D: Alex Proyas. DP: Peter Mezies Jr. W: Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless. Starring: Gerard Butler/Nikolaj Coster-Waldau/Brenton Thwaites/Courtney Eaton/Elodie Yung/Chadwick Boseman/Rufus Sewell/Geoffrey Rush.
Ever since the arrival of Zack Snyder’s 300 in 2006, studios have been chasing the next sword and sandal epic for modern audiences. Based on a graphic novel, 300‘s success lead to Snyder directing Watchmen in 2009 and most recently Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Despite a sequel and other efforts like Clash of the Titans, nothing has reached the scale of 300. The newest addition to these commercial and white washed epics is Gods of Egypt.
Here we find gorgeous Australia standing in for ancient Egypt, though landscapes have been heavily digitized. Ancient Egypt is ruled by peaceful gods who purport the idea that the afterlife is to be earned through acts of goodness and faith. We arrive on Horus’ (Game of Thrones‘ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) coronation day. A great warrior already with a goddess of his own, Hathor (Elodie Young), Horus plans to take the crown peacefully. His ceremony is interrupted by the arrival of his uncle, Set (Gerard Butler), who toils in the desert have led him to a different philosophy. Killing his brother the king and removing heir Horus’ eyes, his prized power, he takes the crown from his nephew. Thus begins Set’s military rules that enslaves mortals and promotes prizes as entrance into the afterlife.
Meanwhile a young mortal Bek (Maleficent‘s Brenton Thwaites) and his pious love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) are separated during the coronation battle. A skillful thief, Bek works his way to find Zaya who convinces him to steal back one of Horus’ eyes. Gods of Egypt then becomes a sort of Romeo & Juliet meets Aladdin crossing with an action film like Transformers meeting X-Men. While Bek encourages Horus to return to glory, Butler’s Set is stealing other gods powers to create a mega-God. Oh did I mention that when the gods battle they transform into golden plated fighting beings? Sorry, forgot to mention that in the middle of my snooze. Go-go-gadget God.
Gods of Egypt rides high on glossy digital scenery and finding excuses to put arm jewellery on as many gorgeous actresses as possible. A clear hefty paycheck for Butler, he just screams and stomps about using his Scottish accent. Clearly this Scotsmen is the rogue of the gods as everyone else, including the young lovers, uses a nice RP. I do not think you can get any less Egyptian than that. Underused Thoth, played by Chadwick Boseman (the new Black Panther of the Marvel world,) is only one of two actors of color in the film. It is safe to say the film is not going for anything realistic in this epic. It is pure swords and sandals fantasy, however such formulaic laziness is just inexcusable at this stage in the cinema game.
Coster-Waldau hails from Denmark and sadly has not come close to anything in English language cinema that comes close to his role as Jamie Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones. There is just not enough to any of these characters to really comment on choices or scenes. The outlines of the characters are so basic. The film asks you just to look and that is all. Even making the gods look physically larger in scale than the mortals in case we could not differentiate them. Maybe Egyptian born yet Australian based director Alex Proyas will do better next time. But let us be honest, aren’t we all tired of saying that?