Gods of Egypt and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate
Directed by Alex Proyas
No one was asking for this! No one wanted the director of Dark City to make a Gore Verbinski style summer tent pole! Where the hell did his even come from, other than the pits of Hell? Brace yourselves people. We’ve got a REALY bad one on our hands. How bad? Well you’re about to find out!!
The movie is primarily about the God Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who is the son of Osiris (Bryan Brown) and will be given the throne to Asgard… I mean Egypt. Osiris’s brother Set (Gerard Butler) has other plans however and stages the worst (yet somehow most effective) coup I’ve ever seen where about five hundred soldier dudes just enters the main palace with no resistance from Egypt’s own military. Set kills Osiris and challenges Horus to one on one combat which seems like a pretty dumb idea in hindsight considering Horus almost beats his sorry ass and only loses once Set’s soldiers get involved. Horus’s own soldiers never show up, and the other Gods observing the ceremony don’t step in to HELP him, so Horus loses the fight and has his eyes plucked out. Set is now the king, goes full Egyptian Nazi on their asses, and has plans to… take over the afterlife? I don’t know exactly but whatever it is, it’s nefarious! Who can stop Set? Well apparently a simple thief can as Bek (Brenton Thwaltes) breaks into the pyramid where Set keeps Horus’s eye and steals it away so that he and his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton) can bring Horus back and stop Set. Zaya gets killed in the process unfortunately which means Bek has to use the eye as leverage to get Horus to bring back his girlfriend in exchange for it. So now that Horus is back in action (at least half way what with one eye), he needs to come up with a plan to defeat Set with the help of Bek who seems to know a couple of things about Set’s operation and his natural abilities as a thief prove to be quite useful. Will Horus find a way to stop Set before he does something REALLY bad? Will he get any help from the Goddess of Love Hathor (Elodie Yung), the God of Wisdom Thoth (Chadwick Boseman) or his own grandfather Ra (Geoffrey Rush) who apparently lives on the Justice League Watchtower space station? Does… anyone really care? Was anyone looking forward to this?
After seeing this, I wanted to go home to watch The Crow and just mourn what has happened to the once great director. This movie isn’t just bad; it’s a fucking nightmare. The worst attempt to create a new genre film franchise since probably Wild Wild West, and it’s got so many of the same problems. It’s a smug, cynical, unfunny, and yes, WHITEWASHED, piece of out-of-date action/comedy fluff that is will be a blight on everyone’s careers going forward. Say what you will about something like Pan, at least it had a sense of sincerity or artistic competence. This? This is a boring train wreck of clichés and half assed filmmaking. Like a train filled with Ambien smashing into a train of Zack Snyder slo-mo shots, mismatched “comedic” duos, and cultural appropriation.
Let’s start with the big ass elephant in the room that’s got critics pissed and Alex Proyas even more so. There is absolutely no denying that having these white actors play Egyptians is a detriment to the movie, and Alex claiming otherwise is sheer ignorance or intentional misunderstanding of his part. The dude’s face book page where he calls critics “deranged idiots” (you wound me sir) doesn’t even explain WHY the white cast in his movie isn’t a problem; he just insists that critics are failing to understand what the movie is. You know what? Fine. If the whitewashing was simply an unfortunate outcome of choosing the best actors for the role (*cough* bullshit *cough*) then that would be one thing. That’s NOT the only problem here though. Unless I’m forgetting someone, there is precisely ONE person of color in the primary cast (Chadwick Boseman as Thoth) and one minion who barely poses a threat and gets finished off rather quickly (Yaya Deng as Astarte). Anyone else who’s non-white is relegated to crowds or extras with a line or two (mostly servants in the latter case), which does little to assuage people’s concerns that we’re watching a movie where Gods (i.e. superior humans) are indeed white; implying whiteness to be the ideal with deviations being an aberration of that. I don’t give a rats ass if Proyas didn’t intend for that pretty fucked up message to get across; it’s his job to be aware of such things and either change it to deter those offensive implications or to accept the criticism instead of getting pissy about it. On top of that, the token black God is indeed the God of Knowledge and Wisdom, but they also make him mincing and foppish in a film where strength and masculine ideals are lionized as the way to conquer worlds while also saving them. He doesn’t have a moment of glory in here as his ONE moment to shine is undercut by it turning into an action scene. Seriously, how the FUCK do you turn the Sphinx into a crappy God of War battle? Not only that, he’s the sacrificial black man whose death is only in here to raise the stakes for our white heroes as we approach the third act. Fuck this noise. The guy didn’t have to cast all white people; he didn’t have to reserve any roles for people of color to tokens, or background characters; and he didn’t have to indulge in such mindless clichés such as the doomed black guy and the nerdy comic relief.
