‘I’ ON CULTURE
Sometimes a bad movie can be a lot of fun, and Gods of Egypt manages to somehow walk the fine line between absurdity and good-natured fun. It reminds me in some ways of the old version of Clash of the Titans, the one made about 35 years ago. That one had special effects that a bright junior high school student could do now, messed-up Greek mythology, and yet is always fun to watch when it comes on television. This new film is almost a match for that.
It focuses on Egyptian mythology (making those changes needed to move the plot) with those who are gods standing about 10 feet tall, all of them spectacularly good-looking. The story begins as the god Osiris (Bryan Brown) is giving up his throne as king of Egypt to his wastrel son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). His brother Set (Gerard Butler), evil king of the desert, disrupts the ceremony, kills Osiris and, after a fight, rips the eyes from Horus’s head. He becomes king, and most others become his slaves.
A young thief, Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who has been enslaved, tries to help his great love Zaya (Courtney Eaton), enslaved to Set’s chief architect (Rufus Sewell). She helps him get a look at some of the secret treasure places, which he uses to steal one of Horus’s eyes, but she gets killed as they escape.
Bek visits Horus, now a useless drunk, and trades a promise of help to get Zaya a good afterlife — the amount of treasure you provide being the measure of deciding eternal life or destruction — for one of Horus’s eyes. The rest of the movie is the struggle for righteousness, with Bek constantly helping the god and generally getting ignored. There are battles, lots of special effects, and, naturally enough, a major confrontation in the end.
The cast is better than might be expected. Butler, a veteran of sword and sandal films, looks the part and behaves appropriately awfully; he is the ideal villain. He even manages to use his Scottish accent as a way of emphasizing his separateness from the rest of the cast. Coster-Waldau, moved up from prince on Game of Thrones to god, carries a lot of the movie. He even manages the transition from wastrel to wise man very well.
Thwaites was appropriately perky as the thief. Geoffrey Rush as Ra, the god who controls the sun, was both regal and amusing, although his reasoning for allowing the goings-on was strained to say the least. Eaton as the young love interest Zaya was both sassy and adorable. Elodie Yung who was Hathor, goddess of love and (somehow) the underworld, was also quite good, playing a pivotal moral role.
There has been controversy over having white actors playing Egyptian gods (never mind the fact that the Egyptians see themselves as white and protested when Louis Gossett Jr. played Anwar Sadat). Chadwick Boseman played Thoth to give a bit of balance to the cast, but he was so over the top that he took away from the film. A tighter script would have made a real improvement; being politically correct on actors would not.
Some of the CGI was impressive. Scenes of Horus, able to turn into a metallic falcon flying over the big city, were beautiful. But some of it left more than a bit to desire. Ra somehow looked like he was hand-pedaling the sun around a flat earth, and the great worm of destruction he fought was just boring. The transformation of Horus and Set into metallic animals was about as exciting as watching the Transformers.
The dialogue was, well, just basically there. There were not many witty moments, and since it was clear that our heroes were going to win in the end, their jumping around as floors collapsed (and that is a metaphor seen in far too many movies; it has actually become boring) seemed done solely for the 3D effects, rather than for any excitement.
As I wrote in the beginning, this is not a good movie. I went mostly because one of my best friends loves the sword and sandal genre, and he dragged me. But I had a good time. There were no “wow” moments, but it was an enjoyable two hours.
Again, good, but unless you really like these kinds of films, wait for it to show up on the small screen.