Movie Review: ‘Gods of Egypt’ challenge Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau to dazzle audiences
I don’t want to call “Gods of Egypt” kitsch, because that would imply on some level that “Gods of Egypt” is fun.
In fact, “Gods of Egypt” has to be one of the least fun, joyless slogs you’d never want to sit through. But it is kitsch. Kitschy in the way that pewter wizard sculptures and “Dragonlance” novels are kitschy. The kind of kitsch that leaves you annoyed, bored, exhausted and unwilling to use the bathroom at the theater because you’re afraid that all of the cool, tough theatergoers who saw the “Revenant” will be waiting in there to give you a swirly. And, never forget, you deserve that swirly.
Beware the prologue. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule but when a film starts explaining what you’re about to see with the same level of desperation that’s reserved by someone who used your laptop and forgot to erase their user history, then it would be a good idea to collect all of your personal items and make your way to the nearest exit.
The infodump that greets us in the beginning of “The Gods of Egypt” explains everything and nothing. Through plummy narration we learn that the gods of ancient Egypt once lived among us mortals. We learn the gods were more than 10 feet tall, could fly (but only if they can’t, apparently) and had golden blood. What we don’t learn is why ancient Egyptian gods almost exclusively consist of the whitest most Scottish people you’ve ever seen or why Egypt is populated by British people with waspy names like Beck.
From there things just kind of happen. Horus (“Game of Throne’s” Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau) has his eyes ripped out of his skull by Uncle Set (Gerard Butler) during his ill-fated God-King Inauguration, Geoffrey Rush can change size and shape through a pained, gassy expression. Additionally, Rush repeatedly saves a flat earth every night when he zaps a cosmic space worm with a “Gods of Egypt” zap stick. A decidedly Aryan looking Egyptian teen mourns the loss of his girlfriend by trading corny banter with Horus. A black man has his blue glowing brain ripped out of his skull by Butler.
“Gods of Egypt” is just a series set-pieces. Maybe in the first draft of the film’s screenplay there was an actual plot, but somewhere along the way story was swapped out in favor of multiple scenes of silvery, dog Transformers repeatedly throwing themselves into a version of Egypt that looks like it should be across the street from Circus Circus on the Vegas Strip.
This movie does something unthinkable. It’s the kind of movie in which a perpetually shouting Gerard Butler is murdering people while either riding around on the backs of giant cobras or in sedan chairs carried aloft by hundreds of birds and it’s still boring.
Still, this is an Alex Proyas movie and even at its worst (anything that isn’t “Dark City” or “Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds”), they still contain a few moments of indelible imagery. For instance, a scene set within Anubis’ underworld briefly shakes “Gods of Egypt” out of its bland, blockbuster aesthetics.
Part black-light poster, part air-brushed van mural, the scene depicts rotting pharaohs glibly determining the fates of the recently dead. There’s a macabre whimsy at play the rest of the movie lacks. Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless the surprisingly prolific role playing game enthusiasts responsible for the equally terrible “Dracula: Untold” and the already forgotten “The Last Witch Hunter,” “The Gods of Egypt” merely exist as a warning that good screenplays aren’t made from cobbling together the character sheets from last night’s Dark Ages session.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
“Gods of Egypt”
Starring: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau, Brenton Thwaites, Chadwick Boseman, Courtney Eaton
Director: Alex Proyas
Length: 217 minutes