Alright, I think I got all my rage out for THAT problem with the film. Let’s move into everything else that’s wrong with this. HOLY HELL is this a boring sit that’s just oozing stupidity from all sides. You know it’s a bad screenplay when every plot point is the introduction of another McGuffin that just exists to move the plot along and get our characters from point A to point B (to point C to point D to point E, etc). What do we need to stop Set’s evil rule? First we need Horus’s Eye. Oh, but he only has one and can’t transform (for some reason) without the other. Okay, if he can’t transform than he needs to find another way to defeat Set. Well it JUST SO HAPPENS that the guy is powered by a… fire? I don’t know. There’s some flame in a pyramid in the desert (that Bek JUST SO HAPPENS to have seen the schematics for) that has a Horcrux or something like that that will weaken Set if it’s snuffed out. How do you snuff it out? Well you need magic water of course! How do you get magic water? Why you need to see Ra of course? How do you see Ra? Well you have to fly to his space ship in the sky of course! Oh wait… we already established that Horus can’t transform into his super form which allows him to fly. Ah, fuck it. Let’s just say Ra lets him transform FOR NOW but then not let him do it later. Why? Who gives a shit! The question you SHOULD be asking is WHEN THE FUCK IS THIS GOING TO END!? Just an endless cavalcade of plot devices and unexplained rules to hold this unimaginable mess of movie together and yet it’s still bursting at the seams with unanswered questions, questionable motivations, unexplained changes to the rules, and a literal Deus Ex Machina to close everything out.
Okay, so the story that’s stringing along our events isn’t strong to say the least. What about taking each scene and examining their individual competence? Well, we’ve got acting that’s pretty poor overall with Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau and Brenton Thwaltes being the absolute worst here doing their obnoxious odd couple routine. Neither one of them are all that likeable here nor is their bickering helpful in endearing them to the audience. Nikolaj as Horus comes across like a fourth rate Kurt Russel impersonator, and Brenton has the acting chops of slightly better Luke Bracey which isn’t saying all that much. I couldn’t stand any of the scenes with these two together which is disheartening considering how much of the screen time is devoted to them. Everyone else though? I honestly thought they did fine. Okay, Gerard Butler is hamming it up to the extreme but at least he has life to him and brings a sense of fun to the movie, even though he indulges in one of my least favorite villain clichés which is to kill one of your own subordinates. Seriously, I cannot imagine that EVER working out for anyone, and it takes a villain that could have had some depth and nuance and turns them into a braindead, sociopathic, moron.
The MVP here goes to Elodie Yung as Hathor (soon to be Elektra in season two of Daredevil) who shows the most range and has the most interesting backstory as someone who’s always getting tossed around from one place to the other and is trying desperately hard to maintain stability in her life. Had she been given more to do other than be the Sacrificial Girlfriend (giving up their own life or agency so as to provide character growth to the male protagonist), she could have saved this movie… or at least raised it from horrendously bad to just pretty bad. Instead, she’s another wasted element here along with Chadwick Bosman who as we’ve established is an annoying collection of stereotypes, but he has real comedic timing and wit unlike Nikolaj who knows what a one liner is, but doesn’t seem to have much experience with them.
As much as the racism sucks in here, the sexism is just as bad if not worse. The previously mentioned Goddess of Love who can’t do anything other than through (or for) a man is bad, but Bek’s girlfriend Zaya is dead and STILL can’t escape being a Damsel in Distress. You would think that if a character was murdered (purely as a motivational device for Bek) that they’d be off the hook for something like that, but nope! There’s a whole thing about the afterlife and having to be rich to get into heaven or something and Bek is either trying to bring her back to life or get her a shit ton of gold to bargain her way out of Hell, and it amounts to so very little other than to give Anubis a pointless cameo. Not even the action in this is any good as they’re either CG monsters bashing into each other or are scenes with actual stunt work that uses terrible gimmicks or shoddy cinematography. Honestly, there’s scene here where Horus is being attacked by two monsters and not only does he NOT sell those hits (I guess he’s part John Cena), but the camera is inexplicably making constant 360 degree spins around the character like a video game where the right analog stick got fucked up. There are MOMENTS where the effects work and the stunt work is competent, but for a movie THIS expensive to look THIS bad is an accomplishment that I though was only possible through Michael Bay.
Is this the worst movie of all time? Like Wild Wild West before it, it is not. When it comes to both of these films though, think what they ARE is the perfect example of everything that no longer works in their respective time periods. Wild Wild West was a culmination of everything wrong with the booming big budget summer blockbuster market that had started to blossom after Independence Day. Hell, not long ago we had The Lone Ranger which was the epitome of what stopped working about the Pirates films and Johnny Depp. This feels even MORE out of date than either of those films did in their heyday as it’s pulling from sources like Wild Wild West or even Prince of Persia (not a TERRIBLE movie, but not a good one either). Throw in some Michael Bay excess and Hollywood’s ongoing issue with actors of color, and you have the recipe for a disaster that SHOULD shake Hollywood to its core if anyone had expected anything from this. Frankly, Alex Proyas hasn’t been on his game for a really long time (this is his first film since Knowing all the way back in 2009) so it’s really shocking to anyone that he’s continuing his downward spiral into irrelevance, with his oblivious Facebook rant being a bad sign of him ever clawing his way out of it. Will he release another good film in his lifetime? Who can say? For now, I’m just gonna try to remember better times by rewatching one of his good movies and forget this celluloid (or digital. I don’t know how this was shot) abomination, at least until I have to worst of the year list. MAYBE if you are interested in seeing huge disasters unfurl right before your eyes, you should rent this at least once, but it really isn’t funny bad; it’s just sad and pathetic. I’m done. Brandon Lee! Take me away from this awful place and remind how good you looked in mime paint!!
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