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Gods of Egypt

February 26, 2016
Gods of Egypt

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right up front: yes, Gods of Egypt is pretty whitewashed, like most everything Hollywood produces that isn’t explicitly aimed at a minority audience. It’s not quite as bad as Exodus: Gods and Kings — there’s a nice part for Chadwick Boseman as Thoth, which is about as far from the usual token role black men get slotted into as you could expect — but the rest of the gods are very northwest European, and the mortal hero and his distressed damsel are pulled right from a teen soap opera. So if that’s a deal-breaker for you, fair point.

That said, the most direct comparison is to Tarsem’s Immortals: a fantasy adventure loosely based on ancient Mediterranean mythology, presented by a director with a strong sense of visual style. In this case it’s Alex Proyas, and it’s probably some of his visually impressive work, outdoing even Dark City in its spectacle, even as the story descends to, well, Tarsem-level simplicity.

In this version of Egypt, gods live among mortals, though are easily distinguished as they stand about twice as tall, transform into animal forms, and have gold in their veins instead of blood — which probably makes the fights go over easier with a younger audience. One scene has a god crawling away form a battle, leaving a shiny yellow-orange smear behind him, which would look a lot more graphic in red.

Anyhow, Osiris (Bryan Brown) is about to hand over the kingdom to his son, Horus (Nikolai Coster-Waldau) when his brother, Set (Gerard Butler) shows up. Set kills Osiris and blinds Horus, the eyes becoming two gems in his growing treasury as he wages war on any gods who do not submit to him like Hathor (Elodie Yung) does.

Most mortals are enslaved, but our lead rapscallion, Bek (Brenton Thwaites), still manages to see his girlfriend, Zaya (Courtney Eaton) as she works in the palace of Set’s chief architect (Rufus Sewell). This is where he learns how to get into Set’s vault to steal back the eyes, and the way into Set’s pyramid, which will let Horus destroy the source of his uncle’s power. And so, all the pieces in place, the adventure begins.

As I said, the movie looks fantastic, even where the compositing Proyas uses to handle the different sizes of characters falls somewhat short. The clear visual peak is when Horus and Bek visit the sun god Ra (Geoffrey Rush), in a sequence that borrows more than a little from Dark City. But there are plenty of amazing sights to behold. Are they enough to make up for the simplistic story? it depends on your tastes.

The sound doesn’t quite match the visuals, though. When voices get growly — and of course they do — they tend to get lost in the mix. The riddle of the sphinx is particularly difficult to make out, which is a shame since it largely depends on the wordplay. Marco Beltrami’s score, for its part, borrows heavily from Maurice Jarre’s from Lawrence of Arabia. Again, whether or not this is a good or a bad thing is a matter of taste.

Gods of Egypt is a big, dumb action/adventure movie, but no bigger and dumber than a lot of other CGI-fests, or even than movies that take themselves far more seriously. And it’s certainly a lot nicer to look at than most, which goes a long way in my book. It’s not Alex Proyas’ best work, but it gets the job done fine.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: fail.

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