Gods of Egypt

Posted by Joel Copling on February 25, 2016

It's long been stated that, in the stories of myth, the gods were always far more interesting than the puny humans under their rule. The strangest thing about "Gods of Egypt," a film that very much would like for us to believe it is stranger than it proves to be, is that it manages to call that theory into question far before we get to the central conflict by putting the deities on an even playing field with the mortals. Here, the gods are just as much the uninteresting dullards the humans are, and that's quite a feat, considering that the human subplot in the screenplay is a simple and simplistic story of a man chasing the love of his life and the gods are subject to a kind of Shakespearean tragedy.

Opening with the kind of narration (by the future version of our hero) that gives the gimmick the poor reputation it deserves, we are soon asked to rally behind a human protagonist as the source of our point-of-view. His name is Bek (Brenton Thwaites), and he is a petty thief and peasant within ancient Egypt's theocratic oligarchy. The aforementioned lady who currently owns his heart is Zaya (Courtney Eaton), who is just as outwardly attractive and otherwise boring as he. When the oligarchy becomes a dictatorship and her status switches to being a slave at the beck and call of Urshu (Rufus Sewell), a general in the Egyptian army, she is mortally wounded during an escape. This sets Bek into a motion that will bring her back to the land of the living.

That brings us to the deities on display and the reason for the shift in the political atmosphere. Ra (Geoffrey Rush, whose superb indifference actually makes for the film's most interesting performance by a longshot), the Egyptian god of the sun who has to battle the Afterlife (The capitalization is important due to the fact that the transcendental realm of consciousness is actually a physical being made of about ten massive mouths, circular and toothy) every night from his perch over Creation, fathered two Earthbound children: Osiris (Bryan Brown), who is about to crown his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) the new king of Egypt, and Set (Gerard Butler), who kills Osiris and takes Horus' eyes as he installs a new regime among mortals.

The central narrative is something of a road movie, with Bek offering Horus the deal of retrieving his eyes (which have magical powers of some nonsensical sort) as long as the god is willing to reveal how to bring Zaya back from the dead. Screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless botch any attempt at compelling drama by turning up the dial way too intensely, and director Alex Proyas handles action setpieces in a way that emphasizes indulgence and excess more than genuine excitement (The unrefined visual effects, which can't even sell the illusion of the height difference between gods and humans, certainly don't help). In fact, for all the recent controversy involving the majority of the actors' skin color being anachronistic to the period (an annoying thing, sure, though irrelevant to a film's quality at the end of the day), "Gods of Egypt" commits a much worse sin: It's terribly dull.

Film Information

Gerard Butler (Set), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Horus), Brenton Thwaites (Bek), Courtney Eaton (Zaya), Rufus Sewell (Urshu), Bryan Brown (Osiris), Geoffrey Rush (Ra), Elodie Yung (Hathor), Chadwick Boseman (Thoth).

Directed by Alex Proyas and written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless.

Rated PG-13 (fantasy violence/action, sexuality).

127 minutes.

Released on February 26, 2016.