler), Horus is cast out and blinded, leaving the mortals of Egypt subjected to a harsh tyrannical rule. One such mortal is Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who seeks to return Horus’ sight and help him reclaim the throne, leading to an epic quest that braves Gods and monsters in order to return peace to the kingdom.
The film’s shinning achievement is that every actor gives it their all. Thwaites (The Giver) brings a lot of energy, which most of the time makes up for the films more outlandish moments, and he has a good rapport with Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) in their odd-couple journey, albeit even with hitting every possible road-trip cliché. Butler (Olympus Has Fallen) seems right at home as his warrior king, with or without the Scottish accent, and Elodie Yung’s (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) Hathor proves to be the most emotionally resonating with her strong goddess. The ones that seem to be enjoying themselves the most though are Rufus Sewell (Dark City) as Urshu, an overly snooty architect, and Geoffery Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean) as the granddaddy-God, Ra, who spends most of his time throwing electric shocks at a menacing cloud.
Visually, the film serves as a reminder that when it comes to CGI, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. A considerable clash between foreground and background is a constant problem, with green screen landscapes amounting to fairly cheap looking matte paintings. There was an obvious choice early on that the film’s colour palette would focus on mainly yellows and golds, harking evidently to Egypt’s ancient treasures, but the result is a horrible golden tint that marks every frame and delivers a look barely on par with most current video games, complete with an overuse of sun flares. Still, Proyas hits a few good notes with some interesting visual concepts like portals and spaceships, but it’s too bogged down in the chaotic overload of the rest of the visuals to standout.
There’s a certain pleasure that can be gained from films such as these, that exist as modern B films, filled with extra cheese, hammy stars and exaggerated action, but the necessary ingredient is a self-awareness that nods to the makers acknowledgment of the ridiculousness. Instead, Gods of Egypt is too caught in taking itself seriously as an action film that it forgets the fun in it’s premise, and instead seems to reel in every possible cliché on hand. The one interesting original element in the film introduces mechanical, Transformers-like battle suits donned by the Gods to fight, except there’s too much of a hint in the air that an executive somewhere thought, ‘Maybe throw in some Transformers, kids like Transformers,’ to really enjoy them.
Gods of Egypt may not have a lot to offer, but those looking to fill a few hours or indulge in a so-bad-it’s-good film shouldn’t be disappointed.