Y’know, this was inevitable. At some point, this was coming. With the rise of semi-ironic fascination with unmitigated, nuclear-grade schlock like Sharknado, we were eventually going to get one of them making a go for the big screen. One of these b-movie disasters that has no rightful place on an actual big screen outside of a midnight, booze-fuelled showing at a horror fest was going to try and act like an actually coherent, worthwhile piece of cinema. One was going to try and attract audiences and make people believe it’s a blockbuster comparable to Marvel or an Independence Day sequel. Gods of Egypt, directed by Alex Proyas, is that one.
Gods of Egypt is a film that pertains to bring the world of the Egyptian Gods to life. What it is in actuality is a muddled mess of strange casting choices, overlong, melodramatic story-telling and effects that would make TV producers of the ’90s cringe in embarrassment.
Gerard Butler and Game of Thrones alum Nikolaj Coster-Waldau head up the cast of celestial beings as Set and Horus, respectively. The pair are brothers in a high-fantasy alternate Earth in world is flat and run by a royal hierarchy of Gods. Horus is next in line to be crown king of Egypt, before Set shows up and takes over in a bloody coup. Set, complete with Butler‘s very Scottish accent, rules with such a malevolence, Horus and a human sidekick, Brenton Thwaites, decide to go to enlist other transcendent rulers’ help to stop him once and for all.
On the surface, Gods of Egypt sounds like a rollicking good time – a calamitous adventure through Egyptian mythology similar to Captain America: Civil War, except with actual Gods instead of extended analogies for them. But there’s very little Egyptian or Godlike to be found in the cavernous tombs and catacombs of what amounts to an extended, glittery episode of Family Feud. A gold hue is placed over the pyramids, sand-washed temples and city streets of this Egypt to create a display similar to a children’s history book, but that’s all it amounts to do: a display, window-dressing around a very hollow interior.
The film jumps around from scene to scene, following our heroes’ quest as it gets more elaborate and bizarre. The motivations are simple – one, the human, wants to bring his girlfriend back to life, the other, Horus, wants his eyes back so he may battle Set. Yet the movie meanders on an on, placing them in increasingly cartoony, inane situations. There’s a point at which a space-God does battle with a gigantic spaceworm that somehow, through sheer force of will, manages to seem boring and humdrum. The only cohesive byline is the Egyptian terminology and outline that the film clings to with absolute resolution. Yes, those are two fire-breathing snakes Horus is battling in one scene, for some reason or other – but ah, they each have Egyptian names, so of course their presence is relevant and necessary.
Gods of Egypt is the uncanny valley of historical fantasy. The architecture and environments give a cloak of correct ethnology, but that’s all it is; a costume, to hide the fact that it isn’t a film about Egypt so much as a pillaging of Egypt’s religious mythos. It’s a cynical, wrong-minded arrogant production. A production that cares so little about genuine Egyptology that it places three very white men as the Godly figureheads of the historical civilisation and doesn’t bat an eyelid. A production so cocksure of its quality that it hangs around for over two hours. A production so genuinely bad not just because of all of this but because it could have been something incredible.
The fascination surrounding Egypt’s empyrean ephemera exists because of how bold and exciting it seems to the outside world. And making a movie that displays that history in a proud and broadly entertaining manner is a venture that should be encouraged. Cinema can be boldly educational, informational and enlightening on such topics. But it should never come of the expense of the subject, without the bare minimum of sincerity in the culture being depicted. If you’ve ever wondered why people are looking for better, stronger, more diverse cultural representation – this husk of computer generated $140 million dollar garbage is your answer.