Oddly enough, Alex Proyas’s Gods of Egypt is not a bad idea on paper. There have been plenty of weird, kitschy films about Greek gods and Roman gods, as well as Judeo-Christian stories, but the well of Egyptian deities has (in Western film at least) been left largely untapped. That’s unfortunate, because the Egyptians have a rich and complex mythology. Which is why it’s such a shame that Gods of Egypt, hitting Blu-Ray this week, fails as massively – indeed, epically – as it does.
The plot revolves around thief and pretty boy Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who attends the coronation of Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the god of the air, taking over godhead duties from his father Osiris (Bryan Brown). But things go wrong when Set (Gerard Butler), the god of the desert, pops up, kills Osiris and blinds Horus, sending him off into the desert to die. A year later, Bek is a slave under the iron rule of Set, and his girlfriend Zaya works for Set’s chief architect (Rufus Sewell).
Set is building a big ol’monument to his father Ra (Geoffrey Rush) in order to get Daddy to love him again. When Bek steals one of Horus’s eyes in an effort to get it to the air-god and restore some sanity (and semblance of plot) to Egypt, he unwittingly condemns Zaya to the Underworld. So, Bek asks the petulant Horus for help, who in turn leads him off on a quest to defeat Set and restore Zaya.
Gods of Egypt haphazardly combines bits and pieces of Egyptian mythology with a rote quest plot that ultimately goes nowhere, mostly because it keeps veering off into increasingly confusing by-ways. Gods and goddesses are name-dropped like celebrity cameos and then discarded. Not that the film is light on celebrities slumming it: Chadwick Boseman pops up as Thoth, the uber-gay god of wisdom, who joins Horus and Bek on their quest, along with Horus’s girlfriend Hothar, the goddess of love. Geoffrey Rush, meanwhile, gives it his all as Ra, whose duty it is to keep the sun coming up and fight the…Sky Kraken? While there are a few enjoyable set pieces – and I personally couldn’t get enough of Butler’s inexplicably Scottish villain – the plot and characterization are nothing short of total disaster.
The sheer incoherency of Gods of Egypt is almost secondary to the CGI that surrounds its increasingly ludicrous characters. The idea of gods being larger than humans might sound right on paper, but just looks weird and off-putting on the screen, with blue-screen integration that only looks marginally better on a small screen than it did on a large one. There are a number of CGI monsters, but they’re interchangeable with any other CGI monsters from Clash of the Titans to Noah. All the gold laminate in the world cannot save the film from looking like a kid playing with action figures.
This Blu-Ray release of Gods of Egypt does complete justice to the film’s spectacular shininess. Presented in 1080p HD with Digital DTS sound, it’s certainly an impressive release. The colors pop to a degree that threatens to damage the retinas – if you thought that gods bleeding gold was a cool idea, wait until you see it in HD. Horus practically oozes macaroni and cheese.
The Special Features go into curious depth with the behind-the-scenes process. Deleted storyboards provide insight into the film’s construction and those scenes that were left out – while none would exactly have made Gods of Egypt better, they would certainly have made it longer. A Divine Vision: Creating A Cinematic Action Fantasy indulges in discussion of how (and why) the film was produced; Of Gods and Mortals investigates the casting of the film and Transformation focuses on hair and make-up. There are featurettes on the visual effects as well and one just about the stunts.
The featurettes taken together go into more detail about the making of Gods of Egypt than the film itself really warrants. The seriousness with which the filmmakers and cast approached the script is laudable, and one almost gets the sense that they thought they were making a far more coherent movie than the one they produced.
For all its badness – and it is very bad – there’s something weirdly likable in Gods of Egypt. It plays like a contemporary version of the 1980s Clash of the Titans, as bizarre, over-the-top, and kitschy as a sword, sandals, and monster movie. Disastrous, strange, incoherent, and yet oddly fascinating.
A big, shiny disaster of a film, Gods of Egypt manages to waste a celebrity cast with over-the-top CGI and an increasingly incoherent plot.