Gods of Egypt (2016)
Director: Alex Proyas
Writers: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Yes – my curiosity finally got the best of me and I checked out this movie. It got some pretty hilarious reactions ever since the first character posters and teaser trailers came out, it completely tanked on it’s opening weekend which made director Alex Proyas post some mad rants during the following week about how “reviewers killed his film and the really don’t know anything about anything….” and so on and so forth. It was just too golden of an opportunity to finally see what all the hubbub was about.
What the hell happened to Alex Proyas? He was one of the most promising genre filmmakers in the 90’s, directing “The Crow“(1993) and “Dark City“(1998).He then went back to his native Australia to make a rock band-comedy “Garage Days“(2002) – which is an underrated film that I don’t think too many people have even seen. But then something changed; we’ve got the studio/Will Smith/Akiva Goldsman-dictated scifi-actioner “I, Robot“(2004) and “Knowing“(2009) – of which I’m still not sure what the hell it’s intention was – and now, we get “Gods of Egypt” which is, to put it mildly, a mess. Let’s dig a bit deeper…
The story takes place in an “alternate” Egypt, where Gods have decided to live amongst the humans. Osiris(Bryan Brown) – the King of Egypt – has decided to retire and is preparing to pass his crown to his son, Horus(Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) – Lord of the Air. During the coronation, Osiris’ brother Set(Gerard Butler) – who was made God of the Desert, and I guess has had enough of sand(it gets everywhere, you know) – kills Osiris and after a short battle bests Horus and takes out his eyes, which are the source of his power. Set appoints himself as king and Horus is sent into exile. All the humans are basically made slaves, which of course sucks.
One year later, the story’s protagonist Bek(Brenton Thwaites) is given the floor-plans of Set’s massive pyramid by his beloved, Zaya(Courtney Eaton). Zaya works as a slave for Set’s architect Urshu(Rufus Sewell) so she has access to things like that. She urges Bek to break into the pyramid, so he can steal back Horus’ eyes so Horus can bring balance back to the Force– Sorry, wrong movie. Anyways – so Horus can get his Mojo back and kick Set right back into the desert from where he came. Now – Bek is what you’d call a Parkour Thief, so breaking into the vault consists of hopping on several moving platforms and narrowly avoiding a number of the Most Overboard Traps Ever. Of course, he only gets one eye – and in the aftermath he also manages to get Zaya killed. But this is of course not the end, as Zaya has to make a long walk in the afterlife(which looks a bit like the alien dimension from “Phantasm”). Horus promises to help Bek bring Zaya back from the dead, if Bek first helps him gain access to Set’s pyramid.
Horus pays a visit to his grandfather Ra(Geoffrey Rush), who spends his time flying in space on a Solar-Sailer and keeps the all-devouring beast Apophis from extinguishing all life during the nights. So – that old thing. It’s pretty unfair, don’t you think? All other Gods live like kings on earth and the cranky old retiree gets to do all the dirty work. Anyways – Horus gets Ra to give him a flask full of Divine Water, so he can use it “to extinguish the desert’s thirst” or something of that ilk – and that would seriously weaken Set’s powers. Thrown in the mix are Hathor(Elodie Yung) – the Goddess of Love, who is Horus’s former squeeze and now Set’s Love-Slave and Thoth(Chadwick Boseman) – the God of Wisdom who knows everything. Which comes in handy as somewhere along the line they need to pass a Sphinx that will ask some riddle. As all this is going on, Set has other things to take care of: he’s destroying all the other remaining gods one by one, collecting the sources of their power so he can become stronger than everyone and combine the mortal and underworld realms to gain– What, exactly? You know, I never quite figured that out. I guess he hadn’t thought that far ahead…
Okay, let’s start by quoting this films Wikipedia page, where director Alex Proyas has listed the following films as influences for this one: “The Guns of Navarone”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “The Man Who Would be King”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Sergio Leone’s western films“. Sounds like a pretty cool list, don’t you think? Too bad that absolutely NO influence of any of these films can be seen in the final result. Instead, as I was watching this thing unravel in front of my eyes – a completely different set of influences started to become very clear…
Let’s start with our protagonist, Bek: like I said, he’s a “Parkour Thief” and all of his action basically consists of climbing, swinging on ropes and jumping from one platform to another – while avoiding all sorts of deadly traps. Sound familiar? Bek is basically Prince of Persia(or should be called Prince of Egypt here? I’m not sure – Thwaite’s blonde-ish hair practically SCREAMS Egypt anyway – but I think that conversation was had many millions of times over the casting of Ridley Scott’s “Exodus”). He even has a “princess” to save, like the hero of that game does – although she’s a bit further away than just the Castle Tower, but still…
Then there’s the Grumpy Grandfather Ra: he spends his days sailing in what looks like an unused design for the “Tron: Legacy” Solar-Sailer and when the sun sets, he begins to shoot an endless array of videogame light-balls at a slow-moving giant worm-cloud. Ra is basically the lead character in Every 8 or 16-bit side-scrolling shoot ’em up game that there ever was.
Then there’s Horus and Set: did I mention that all the god-characters are 9 ft tall in their “normal” mode? Well, when they get into fighting stuffs, they transform into 12 ft. tall metallic bird-like CGI creatures? I guess those are meant to be some sort of a battle armor. And Set’s master plan entails him collecting a certain number of objects from the other gods, so he can update his armor into a Super-Powered Battle Armor! It’s sort of like that thing of collecting five mini lion-bots to form one Super-bot(a little nod to “Deadpool” there). These characters are pretty much from your basic beat ’em up-game – for Pete’s sake, the camera even circles around them while they’re fighting – like in “Tekken” or “DOA” or what have you. All that’s missing is the energy meters on top of the screen.
See a pattern emerging? That’s what “Gods of Egypt” reminds me of; it’s like a bad video-game adaptation from a game that never got made. Every action scene follows a videogame-logic: let’s run through obstacles and dispatch a certain number of lowly soldier characters until we get to the fight with the Level End-Boss(be it big Rhino-gods in armor or two warrior-goddesses riding giant snakes). And then we jump into a poorly acted cut-scene. It’s like someone found a script for an unmade “God of War”-game spinoff and decided to turn that into a movie script, as is.
And yeah, there really was not much thought put into the casting: Gerard Butler just plays Leonidas 2.0 and Coster-Waldau plays Jaime Lannister 2.0(only this time he’s missing one eye instead of one hand – that’s RANGE, man…) and so on. The entire movie was probably filmed on a greenscreen-stage, and it shows; some of the compositions are so bad that it reminds me of the rear-screen projection of the 60’s. The CGI-characters are mostly clunky – I actually think “The Mummy Returns” had some better CGI animation in places…. I could go on and on – but there would be no end to it. If you want to see a movie where Leonidas flies into battle in a chariot pulled by what looks like two flying giant dung-beetles(I GUESS they were meant to be Scarabs…), then by all means – check it out.
You won’t believe your eyes.
“Gods of Egypt” is not a good movie, but it might have made a great 16-bit arcade game once upon a time.