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 127 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed byAlex Proyas 
Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler
Gods of Egypt

Back in the 1990’s, Alex Proyas was one of the more innovative directors around, responsible for a couple of the most dazzlingly visionary works of that decade, The Crow and Dark City. For the last decade, however, he’s been missing in action until now, when he returns with Gods of Egypt, a film that’s pretty much a cross between Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and the last Ray Harryhausen sword and sorcery epic, Clash of the Titans. Unfortunately, for Proyas and for those who see Gods, his movie isn’t nearly as well made, or as much campy fun, as either of its apparent inspirations.


Gods is based on the premise that the Egyptian deities actually walked the earth in ancient times and became the rulers of Egypt. Proyas uses the familiar names of these gods and a rough approximation of their roles in the mythological hierarchy, but his story is actually a hodgepodge of all sorts of ancient myths, magical powers, demons, and good old-fashioned megalomaniacal ambitions.


The gods look human but are about 8–10 feet tall (the perspective seems to change from scene to scene). Egypt’s ruler, Osiris (Bryan Brown), is preparing to step down in favor of his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a well-meaning but somewhat happy-go-lucky type. That decision doesn’t sit well with Osiris’ brother Set (Gerard Butler), who, when power was divvied up years earlier, got stuck in the desert while Osiris got to rule over the rich lands of the Nile. Set understandably holds a grudge and chooses the occasion of Horus’ coronation to stage a coup. Set kills Osiris and then engages in a lengthy sword fight with Horus in which they sometimes look human and occasionally like giant animal versions of Transformers.


The battle ends with Seth ripping out Horus’ eyes, blinding him. However, when Hathor (Elodie Yung), goddess of love, intercedes on Horus’ behalf, Set makes the same mistake human villains (including Rameses in The Ten Commandments) have made since Egyptian times, namely sparing the hero when they have the chance to eliminate him. The blind Horus goes into hiding deep in the desert where a human thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) finds him and asks him for help.


It seems that Bek’s girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton) had been forced to become a concubine of Set’s master architect Urshu (Rufus Sewell). Bek and Zaya tried to flee the capital but Zaya was killed in the escape attempt. Only she’s not really and totally, completely dead; she’s just taking the extremely slow, scenic route to the Underworld. Until she arrives, a god can rescue her and return her to earth. So Bek retrieves one of Horus’ missing eyes, which gives the god partial sight and a Snake Plissken/Nick Fury look (when removed from the god’s body, the eye becomes a large jewel capable of being stolen by a talented thief like Bek).


Horus and Bek then journey through large uncharted areas of Egyptian CGI-created wilderness on their way back to Set’s capital. Along the way, they encounter a lot of giant monsters including the Sphinx and some snake creatures under the control of sexy looking goddesses. To solve the riddle of the Sphinx, they enlist the help of Thoth, god of wisdom (a fey Chadwick Boseman), who needs a couple of do-overs to actually solve the riddle. When they finally arrive back at the capital, they learn that Set may be on the verge of destroying the entire world in his effort to seize even more power and overthrow his father, Ra, the sun god (Geoffrey Rush), in the process.


I’m not sure I have all the details of the plot of Gods of Egypt correct. There’s a lot of storyline here, most of it lengthy exposition that doesn’t make a lot of sense. All viewers need to know is that there’s a lot of fighting, some involving swordplay, but much involving magical powers. And nearly all the effects in the movie are based on mediocre CGI that looks even worse in 3D versions of the movie.


By any critical standards, Gods of Egypt is a bad movie. It’s poorly written, with scenery-chewing actors (Butler, Rush, and Boseman in particular), and cheesy effects. But its creative predecessors, Commandments and Titans, were also bad movies but extremely watchable, highly entertaining films that still stand up under repeated viewings. Those movies, of course, had the benefit of a slew of legendary Oscar-winning actors in their casts (Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Laurence Olivier, and Maggie Smith, to name a few). Here, the biggest hams are Geoffrey Rush, who milks his cameo for all its worth, Chadwick Boseman, and Gerard Butler, who isn’t likely to get anywhere near an Oscar in his career.


Gods of Egypt actually starts out as a campy, unintentional laugh riot. None of the actors look the least bit Egyptian, and, in fact, Butler doesn’t even try to disguise his Scottish accent in the movie. But for audiences who aren’t too picky, the first hour is somewhat entertaining. Unfortunately, the film runs out of gas in the second hour, settling for an endless array of mediocre special effects and endlessly repeated action sequences that seem to accomplish very little. Boredom sets in quite quickly.


Gods of Egypt is also harmed by its PG-13 rating. The men in the film are generally quite buff, and the women display lots of cleavage, but actual nudity is a no-no, and the less permissive rating also renders the action scenes somewhat tame. Gods do get wounded in battle but they bleed a more rating-boards friendly gold rather than red. Otherwise, the amount of gore and genuine carnage, as opposed to merely seeing buildings collapse, is at a minimum.


Eventually, Gods of Egpyt becomes a chore to sit through. At two hours, the film seems longer than The Ten Commandments, which clocked in at nearly twice the length. And there’s absolutely no substance to it whatsoever. Alex Proyas’ digital creations look good in distant shots but are not nearly as effective when seen from a closer distance. Of course, the script is a mess, no matter what distance it’s seen from. The mythology behind Gods of Egypt actually allows critics to accurately foretell its fate; it will soon be lost in the desert sands of mediocre films.

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Gods of Egypt (2016) on IMDb