Gods of Egypt review: Gods of whatever
First, let me get two things out of the way.
1) I am not getting into the whole whitewashing debate. It is absolutely justifiable that people are pissed to see a Dane, a Scot, and an Australian – all very white – play the leads in a film about Egyptians (and their gods). The movie isn’t as pink skin dominant as the trailers depict, but I completely get it.
I try not to let extraneous things interfere with my review of a film. I fail a lot, sometimes spectacularly, but I try. That said, it’s not nearly as egregious as the painfully pale Exodus: Gods and Kings.
2) Gods of Egypt is not a good film. I’m going to defend it a little bit, but it isn’t a great film by any stretch.
Gods of Egypt is a vanilla Frankenstein movie. It takes generic and predictable pieces from other movies and stitches them together. In this strained metaphor the pieces are taken from the models though, so it provides a visually stunning story even if it is filled with bits you have seen many, many times before.
Still, it’s fine for a good two hour chunk of time where you can turn your brain off and be dazzled by somewhat cheesy, but imaginative special effects. It is also completely inoffensive. It’s the opposite of edgy. It’s round. It features a bad guy that could have been chosen from a bad guy catalog, and a story where the good guy learns stuff on the way to becoming a better guy. Nothing you haven’t seen before.
Again, that’s not completely a bad thing, but there’s very little to justify Lionsgate’s ambition of using this film as the launchpad for a new franchise.
As the name kind of suggest, Gods of Egypt is about, wait for it, the gods of Egypt. It takes place in an idyllic, literal translation of the world that the mythological Egyptian gods lived in, in the same way that films tend to depict the Greek gods as wandering around, hitting on unsuspecting maidens.
In this world though, the gods are the kings of humanity more than their spiritual masters, although they do control the afterlife, specifically who is let in and for what reason. They’re also bigger, older, and much more powerful than humans, but ultimately they are mortal and finite deities.
If that contradiction bugs you, this probably isn’t the movie for you.
The humans and the gods live side by side in peace, although not everyone is happy with that. When the more-or-less perfect king Osiris (Bryan Brown) decides to abdicate the throne to pass the crown on to his son, the playboy playgod Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the king’s brother Set (Gerard Butler) is having none of it. Gods proceed to die, Horus is banished, and Set is kind of a dick as king.
If that sounds familiar, it damn well should. It’s the plot of about a dozen films.
The twist here is that a human thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) with a healthy distaste of the gods is in love with a woman (Courtney Eaton) who still believes in Horus. She smiles and winks, and Bek runs off to steal a treasure from Set that Horus needs to regain his strength. Soon enough Horus and Bek find themselves in a reluctant buddy road trip, off to destroy the source of Set’s power and return Horus to full strength.
Along the way things happen, love interests are loved, and nefarious bad guys do bad things. Shockingly, it all leads to a confrontation where things blow up! Crazy, right?
From the first moment you meet the characters, you know exactly what is going to happen. Actually, I take that back. You know what is going to happen from the initial voice over prologue. The movie has no surprises. None. Even the “twists” are predictable.
The film wants to be epic in scope, but there’s a difference between epic and just big.
On the positive side though, the tropes are proven. You have a story of redemption, a bad guy that needs a toppling, a transcendent love, etc., etc. The film is predictable, but it is predictable in a well-proven way.
The stars are also just charismatic enough to get you to buy in a little bit, but the characters are too thin to really make any lasting impression. They are amusing without being funny, and conflicted without being tortured.
The CGI also works overtime in Gods of Egypt, for better and worse. At many points it looks like a really well animated film instead of a live-action movie. The designs ease some of that pain though, creating wildly imaginative settings.
The originality in the visuals stands in stark contrast to the plot points. The action is a little generic too, but it usually looks neat. In a lot of ways the movie is like watching someone play a video game, with an emphasis on movement and setting. It booms it flashes, it flies by.
It’s fast and shiny, and like many of director Alex Proyas’ films, it looks really good. It’s superficial, but it looks good.
Gods of Egypt review conclusion
As I said in the opening, Gods of Egypt is not a good film. It’s not really a terrible one either, but it is generic to near ridiculous levels. It has enough to entertain you, but just barely.
I saw Gods of Egypt last night (at the time of this writing), and I would be surprised if I remembered it all within a week. Within a month I’ll probably forgot that I saw it. It may make for a good rainy day movie when it hits Netflix, but beyond that there isn’t much to it.
Gods of Egypt is rated PG-13 with a running time of 127 minutes.