Gods Of Egypt arrives in the UK under a cloud, having been correctly raked over the coals for casting Caucasian actors as Egyptians and fizzling at the US box office, but is there a good film beneath it all? Well, not really.
In this Ancient Egypt, humanity lives under the rule of the Gods, beautiful nine-feet-tall creatures with gold blood. Osiris (Bryan Brown) is about to crown his flighty son, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), when his violent brother, Set (Gerard Butler), shows up, kills him, plucks out Horus’ eyes and takes the crown for himself. Egypt is plunged into darkness, and it’s up to plucky mortal thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) to get Horus’ eyes back and help him reclaim what’s his.
The first thing that strikes you about Gods Of Egypt is how good it looks. Alex Proyas (The Crow) has an incredible eye and he glories in the visual possibilities.
There’s also a love of swords-and-sandals fantasy, and the best bits of the film come from mad monsters charging at the screen: a giant space worm that a flaming Geoffrey Rush must battle from his space boat, giant fire-breathing battle-snakes piloted by assassins, giant flying beetles that pull Gerard Butler’s chariot across the sky. It’s all ridiculous, and it’s all great.
But this sense of Wachowski-esque freewheeling giddy invention doesn’t extend to the actual storytelling. The gender roles are conventional as Bek fights to save his love (Courtney Eaton) and goddess of love Hathor (Elodie Yung) uses her seductive charms to survive, and the whitewashing is impossible to ignore.
The dialogue is an odd blend of occasionally charming anachronisms and woefully clunky one-liners, and it’s packed with po-faced exposition. Thwaites and Coster-Waldau fare best, and it’s worth mentioning Rufus Sewell’s slightly fretful evil architect.
Gods Of Egypt looks beautiful, and is not without its weird charms, but the stodginess weighs down its silliness and makes it drag when it should soar. All in all, it’s a missed opportunity in many ways.