Gods of Egypt
Directed by Alex Proyas
Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Gerard Butler, Elodie Yung
Review by Jordan
Just when you think you have predicted the course Gods of Egypt will take, and feasted on the best of its gratuitously gold and exaggerated visuals, riding on a floating stage of purified water with long white hair braid resting atop his bald head and fiery staff in hand arrives Geoffrey Rush as Ra, the Egyptian god tasked with dragging the sun above the flat earth and keeping chaos at bay. He has some grandfatherly wisdom to bestow on the vengeance-seeking Horus, and as this would-be king returns back to earth with his journeying partner, the love struck and reckless Bek, it becomes very apparent that although this is not a particularly good film, it’s not through lack of originality or endeavour.
The story, taking cues directly from the mythology, is sweeping and suitably epic, with Horus (Coster-Waldau) seeking vengeance against his uncle Set (Butler) for the murder of his father and the king of Egypt Osiris. Before he can slay Set though, Horus must first recover his eyes ripped out in battle, aided by young mortal Bek (Thwaites), who’s unparalleled skills as a thief and inside knowledge of the temples of master builder Urshu are essential for this quest, and who in return entrusts the son of Osiris in bringing his love back from the dead. The unlikely duo, contrasting in outlook and certainly stature, must rely heavily on luck as they seek to overcome all manner of CG creations, from snake women and their less-than friendly pets to apparently inescapable traps and an imposing guardian in control of unsolvable riddles.
There is a lot filling in the screen for the two hour plus run time, and its pleasing that such effort is made to create creatures and items often only seen the background, but this break-neck pace robs the film of any moments of tension or sense of real peril. There are too many crescendos and not enough time spent building up to them, with the characters not being able to ponder the gravity of their situation or the catastrophic fate if they fail to succeed, but rather being thrust continuously from one life-threatening scenario to the next. These scenarios too are often jostling to top the previous in terms of silliness (Ra’s hair might just have been topped by Urshu’s body armour), and while the CGI is imaginative, as a whole it is far from well executed, seemingly floaty without realistic interactions with the physical environment.
The casting decisions are questionable also, with only three performers who appear suited to their roles in Coster-Waldau, Thwaites and Elodie Yung as Hathor: the Mistress of the West. Gerard Butler’s Set never masters the diabolical persona a villain of his scale needs, despite his lack of hesitation in killing women and former wives, and Osiris as played by Australian favourite Bryan Brown is nowhere near the charismatic presence he should be. Rufus Sewell is cast against type as a conniving villain who is only half as strong as he thinks he is and is destined to meet a deservingly grisly fate somewhere near the film’s end; hang on a sec…
God’s of Egypt is not a significant film in its genre, but not every film needs to be. Its brazenly grandiose fun that wears it’s cheesiness as a badge of honour and a ride through an aesthetically pleasing, vivid landscape we don’t’ see enough of. The architecture and character design on display is more Ray Harryhausen than 2010’s Clash of the Titans, which probably does hint at it being released at the wrong time: too late to scratch the nostalgic itch of the fantasy films of the 70’s. Though he himself was born in Egypt, it is a complete tonal shift from Australian director Alex Proyas, who’s normal trademarks of dystopian or grimy post-modern worlds can be evidenced in The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998) and I, Robot (2004). Though inferior to his early cult hits, hopefully the scale evidenced here is enough to convince wider audiences that he’s a film maker deserving of more opportunities and recognition.