“This is schlock” was the first thing I said when I saw the trailer for Gods of Egypt. The overuse of CGI, hammy acting, and crazy story characterize it as an exercise in irony. Underworld, Resident Evil, and Fast and Furious are examples of films that try to be crazy as possible while playing it straight for fun. It is the fact they are ridiculous that makes then entertaining. Some ironic films do not go far enough to qualify like Last Witch Hunter or Victor Frankenstein. Does Gods take its premise to the max or should you see Triple 9 instead?
On the day of his coronation as king of Egypt Horus, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is blinded by his uncle Set, played Gerard Butler, when he usurps the throne. Later Horus regains half his sight with help from Bek, played by Brenton Thwaites, who will get his other eye in exchange for resurrecting his true love Zaya, played by Courtney Eaton.
First and foremost, Gods is not the worst thing ever like people are saying. As dumb fantasy epics go, it is passable if you turn your brain off and enjoy it from an aesthetic point of view. It is a film you can watch for the spectacle without worrying about extra-sensory stimulation, the archetypical popcorn movie. But on the basis of quality it rides the line between good and bad in the grey margin that is mediocrity.
The concept is out there and the aesthetic imaginative, yet the acting is dull and the filmmaking a mess. Butler, Chadwick Boseman, and Geoffrey Rush at least tried to have fun while Coster-Waldau and others did not bother. It is as if he wanted to get it over with before he had to go back to Croatia for Game of Thrones. Elodie Yung phoned it in as Hathor, who is supposed to be this seductive goddess and comes off like a background extra that does not want to be there. Hopefully she makes a better Elektra. Thwaites kind of tried, but his wide-eyed plucky hero routine got old really fast.
From a directing and editing standpoint, Gods gave me a headache. Conversations between two characters go as such: say your line, cut, say your line, cut. After one actor said their line, it would switch the next, and the cuts were so abrupt it was like a jump scare. There was no finesse or style, just static conversations while people walked or stood around like a Star Wars prequel. The action scenes did not fare well either with the worst choreography I have ever seen. The actors moved slowly, like they were still practicing, and this was the final cut. Then there were faux panning-shots that were obviously added in post after somebody watched Spartacus. As a result, the action scenes look like YouTube videos on the lowest resolution setting.
My main point of contention is how Gods took the bizarre aspects of Egyptian mythology and made them boring. Here, Horus is an adult and Osiris is alive, whereas in the myth he died before Isis resurrected him to conceive Horus, who then sought revenge on Set. The movie is about Set taking over Egypt and gathering the power of the gods to become the only god, something that happened in real life during the rule of Akhenaten. There was potential with that idea, which then boils down to Set wanting to rule the world and be immortal.
In the theater I was thinking of better uses for the material. There is a comic called The Wicked and The Divine where gods are reincarnated every century as pop stars and die two years later. That would make a great movie considering the pharaohs were thought to be descendants of the gods. What if the movie was about gods living among us and their existence caused humanity more harm than good? To them we would be lesser creatures or playthings. But in the end, all we got was a boring revenge epic.
And before I forget, the whitewashing controversy is not a big deal. It is the same situation with Fant4stic or the Dark Tower movie. When it comes to portraying characters in a visual medium, all that matters is the performance. Skin color should not factor into a work of fiction unless it is important to the story. Anyone up in arms about it is superficial or has too much time on their hands when complaining about deities that are anthropomorphized animals. Who knows what race they are in human form. Of course, they would have to exist in the first place because they are FICTIONAL!
It has been a few days since Gods of Egypt came out and you have probably made up your mind by now. It was not terrible, but it could have been so much more. The mediocrity of its narrative and quality of production was not enough to get it over the bar, nor did its failed attempt at schlock maintain my interest. Watch Triple 9 or Deadpool instead. If you want something Egyptian related, I recommend the first two Mummy movies and the first Scorpion King.