Film Review: Gods of Egypt (USA, 2016)

Gods of Egypt isn’t bad – but it certainly feels out of place. It feels like an effects-heavy blockbuster from a time before superheroes ruled the box office.

With no spandex in sight, the movie stands out like a sore thumb. While this does the movie some favors, there’s plenty of other missteps which act as counterweights to what, conceptually, could have been really refreshing even in spite of the usual Hollywood whitewashing.

Director Alex Proyas‘ take on an Ancient Egypt is about as irreverent as you’d expect from a Hollywood action flick – forgoing historical accuracy in place of a more fantastical depiction of the period. The film wastes no time in diving into its surprisingly-sprawling mythos: a world where gods leverage their enhanced size, powers and golden blood to benevolently rule over their mortal subjects.

The film kicks off with a short sequence wherein the film’s villain Set (Gerard Butler) seizes power in a vicious coup that leaves his brother Osiris (Bryan Brown) dead and Horus (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) blinded and defeated. From there, Gods of Egypt follows Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a thief who helps Horus partially-recover his sight and is then reluctantly conscripted into Horus’ quest for vengeance.

As mentioned before, Gods of Egypt often feels a little bit old-school. It has everything you’d expect: acrobatic fight scenes, a scantily-clad love interest,  an overbearing-but-generic soundtrack and a mostly-predictable script that wears its tropes with pride. There are some stabs at comic relief but for the most part they mostly miss the mark – though Chadwick Boseman‘s Thoth has his moments.

On some level, I feel like one of Gods of Egypt‘s big selling points has to be the absurdity of the whole affair. Gerard Butler barely tries to cover his accent (though it could be argued that this might work in favor of his performance), the gods can transform into pseudo-mechanical versions of themselves during fight scenes and Geoffrey Rush plays a sun-god who flies a spaceship around a flat earth. At a certain point, having a movie set in Ancient Egypt with almost entirely-white actors is just the icing on already unbelievable cake.

The designs for the gods, monsters, power-armor and weapons are actually pretty good but the visuals don’t hold up in motion. Sure, they sometimes look cool but they never really approach looking real and action scenes feel weightless in the worst kind of way.

If you’re going into Gods of Egypt expecting a trainwreck of a film, you’ll probably be disappointed. The execution leaves a lot to be desired but there are some genuinely compelling ideas here – they just might be ideas better handled in something like a graphic novel than this Hollywood blockbuster.

Review score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Gods of Egypt is out now.