Sunday, 13 March 2016

Film Review: Gods of Egypt

Ancient Egypt has been on the receiving end of Hollywood's carving knife on plenty of occasions over the years, but no film has butchered its rich history and culture as much as Alex Proyas' Gods of Egypt.

Gods of Egypt begins with a prologue lumbered with ancient lore and myth; it introduces us to the crop of gods who will be taking centre stage during the film, such as Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Set (Gerard Butler) and Ra (Geoffrey Rush). It explains that in this version of Egypt, gods and men live alongside one another and that the masses worship the oversized deities who live in their vast, glittering palaces. Afterwards, we meet Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and Zaya (Courtney Eaton), two mere mortals who're excited to attend the coronation of Horus that afternoon. We're offered little explanation for why these two teenagers are important, but I guess that comes later.

At the extravagant coronation, Set rocks up and decides that this seems like the perfect chance to brutally murder his father, Osiris (Bryan Brown), and proclaim himself king instead of his brother Horus. Blinded and banished to the desert, Horus flees whilst Set's rain of terror begins; fast-forward a year and those two teens (yeah, remember them?) decide that this Set dude really sucks and that it's up to them to get Horus back.

That's the basic set-up of the film, but it only really covers the first 30 minutes. After that, I'm not really sure - I might have slipped into a coma. Generic plot issues aside, Gods of Egypt suffers because we really don't care about the characters. Horus is a douche, Bek is really irritating and Zaya is quickly expelled to the underworld so that there are some stakes at the centre of the plot. Only Hathor (Elodie Yung) brings some fun to proceedings, and that's mainly because Yung seems like the only one having fun with the campy and ridiculous material.

Actually, that's a lie - Gerard Butler is a hoot as the villain. He decides to stick with his broad Scottish accent and chews the scenery with every terrible line of dialogue. Other than that, the acting is as stiff and wooden as a cabin in the forest; respected and seasoned Australian actors like Geoffrey Rush and Bryan Brown are lumbered (pun intended) with stilted dialogue stuffed with cliches and meaningless jargon. Even the vigorous young cast are wasted, with Thwaites and Eaton giving performances with less enthusiasm than a 6pm newsreader.

However, the biggest crime committed by Gods of Egypt is the depiction of actual Egyptian culture itself. I wasn't expecting Gladiator or Kingdom of Heaven but fuck me, they really take some liberties. It's nothing new for filmmakers to bend history or introduce mythological elements, but Gods of Egypt is like some kind of Stargate/Flash Gordon fever dream that sees Ancient Egypt indiscriminately meshed with metal flying suits, spaceships, magic and monsters.

It makes no effort whatsoever to explain why Ra commands a giant sail boat that drags the the Sun behind it or why there are vast swamps, deserts and luscious jungles all contained within the small African country in which it is supposedly set. The film isn't about Egypt at all. Ancient Egyptian culture and religion is just used in broad brushstrokes as a launching pad for a garish, glitzy remake of Clash of the Titans mixed with The Mummy.

The VFX (of which there are A LOT) aren't that much better. They're garish, blurry and overused. The third act divulges into two shiny metal suits clanging into one another whilst a gigantic dust worm from the underworld consumes Cairo in the background. Another set piece sees two warriors riding massive fire-breathing sand snakes through a ruined desert graveyard, whilst Geoffrey Rush spends the entire film shuffling around a spaceship that drags the Sun behind it. I feel like I mentioned that part already, but it bears mentioning again because IT'S SO FUCKING STUPID.

That's it, I'm done talking about this film. Please, don't watch it. It's really dumb and the only redeeming quality (Butler being gleefully shouty) isn't worth matinee price.

The Verdict: 2.5/10

Messy CGI, a dumb script and bad acting makes Gods of Egypt a total write off. If it were any worse, it might be worth checking out for the laughs - but it even fails to do that right.

Gods of Egypt is in cinemas across Australia now



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