GODS OF EGYPT (Entertainment One)
Dir. Alex Proyas, Script. Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Gerard Butler
In an alternative Egypt, the world is flat, and this pancake realm is protected from the all-consuming demon Apophis by the sun god Ra, upon his divine vessel which sits in space, played by Geoffrey Rush in a performance that required one hour of his time and with special effects so badly executed it may be the first ever film performance conducted through Skype. It feels rather fitting that, with it being 500 years since Ferdinand Magellan gave us absolute proof our world was round, Gods Of Egypt feels about 500 years old, and lasts for what feels like the same amount of time. The $140m blockbuster is truly a unique and challenging work, which will stretch to the very limit the rules of fundamental logic, and for how long a single pair of eyes can withstand staring into the depths of cinematic hell.
While I admit to being a film reviewer that will stray into hyperbole a little too often, I want you to trust me when I say that Gods Of Egypt is a landmark – its one of those movies that can be mentioned in the same sentence as films like Jupiter Ascending and Battlefield Earth. It’s already less a film to me than a reference point, a marker by which all other bad movies for the next few years can be judged, a source of endless metaphors. Trying to even contemplate this movie is genuinely hard. It’s very existence is puzzling, let alone the countless things that Gods Of Egypt does that literally had me mouthing ‘What the actual fuck?’. The pseudo-historical setting is so utterly bonkers that no amount of LSD could make a mortal come close to achieving such a manifestation of insanity. The performances best reminded me of a 9-13 year old drama club production of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in that the delivery of the lines was stunted at best, the lines themselves would have been cut from a pantomime, and everybody in it was probably far too white to play an Egyptian god. The special effects…
The special effects are something else entirely. Describing the liberal use of CGI in Gods of Egypt as ‘overkill’ would be generous – a more accurate description of the computer-trickery in Gods Of Egypt would be that it resembles a dead squirrel on the side of the road ran over a hundred times ‘just to make sure’. Such is the amount of effects shots that the film’s director Alex Proyas has no control at all over the film’s tone, and any stylistic choices that he makes are hopelessly overshadowed by the digital madness ensuing on screen. Gods Of Egypt‘s colossal SFX budget is used for a variety of different and increasingly ludicrous endeavours, including fight sequences with the smoothness and lightness of an early PS2 title, creating in excess of a hundred Chadwick Boseman’s for literally no reason at all besides a pun, and to represent the difference between the film’s gods and the film’s mortals, the god-playing actors have been grown by 3, maybe 4 feet, in what director Proyas has described as a ‘reverse Hobbit‘. I know that sounds like a terrible sex move, but regardless of whatever horrific and graphic thing you could think of in relation to a ‘reverse hobbit’, it couldn’t possibly be more awkward and jarring than the effect in question.
Perhaps worse still are the performances, which along with Gods Of Egypt‘s effects are bizarre; along with the aforementioned Geoffrey Rush phone-in, the acting ranges from the terrible to the unfathomable. Admittedly, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau isn’t that bad in the role of Horus, and relative newcomer Courtney Eaton makes her love interest character the most interesting to watch (which is an especially bad comment to make, as she’s lying dead in a tomb for more than an hour of this film with the best eye make-up, contour and blending this side of Christ’s birth). But two performances are stunning, inconceivably disastrous: Brenton Thwaites is the mortal protagonist of Gods Of Egypt, and his line delivery feels so out of place its as if the film’s producers muted his entire performance and replaced it with lines from a different movie he made five years ago. And then there’s Gerard Butler, who plays the evil god Set. They say the best actors never forget where they come from, and despite this new ancient, North African setting, Gerard Butler has decided to make his character the first and only Scottish Egyptian. It’s a performance so catastrophically bad, and inadvertently hilarious, that it instantly enters a hallowed place only Eddie Redmayne has been able to reach in the last couple of years – instead of Butler head-first committing to the movie’s pseudo-mythological world, it feels like he is invading the film every time he enters the frame. After P.S. I Love You, Butler apologized to the entirety of Ireland; after this, I wonder how he will apologize to God.
Incredibly, I haven’t even gotten onto the script yet, a remarkably messy job from The Last Witch Hunter writing team Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless (that surname almost too apt a description). Despite the complete insanity of some of its more outlandish world-building, the plot is basically a discount version of The Lion King. But the writers do just about keep the story moving, they provide a decent narrative hook in Thwaites & Eaton’s relationship, and its impossible not to laugh at nuggets of dialogue such as “I’m sorry that the corpses of my parents have inconvenienced you”, ham-fistedly delivered by actors who are simultaneously aware of how bad the lines they’re saying are, as well as the speed at which their dignities are being ripped apart by diseased vultures. Coincidentally, when told of the near-universal panning Gods Of Egypt has had from film critics, Alex Proyas has condemned today’s film critic as a ‘diseased vulture(s) pecking at the bones of a dying carcass’. Well, Mr. Proyas, if you’ll admit your movie is a dying carcass, then I’m happy to concur.
BEST WATCHED: If it didn’t take itself so completely seriously, I’d suggest watching it for a laugh – but its probably best digested when the clips of its bad dialogue hit YouTube.
Coster-Waldau continues his role as Jaime Lannister on Game Of Thrones for a couple more episodes before Series 6 comes to an end, leaving a huge expanse in all of our lives; Brenton Thwaites isn’t done with overbloated, pseudo-historical movies yet, as he will be one of the main stars in Pirates Of The Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales next year, along with the now-toxic Johnny Depp and Kaya Scodelario, who was pretty toxic herself as Ellie on Skins. And Leonidas of Glasgow Gerard Butler continues his crusade to make movies more deep-fried than ever before, starring in the recently delayed Geostorm next year, and reprising his role in the How To Train Your Dragon series in 2018.