Gods Of Egypt (2016)

Mortal hero Bek teams with the god Horus in an alliance against Set, the
merciless god of darkness who has usurped Egypt’s throne, plunging the
once peaceful and prosperous empire into chaos and conflict. 

Directed by Alex Proyas
Starring Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites

You know something isn’t right from the getgo when even before the opening credits on a movie have rolled, you’re already wondering what you’d rather be doing instead. For example, I could have been watching Men In Black (again) instead of Gods of Egypt. The things I put up with for you, gentle reader, you just don’t know how I suffer. Only critics bleed, I tell you!

So anyway, coming to a multiplex near you on April 8th is this fantasy tale of gods and monsters set in, no surprises here, Egypt. Three cheers for the casting department, as usual, for littering the players here with just about anyone who isn’t actually Egyptian. This US/Australian effort from Summit and Lionsgate is not shy when it comes to shelling out the wonga though, given that the budget is a whopping $140 million. As such, you’d think you might have heard more about it under the circumstances, right? Marketing seemingly were too busy swatting away the racism accusations to bother telling anyone about it, clearly.

If on immediate first impression you’re not reminded of either The Mummy, 300 and/or Stargate then you’re not really paying attention. Proyas evidently knows about as much as he feels he needs to about ancient Egypt. It was shiny. By golly, was it shiny and it loved a good party. And after a brief fantasy history lesson in the form of narration from what is seemingly the grown up version of our young hero to be, we are dropped into a scene that will become the setup for the tone of the whole shebang. In short, not as considered or brimming with as much gravitas as we might intially have hoped for. It is evident that this is not for historical purists any more than it is intended for those that look beyond the opulence, Prince of Persia derring-do and hammy scripting.

If you’re like me, then you’ll have already asked yourself several times in the first twenty minutes if this has really been pitched correctly. The lines, whilst simple and obvious, do suggest something greater to the ear than the eyes belie. Epic is the aim, clearly, but on each occasion, the tone is undermined by a cloying doubt that we are watching the same movie that Proyas had in his head before he started. Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra was obviously the aim in style and decadence but what we have here feels more WWE in delivery. This is ancient Egypt, with an Instagram filter, and not one of the good ones. If you’re not thinking, or even howling THIS IS SPARTA, then it’s probably because you’re still wondering if this is really what you paid your money for and also haven’t you seen this somewhere before?

In short,  Butler and Coster-Waldau both play Egyptian gods who live amongst the people. They are massive by comparison and dwarf the mortals that are foolhardy enough to come into contact with them. They are joined by a handful of other, albeit less notable, gods that appear/disappear when convenient to the rather lacklustre storyline and the script, such as it is, seems to exist only to propel the story forward to the next action sequence, which either involves one of the main gods, or the mortal that somehow ends up helping one of them out.

Several layers of cheese have been added to the performances and Butler particularly comes off as subtle and graceful as a fat bloke in a roomful of Crunchies. The whole affair looks quite glorious to begin with, but after a while, the visuals alone might possibly give you a nagging throb in the temples, which Butler himself appears to be guilty of himself on occasion, oo-er.

In summary, this is, at best, throwaway nonsense that you cannot possibly hope to get very serious about, as it knows only too well how farcical it is. For escapism, it really is a treat, but you’d be lying to yourself if you imagined its worth to be any greater. A ropey script, delivered with suitable amounts of tongues in cheeks, it serves as little more than an additional swords and sandals cgi fest that aspires to little more than keeping you looking in one direction for a couple of hours. I’ve already spoken to several of my peers on this very subject and for a couple at least, this is the first film of the year that they have failed to manage to sit through in entirety. You have been warned.

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