********* 5 out of 10 *********
Director: Alex Proyas
Actors: Brenton Thwaites, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler
Watching the trailers for Gods of Egypt gives you an idea of what to expect from the movie, and that is exactly what the movie offers. And I do not mean it in a good way. Every year Hollywood has a big-budget, lavish-looking, CGI-filled movie offering that seems an utter waste of money. This year Gods of Egypt fits that bill. Based on a mythological tale that emerges from Egypt, with no Egyptian actor in sight (for which the studio has apologised), Gods of Egypt has been made on a production budget of $140 million. While that sort of budget provides the director with ample opportunity to unleash the power of CGI which can be jaw-dropping for the audience, it does not fill the gap left wide open in the absence of a good screenplay and direction.
The mythological tale that Gods of Egypt explores had the elements to make for a entertaining movie. In the beginning we are told that Gods live among men in ancient Egypt, with the two sons of Sun-God Ra, Osiris and Set, ruling their respective lands. The movie’s scale looks massive, the visual effects are pleasing on the eye, the glitter of gold almost everywhere is unmistakable. The Gods are made to distinctly stand out by showing them taller and bigger than the mortals. Set (Gerard Butler) is the annoyed God, having only barren lands to rule, whereas his brother Osiris commands the civilisation that flourishes along side river Nile. So when Osiris decides to pass on his throne to his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Set invades the ceremony and takes over the crown while a defeated and blinded Horus is banished away. Not too bad so far. A mortal human Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who does not worship the Gods, then seeks out Horus, on his lover’s request, to assist him in reclaiming his throne. And from thereon, it is pretty much downhill.
The screenplay by writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold, The Last Witch Hunter) is as average as that of any B-grade movie. Despite this being a journey for many characters, there is hardly any character arc worth talking about. Almost each one of them, from Gods to humans, is one-dimensional in his depiction, hardly creating any connection with the audience on an emotional level. Director Alex Proyas, who has returned behind the cameras after seven years since shooting Knowing, fails to infuse any magic in the movie that can make it more than a visual spectacle. There was a lot of additional material to work with, which come across in bits and pieces – like exploring the underworld or Ra’s constant fight with the dark monster – elements that could have made the movie more gripping if only they had been intelligently weaved in. The music too is loud and at times just jarring, as if making too much of an effort to override the obvious holes in the screenplay.
The actors hardly do much to salvage something from the movie. Gerard Butler tries to put on a show with a few screams and shouts that only remind us that watching a re-run of 300 would have been a better option. Yet, Set has those shades of grey, a proper reasoning as to why he usurps his brother’s throne, where the director should have shone more light on rather than making him the typical villain who has to be killed. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is now more popular as Jamie Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones, is quite unconvincing as the fallen God who is seeking a return. He seems to have the personality, but it has not been used with enthusiasm and conviction which is a big disappointment. Brenton Thwaites, as the young Bek, brings a more charming touch to his character which is otherwise lacking in the movie. It’s however not enough. The chemistry between the two pairings – Bek and Zaya (Courtney Eaton) & Horus and Hathor (Elodie Yung) – is a drab, as the acting performances of the leading ladies is as disappointing as most of this movie. Chadwick Boseman, as the God of wisdom Thoth, too decides to commit little, probably knowing that better things are on their way (Black Panther). It takes a veteran like Geoffrey Rush in his role as Ra to drive home a powerful performance, one of the few memorable moments from the movie.
Gods of Egypt is an example of how things can go wrong in such high-budget flicks, where a lot of effort is put into creating a visual experience for the audience that the rest of the elements are forgotten. We have had such mythology based movies in recent times made on big budgets, like Clash of the Titans and the more recent Exodus: Gods and Kings, but made with more sincerity and a better set of actors. Gods of Egypt fails on these counts, and it might turn into a better movie if maybe its volume is switched off.