Surely no other genre in cinema has benefited from the rise of CGI more than the fantasy film with Harry Potter, Middle-Earth and the incest and gore streaked lands of King’s Landing all taking advantage of the technology on screens both large and small. Of course, that’s just the household name stuff; there’s countless other tales of magic and monsters such as The Witcher and the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie – but if one rule is constant in this time where the only obstacle you have at realising vibrant other worlds is simply the limit of your imagination and how many polygons your budget allows you to play with, it’s this: whatever you do, don’t. Be. Boring.
Director Alex Proyas isn’t really known for boring, especially after starting out with the goth dystopias of The Crown and the criminally underseen Dark City and then moving on to the slick thrills of I, Robot and the jumbled kookiness of Knowing, but in 2016 he helmed a movie so empty, so pointless and so teeth grinding shallow, he hasn’t directed a full length feature since.
Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to gaze in awe at the sheer awful majesty of Gods Of Egypt.
In an alternate version of Egyptian history where the gods strode around on earth alongside humans and looked suspiciously white, King Osiris is planning to step down from his throne and pass the mantle of ruler over to his son, Horus (no laughing at the back, there). However, the coronation is interrupted by Horus’ uncle, Set, who has become violently disgruntled with all the advantages handed to his brother while he is cursed to be unable to sire an heir.
Upping the ante on the majority of all awkward family reunions by fatally stabbing his brother, beating the shit out of his nephew and then removing his superpowered eyes, Set claims the throne and declares that the afterlife no longer have free entry and if you want to gain admission you’ll have to pay a hefty fee.
One year later, Set rules Egypt with an iron fist with a blind Horus living in exile, but plucky, Aladdin-esque human thief, Bek, decides to steal Horus’ eyes back to gain favour to his beloved Zaya but she is killed as the young couple try to scarper. Wracked with grief, Bek seeks out a bitter Horus and offers to return one of his eyes if he can bring Zaya back from the afterlife.
And so an adventure begins that sees an uneasy alliance formed between washed up god and smug thief as they seek help from other such gods as the space sailing, monster fighting Ra and the insufferably intelligent Thoth to aid them in fighting giant, fire breathing snakes and a riddle-spewing sphinx. But what of Horus’ former amore, Hathor, the goddess of love, who is now pledged to Set in order to save her skin – can she be trusted and can Set be stopped after his batshit plan to gain immortality by destroying the afterlife is finally revealed.
A lot happens in Gods Of Egypt and it seems genuinely unconcerned if you can keep up or even care; and that’s fine, I guess, but the real issue I have with this movie is that for all it’s CGI sheen and aspirations to turn the legends of ancient Egypt into something approaching a superhero movie, it’s all so fucking dull. Excruciatingly so, in fact, to the point that virtually nothing in the film works at all.
It’s especially disappointing that Proyas, who’s turned in hugely entertaining films in the past, is responsible for this annoyingly glittery heap of sandy crap as Gods Of Egypt has a strong claim to be arguably the most vapid blockbuster that emerged during the 2010’s.
Proyas obviously has an affinity with the Egyptian pantheon and the legends around them as he and his production crew have obviously busted their collective asses to create a fantasy world that synchs up with what people believed at the time (the flat earthers must have been positively giddy), but despite the plethora of ornate kingdoms, space schooners and other such far out locales, none of it feels like any of the cast ventured out from a green screened warehouse into the actual sunlight in months. This assault of blatant, computer generated imagery simply causes a disconnect that James Cameron managed to avoid with the similar, polygon-heavy locations seen in Avatar and the result is like watching vaguely sizable stars floundering around inside a videogame. No one seems to know what their surroundings actually seem to look like and what their CG opponents actually look like and this becomes horribly all the more obvious the second we start to pick apart the performances.
To sum up, there’s barely an ounce of charisma among them which is rather alarming considering the cast contains such charming performers such as Nikolaj Coster-Waldu, Chadwick Boseman and the typically sneering form of Gerard Butler who struts around with the confidence of a man who has triple-checked his bank balance to make sure his paycheck went through. I suspect that a further disconnect between the actors and the roles was put in place when you realise that to realise the Gods as beings that tower over the human cast, some Lord Of The Rings-type chicanery must have been employed that meant that certain members of the cast were probably never even on set at the same time. Never is this more evident than in the central, odd couple/buddy movie relationship between Horus and Brendon Thwaites agonisingly annoying thief, Bek and the result is as if Mel Gibson and Danny Glover had separately filmed all their scenes months apart and then had them stitched together in the final edit. There was also quite the furore at the time about white washing, which I kind of understand, especially when the choice of Osiris bizarrely turns out to be Bryan Brown for some reason – but I don’t even think casting actors with the correct heritage would have even saved this movie that seemingly tests your patience at every turn. Take good old Geoffrey Rush who typically makes a melodramatic meal of his role as Ra; while I was watching him lay out the basics of the plot which will no doubt be important later, I found myself unsure if the actor was slathered in dodgy looking old age make up of if he really does look that weathered in real life these days as his character periodically bursts into flame.
Sloppy action that chooses to exchange its two battling leads with emotion-free, metallic, CGI monsters precisely at the moments when the fights are supposedly at their most dramatic collides with some of the blandest action movie line readings you’ve ever heard in order to create a noisy, flavourless mess that neither moves or excites.
Genunie, 100% Egyptian rotten.