Gerard Butler in the ridiculous Gods of Egypt
Director Alex Proyas recently posted a screed on Facebook in which he rails against film critics and film criticism, saying things like, “…contrary to what a critic should probably be they have no personal taste or opinion, because they are basing their views on the status quo.” Proyas is unhappy with the general state of film criticism because his new movie, Gods of Egypt, was recently dealt a drubbing, garnering a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Gods of Egypt is now the first major flop of 2016.
Gods of Egypt, which had to issue an apology for the predominately white cast of a movie set in Ancient Egyptian times, is a superhero movie with gods and goddesses in the place of caped crusaders. Proyas, best known for directing The Crow and most notable for Dark City, was born in Egypt but grew up in Australia, and his passion for the mythology of his heritage is clear, but Gods of Egypt has more in common with Jupiter Ascending than it does classical mythology.
The movie loosely—very very very loosely—tells the Osiris myth, in which Osiris’s son, Horus, must fight his uncle, Set, after Set murders Osiris. It’s a straight forward revenge tale, straight from the 24th century BCE. Not content to merely reinterpret one of the literal oldest stories in the book, Proyas, along with screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless—a real person’s real name—who are also responsible for The Last Witch Hunter, decides to throw in dumb humans, a vagina smoke monster, and superheroes, and then includes a sequel-baiting ending that is laugh-out-loud audacious after the hundred and twenty minutes that precede it.
Gerard Butler stars as the Scottish Egyptian god Set, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau appears as Horus, who in this version is not conceived from his dead father’s reconstituted body but is just a normal god-prince, drinking and f*cking and oversleeping his way to his coronation as the king of everything. His coronation is interrupted by his jealous uncle Set—shades of Thor and Loki—who murders Osiris and blinds Horus and throws him out into the desert while Set takes over and enslaves everyone and is generally an asshole.
Enter the humans, because what stories about gods and monsters need are dumb humans stumbling around. Eyebrow-laden human toothpaste ad Brenton Thwaites (The Giver) shows up as Bek, a thief and street urchin ripped right from Aladdin. Bek doesn’t care for the gods but his girlfriend (Courtney Eaton, Mad Max: Fury Road) is devoted to Horus for no real reason, so they go to Horus’s coronation and watch the PG-13 carnage unfold and then are promptly enslaved.
The movie is only half about Horus redeeming himself and avenging his father, as the other half is occupied with a vaguely Orphean story about Bek trying to save his dead girlfriend that no one cares about, and the two stories never quite mesh. There’s also a subplot about Geoffrey Rush as the sun-god Ra, being in space and fighting a smoke vagina monster over a flat Earth. That’s just like a five-minute cut scene, but keep in mind that throughout Gods of Egypt, Geoffrey Rush is in space, fighting a smoke vagina monster, and somehow this isn’t the entire movie.
Horus and his golden retriever sidekick traipse through the desert and get together the god-avengers to fight Set, which includes Hathor, goddess of love (Elodie Yung, Daredevil’s Elektra), and Toth, god of wisdom. Toth is played by Chadwick Boseman doing an utterly insane accent and weirdly foppish performance that borders on Eddie Redmayne In Jupiter Ascending levels of crazy. I don’t know what Boseman was doing here, except possibly trying to disappear himself from the movie entirely by sucking so hard he creates a black hole that will consume him and obliterate this performance from the record.
Going to compliment Butler here and say that he almost manages to make this mess watchable, but that’s also in contrast to Coster-Waldau, who is less than compelling as Horus, and the wet noodle trying to save his girlfriend oh my god who even cares about them. Even the movie isn’t interested in that story—every cut to Dead Girl Walking comes with a metaphorical eye roll and a huffed, “This is still happening.” The movie ends with a CG-nonsense fight between a jackal man and an eagle man—oh yeah, the gods are also transformers—and Proyas uses different camera techniques to shoot action but never settles on one so the end effect is like watching a movie from inside a trash compactor where nothing makes sense and you’re covered in garbage. And that’s basically Gods of Egypt in a nutshell: None of this garbage makes sense.