Gods of Egypt Review
‘Visionary’ director Alex Proyas brings us his very own Jupiter Ascending in the form of this awfully extravagant and extravagantly awful fantasy epic. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gerard Butler star as warring deities, Horus and Set. When Set usurps the throne, banishes Horus and makes slaves of a suspiciously white Egyptian populace, snarky thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) seeks the belittled sky god’s aid to rescue his lost love, Zaya (Courtney Eaton), from the clutches of darkness.
There’s a trend for upcoming video games to be sold on the basis of a ‘cinematic’ trailer: a CGI concoction that bears almost no resemblance to the final product, but racks up the views on YouTube due to its engrossing, film-like qualities. Well that’s what Gods of Egypt is: it’s film-like. Sure, it runs at twenty-four frames-per-second and has the barest perceptible signs of a narrative, but the dialogue, acting and special effects make game trailers resemble the pinnacle of cinematic achievement. It reminded me most of the gold-plated, fire-breathing trashiness of Bionicle: Mask of Light, with warm childhood nostalgia replaced by a searing headache.
It’s customary at this point for me to talk about performances, but, to be honest; there aren’t any. Coster-Waldau is Jamie Lannister lite, Gerard Butler is Gerard Butler, and Brenton Thwaites is every annoyingly ardent sidekick ever. The only two turns you might be tempted to describe as ‘performances’ are Chadwick Boseman as Thoth, god of knowledge, and Geoffrey Rush as the almighty Ra. Rush summons enough interest to rasp his way through boredom, but Boseman – perhaps as an underground rebellion against the film’s blatant race erasure – goes all out with a stiff-upper-lip, Spitting Image-style caricature of Her Maj.
Sub-par performances from learned actors are nothing new in schlock of this kind, but what of the heavily-marketed special effects? Catwoman-era Pitof would have burned the dailies rather than let them reach cinemas. Chroma-key and compositing outlines are clearly visible; as is blatant aliasing as the 3D artefacts meld together. One sequence sees Set finally step down from admiring his giant phallic obelisk to don a glitzy suit of armour, but his live-action bonce is so poorly matched with the CG body that he resembles a ludicrous digital bobble-head. The final showdown is what happens when your little brother pinches the lightsabers from your Star Wars toys, gives them to his Power Rangers and bashes them together making loud whooshing noises.
With the $140 million budget clearly not spent on the special effects, one wonders where it all ended up. Evidently none of it reached the production design, with its copy-pasted pyramids and flimsy costumes on loan from a Cash 4 Gold lost property bin. Nor was it spent on the script, where every other line is a flat attempt at a cocky zinger. I would label this recurring nightmare as the screen-writers flogging a dead horse, but that suggests that the screenplay had a beating heart in the first place.
Critics recently found much to hate about Warcraft (far too much, in my opinion), but in comparison to Gods of Egypt, Warcraft might as well be The Two Towers. For the flaws one might find in Duncan Jones’ fantasy epic, you cannot deny that it was created with love and care, sporting breath-taking CGI that pushes the art form to its very limits. Proyas’ film, too, is pushing boundaries: the boundaries of how far we’re willing to suspend our disbelief, by giving us Geoffrey Rush piloting a transparent spaceship, pulling the sun over the horizon of a flat Earth mid-battle with a trans-dimensional worm monster…no, really!