Some films come to attain a reputation before they even arrive, case in point with films like Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger and Roger Christian’s Battlefield Earth, though sometimes these reputations tarnish what is actually an enjoyable picture (the former example), however many times the rotten reception is wholly justified (the latter example). And this year it seems that Alex Proyas’ (The Crow, Dark City) ancient spectacle Gods of Egypt had a similar reputation for being the year’s worst movie before even arriving here in the UK. From racial casting controversies (for which Proyas apologized) to the corresponding responses to the reviews by Proyas, who called critics “diseased vultures” and accused them of following the pack. Sometimes this may be true and this reviewer certainly respects any filmmaker for making a picture but when all is said and done, was his film really harshly criticized fun or truly the worst thing to happen to Egypt since Yahweh went a bit OTT with his plagues?
The story, set in an alternate ancient Egypt, sees the masses ruled over by shape shifting gods who live among us. The film really centres on young thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and his faithful love Zaya (Courtney Eaton), as they attend the coronation of a new king. But as Horus the god of Air (Coster-Waldau) is about to be crowned; he is surprised by the return of his brother Set the God of Darkness (Gerard Butler), who initially seems to be wishing his family well, until he aggressively strikes to attain the crown for himself. Set’s ascension to the throne, throws Egypt and its people into fear and strife and when Zaya is hurled into a deadly situation, Bek must seek ought the vanquished Horus to help him save Egypt, Zaya and the world. As fantastical yarns go, this ancient Egyptian epic could have been great or at least cheesily enjoyable (The Mummy Returns) but has not got the knowing wit or structure to sustain your entertainment or enjoyment.
The aforementioned reviews hoopla does lead you to think that this is going to be must see bad, when in actual fact, it is just a misfire that is overlong and unsure of its direction. Proyas’ film has good intentions of the heart and some visually interesting moments but never knows whether to play it straight or silly and consequently the script is often jarring and the jokes bomb. The CGI is hit and miss too, never falling into London Has Fallen bad but never really glistening to the level expected of a $140 million movie. To say Proyas has assembled some talented people and some interesting mythos, the film – barring the odd set piece – is too muddled to capitalize on many ideas and the performances are poor on the most part. Thwaites is charming enough but Coster-Waldau is left stranded by the script’s lack of tone and structure and Butler’s baddie is hilarious in the wrong ways (that accent) Oh and Black Panther Chadwick Boseman turns up uber camp as Thoth the God of Wisdom, while a bald Geoffrey Rush shouts at a beast every now and again too.
That being said, Gods of Egypt is not as offensively bad as some and while it is directionless, at the ideas stage there could have been something fun here, as Marco Beltrami’s great score and the costume and make up design shows. A bad film yes but far from the worst film you’ll ever see, hell it is not even the worst film this year – as anyone who has also sat through the risible Dirty Grandpa will tell you. Alex Proyas should be commended for wanting to craft his own mythology using rich Egyptian storytelling and blockbusting ideas but the film is unsure of its tone, structure and purpose. Gods of Egypt is just an overblown mess, albeit an intermittently watchable one and unlike the recent Fantastic Four it is not completely joyless but is undisciplined and unstructured. In the end it is an unfortunate muddle of a movie that both manages to be expensive and inexpensive. A case of being all dressed up with nowhere to go really.
Special Features: Featurettes / Deleted Storyboards
GODS OF EGYPT / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: ALEX PROYAS / SCREENPLAY: MATT SAZAMA, BURK SHARPLESS / STARRING: NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU, GERARD BUTLER, CHADWICK BOSEMAN, BRENTON THWAITES, GEOFFREY RUSH / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 24TH