Well well, I think we all remember the mess this movie stirred up prior to the theatrical release, with its pasty-white actors laughably placed in an ancient Egyptian setting. But, I was able to check it out on DVD to see if all the venom was validated. I don’t think the Gods will be on my side for this one.
Set in ancient Egypt where the Gods live amongst the regular folk, Horus (Nikolaj Caster Waldau) is about to take the throne from his father when his uncle Set (Gerard Butler) crashes the party with a mind for betrayal and murder. He takes the place at the thrne and literally strips Horus of his powers. But, a lowly human by the name of Bek (Brenton Thwaites) rises to help the exiled and blinded God in order to bring his love back from the dead.
Imagine for a moment if you took the film adaptation of “Prince of Persia”, and then blended it with the film version of “Dungeons and Dragons”… a terrible idea I can hear you say, but they went ahead and did just that. It seems to have some notion that it is telling a grand tale of mystery, ancient beings, and adventure. While at the same time, coming across as so nuts and ludicrous that you can’t help but laugh at its failings. Let’s get the easiest complaint to mention out of the way nice and early – the sheer amount of white actors in here can at times begin to rip apart the connection between the viewer and the movie. Sure, it has been done in movies countless times before, but it still gets really problematic at times. Although… not to the extent that was being levelled at it prior to release. There have been worse examples of Hollywood slapping a known face into a movie with no regard for the context, and it will happen in the future.
A bigger issue that comes to light early on is the strange script choices. There are times when the dialogue is formal and old-timey, and then in a jump can leap to being their take at connecting with young people? It’s hard to describe properly, but you’ll notice it jumping about time and time again, as if they can feel the audience nodding ff to sleep, and try to inject some awkward comedy to get them back on their side. It feels overall very average, with the engine barely ticking over to keep you interested in the characters.
But the main moment where I knew I was in for a tough time was when their special effects were shown off. The heavy reliance on metallic visuals and design looks bloody awful, none of the effects seems to have any depth or detail on display. There are plenty of effects on show and their variety is nice, but it is a REALLY dividing design choice. You’re either going to be okay with it, or despise it. It doesn’t help either when the final act becomes so dark and muddy that the green screens feel barely a millimetre under the surface.
However, I didn’t have the trainwreck of a time that I was expecting to, and here’s why.
I like some of the chemistry some of the characters have with each other. It isn’t anything special, but at least it was there. The scenes with Ra controlling the Sun and battling the demons in the darkness were actually, the best visuals by a mile. The concept of the design was impressive, and they seemed to pull it off to a reasonable level of quality. Like any Fantasy / Adventure film there are lots of different locations they travel to, which at least keeps the pace running along in a modest fashion. And there are one or two little cast-aside jokes that made me smirk, so at least it wasn’t devoid of humour.
As for the performances, Gerard Butler is doing his trademark yelling and all that, so if it still works for you, you’ll like that. The rest are right on the fence – nothing to right home about, but not a whole lot to scathe them for either. This will be a cheque to help them renovate their homes or buy that new car, and not one to be pinning hopes on for awards.
But even as I write this and work to praise the film, I remember more elements that frustrated me. Some of the editing is terrible, especially in the fight sequences. The camera waves about like it is being hung off a rope, just completely erratic and with no sense of control. And there’s a sense that a lot of potential was wasted by trying to tell this epic adventure spanning such a massive scale, where drawing it back a little might have aided to tighten up the storyline a little.
“Gods of Egypt” saves itself from the humiliation of being a complete mess, but strangely not by much of its own intent. For all the lavishings of CG and attempt at a massive story, the fact that it instead relates as a super-cheesball popcorn flick kind of saves it. You will find yourself forgiving some lackings while scathing it at others, but there might be enough dumb fun in here to mildly entertain you. Alcohol would be recommended though, at least then the time will pass by quicker.
Thanks for reading!