Gods of Egypt Review: Diversity Couldn't Save This Silly Mess
Gods of Egypt is a silly, poorly acted CGI spectacle in the same vein as Clash of the Titans. It's hard to imagine this is a film from Alex Proyas. The Australian director is one of my favorites. Having made The Crow and Dark City, the most underrated science fiction film of all time. Gods of Egypt is disappointing on many levels; a half-hearted effort at best by Proyas. Here is a film about Egyptian gods, where the entire primary cast is white, except for a token appearance by Chadwick Boseman. I can only imagine the producers could never have predicted their release date would coincide with Oscar weekend, where the diversity issue has taken Hollywood by storm. That said, a diverse cast could not have saved this train wreck.
The story takes place in ancient Egypt where humans and gods live side by side in a paradise on the Nile. The gods are twice the size of man, can turn into an animal form, and bleed pure gold. The benevolent god Osiris (Bryan Brown) has decided to pass the crown to his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the god of the sky. During the lavish ceremony, Osiris is murdered by his jealous brother Set (Gerard Butler). He also defeats Horus, ripping out his eyes, the source of power. Hathor (Elodie Yung), the goddess of love, gives herself to Set in order to spare Horus, who is banished to the desert. Egypt fails into oppression and despair under Set's tyrannical rule. An unlikely hero emerges in Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a criminal peasant that needs a miracle to save his beloved.
The performances in Gods of Egypt are terrible. Gerard Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau simple rehash their best known roles. Their characters could have easily been pulled from 300 and Game of Thrones. Chadwick Boseman, the only actor that could have passed for an ancient Egyptian, is smarmy and one-note as Thoth, the god of knowledge. Brenton Thwaites, a good young actor, has a perpetual smirk throughout. It's as if his face had been botoxed during the entire shoot. The female roles are laughable. They're treated as property. Sex objects to be passed around and gloated over. Again, it's hard to believe this cast was directed by Alex Proyas.
Gods of Egypt is wall to wall with visual effects. The 3D is passable, but the film comes off like a video game. Some scenes, especially where they battle monsters, are well done. But the sweeping vistas of Egypt, the fights between the gods, and the human crowds look almost cartoonish. This may have been done on purpose. The film doesn't strive to be a serious epic, more like a swords and sandals adventure. I reference Clash of the Titans again, because that's what I believe they were attempting to do. Now the remake, as bad as that was, is still superior to this film. That pretty much lays out what to expect here.
The diversity problem had been a publicity headache for the studio, with Proyas even publicly lamenting the casting decisions. That means nothing to me as a critic. I walked into this film with zero expectations. What we got is a bad film, pure and simple. If this were a great movie with a fabulous script, then maybe the conversation could be had as to whether any actors of color were given a chance. But it isn't, not by a mile. I'd bet that everyone involved: Proyas, his cast, the entire production apparatus, have set expectations low and have already put this in their rearview mirror. Gods of Egypt is a disaster.