Gods of Egypt (2016)

2018 #198
Alex Proyas | 127 mins | download (HD+3D) | 2.40:1 | USA & Australia / English | 12 / PG-13

Gods of Egypt

If you remember Gods of Egypt, it’s likely because it was excoriated on its release back in 2016.* Many were predisposed to hate it before it even came out thanks to its whitewashed cast: as the title might indicate, it’s set in Ancient Egypt and many of the characters are Egyptian gods, but most of the lead cast are white; and of those that aren’t, none are Egyptian. Even if that didn’t bother you, it was slated for its poor dialogue, flat performances, bland direction, reliance on green screen, and cheap-looking CGI. Oh dear. But every film is for someone and there’s someone for every film, and it turns out I’m one of the few (the very, very few) who actually rather enjoyed Gods of Egypt.

Based more on legend than any relation to history whatsoever (in one rather stunning sequence, we see that the world is, in fact, flat), it’s set in a time when super-powered gods walked the Earth among humans. Well, less “among”, more “ruling over”. A squabble between the gods sees nasty-piece-of-work Set (Gerard Butler) steal both the throne and eyes of heir-apparent Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), before going on to steal the abilities of other gods to make himself more powerful. Human thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites — between this and Pirates 5, dude must’ve thought he was gonna be a star… ’til they came out) doesn’t care for the gods, but he wants to free the love of his life (Courtney Eaton and her cleavage — I don’t want to be lecherous, but seriously, her costumes are all boobs, boobs, boobs), and the only way to do it involves stealing back one of Horus’ eyes and using it to persuade the god to take on Set.

Gods and men

And that’s the part of the plot that’s kinda reasonable. No, really: it gets a whole lot madder as it goes on. In fact, everything about it is so consistently batshit crazy — the concepts, the plot, the visuals — that it wins you over with its utter barminess. Or maybe it won’t win you over. Maybe you’ll think all those things make it utterly awful. As I said at the start, you certainly wouldn’t be alone. But the “you couldn’t make it up (except someone did)” mentalness of it will win over a certain kind of viewer. A viewer like me.

I’m not really going to deny any of those criticisms I cited in the opening paragraph, because it is kind of a terrible film… but if you embrace it, it’s also campy fun. It’s a film where the men are burly, the women are breasty, and the CGI is blurry, but there’s a certain irreverence that stops it from being stodgy, and a light-hearted tone to the dialogue that occasionally hits home. For all the whizzy video game-ish visuals, it’s an old-fashioned adventure quest at heart, capable of pulling off the occasional thrilling sequence or amusing verbal exchange.

All of that said, one does have to wonder how director Alex Proyas ended up here. If you don’t recognise the name, he was once known for visionary noir-ish filmmaking in the likes of The Crow and Dark City. At some point he wound up sidelined into less invigorating fare, like Will Smith vehicle I, Robot and Nic Cage vehicle Knowing, but while neither were groundbreaking they had a certain something (and, personally, I quite liked them both). Here, though, the direction is so… uninspired. Anyone competent could’ve made it. And people say filmmaking is collaborative and directors don’t deserve all the credit, but bear this in mind: Gods of Egypt and critically-beloved Oscar winner Mad Max: Fury Road share 295 cast & crew members.

Robot god... on a budget

I don’t know who deserves credit for the film’s 3D, but it’s consistently excellent and occasionally spectacular. That’s the benefit of almost all the film being created in a computer, I guess. But still, the colourful visuals and wide-open locales really help with the effect — what looked gaudy and ludicrous in 2D trailers… still pretty much is, let’s be honest. But it’s less bad when it’s doing so much to help create an epic-scaled dimensionality.

I know I should hate this silly, cheap-looking, over-CGI’d, whitewashed hot mess… but I actually thought it was a lot of daft, campy fun. There are plenty of very good movies that I’ll likely never get round to watching again — probably some great ones, even — but I’d wager Gods of Egypt is going to end up in my Blu-ray collection someday. In 3D, of course.

3 out of 5

The UK network premiere of Gods of Egypt is on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm.

* I was going to say “summer 2016”, but that wouldn’t be entirely correct: weirdly, although it was a February/March release in much of the world, it somehow got given summer status in the UK and Ireland (and, er, Spain…?) ^

5 thoughts on “Gods of Egypt (2016)

  1. I’ve been intending to watch this for so long, and it’s been up on Prime for absolutely ages, but… Well, there’s always something more promising to watch, you know? And I’ve been rooting for Proyas for years, ever since The Crow and Dark City (so much so I could make excuses for I, Robot and Knowing, but God’s of Egypt just scares me regards finding excuses).

    So anyway, you quite enjoying it has raised my interest further so I’ll have to make the effort. But where does Proyas go from here? Is he finished, now, or does he have a film that lives up to the promise of his first two still ahead of him? I suspect a lower budget and lower profile might help. Both Crow and Dark City were fairly low budget, high concept b-movies. I fear his career path mirrors that of John Carpenter, who thrived in indie-pictures but struggled in the Hollywood mainstream.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I was the same — only got round to watching it because I happened to see an advert for it coming up on TV! But it’s definitely one to approach with caution. I spent a good chunk of it wondering how it was possible to making something so terrible, but at some point got into it. It very much clawed its way up from 1 star to that 3.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Speaking as someone who somehow enjoyed Jupiter Ascending, I appreciate the sheer fun and surprise in films going batshit crazy so the idea of it being a 1 and then going up to a 3 through sheer lunacy has me more curious than ever…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. And is it just me, or are some films coming onto network TV earlier than ever? The old 3-year window seems to have been dropped now.

    I remember with fondness waiting four or five years for blockbusters. They used to be events- indeed I still remember Jaws being shown on ITV for the first time. It was such a big deal, but of course it was before video rental changed things forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does feel that way, what with this and Jack Reacher 2, both from 2016, popping up on Channel 4 this month. It made sense when BBC Films or Film4 productions came to TV quickly — I presume that was part of the production deal — but seeing it for bigger studio fare seems odd. I guess TV is less and less important to films now — after the cinema, digital purchases and rentals, DVD and Blu-ray releases, subscription and streaming services, you have to be not-that-interested if you’ve waited for it on TV! The only big film premieres are at Christmas now, and even then they’re far from the stars of the schedule.


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