Well, you jerks gave enough money to Act For Change. You paid for my suffering. Here’s what you get.
And by the way? The manager at my local Alamo Drafthouse, who now recognizes me on sight, initially assumed I was there to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service. Oh no, I told him. Gods of Egypt. His eyebrows went up and he said, “Wow, your job must suck.” (He knows I write reviews for pay sometimes.) No, I assured him, it’s because people donated money to charity to make me watch this. How much? $305. “They didn’t pay enough,” he said.
He’s right. I should have held out for more. But the good news is, you can still donate to the cause after the fact.
So. Gods of Egypt.
Alex Proyas must be some kind of culinary magician. No doubt with help from the studio and a terrible script, he managed to take $140 million worth of metaphorical cinematic vegetables and garnishes and POOF! turn it into a film salad that’s equal parts insulting, lazy, and boring, the kind of salad that strips the skin off your tongue and takes a sour dump in the back of your throat and there is not enough wine in the world to wash that taste away, you just have to wait for the cells to die and slough off naturally.
Here, let me illustrate where this film falls, via Venn diagram.
The inexplicably white pantheon of Egypt walks the Earth and rules the Nile valley. Super white Osiris (Bryan Brown) wants to retire and crown his party boy jerk son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), so all the other gods are throwing a party. Then Set (Gerard Butler), sporting an excellent spray tan, shows up and murders the shit out of Osiris while the other gods sort of stand around awkwardly and try not to make eye contact. He then calls upon the powers of computer generated graphics to become a shiny animalbird transformer and beat the shit out of Horus in the first of the movie’s many unarresting fight scenes, rips out Horus’s eyes, and only refrains from killing him because Hathor has a nice rack. Set immediately declares that the afterlife will now be a capitalist enterprise and the only way to get anything nice is to buy your way in with money. And by the way everyone who doesn’t have money right now will be a slave.
As this happens, we get white Aladdin knock-off Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who is a strong, independent man who don’t need no gods. His girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton) is Horus’s number one fangirl, and is enslaved by an architect guy whose main job in the film is to construct a towering black obelisk (with a gold vein on one side) for Set, which is basically the only appearance of wang in a film about Egyptian gods. Zaya gives Bek the plans for Set’s vault, which is basically Scrooge McDuck’s swimming pool, and he goes there to steal Horus’s eyes back. He gets one eye, singular, and then tries to escape with Zaya. The architect guy shoots her through the boob with an arrow and she is tragically fridged, except there’s not even really any manpain about it.
Bek decides he’ll help Horus get his other eye back (so Horus can turn into a CGI birdman) if Horus will bring Zaya back to life. They go off on a buddy adventure through fantasy Egypt, during which Bek decides that gods are okay, he guesses, and Horus presumably undergoes some sort of character development. While they’re doing that, Set methodically goes about whacking all the other gods, except for Isis, she already killed herself in grief over Osiris, and yes you just read that sentence. Once he’s collected the whole set of god body parts, Set goes full Satanic Ritual and basically makes himself an Egyptian God Voltron. Bonus points for the part where he literally inserts the glowing brain of Thoth (Chadwick Boseman), the only one of the gods who is black, into his own skull.
Take a moment to let that one wash over you. I’ll wait.
Thus empowered, he goes up to Ra’s awesome skyboat, throws dad out into the void, and then invites the serpent Apophis to eat everything??? because???? it???? will give???? Set more power????
Deep breaths, Egyptian mythology nerds. Deep breaths.
CGI things happen, there’s fighting I guess, Set loses, whatever, I kind of mentally checked out at that point. I just mostly remember that prior to her resurrection by a newly humbled, nice-guy Horus, Zaya had absolutely perfect lip gloss for a corpse.
Entire books could be written about how wrong the mythology is in this film, beginning with the fact that Christian good vs evil framing ruins everything, please stop making chaos gods into the devil, thank you and goodbye. But that would be a waste of someone’s perfectly good time that they could use to pick their nose or scratch their butt crack or a million things more productive than giving this film a second or even first viewing. And by the way? When Set plays God Part Voltron, the piece of Osiris he has, the piece that poor Isis couldn’t find before she offed herself as a side note, is Osiris’s heart. His heart.
The really upsetting thing here though is that there is a lettuce cameo in this movie. (Aha, so that’s why ze started with an incredibly strained salad metaphor.) When Horus, Bek, and Hathor go to Thoth’s library to get his help, Thoth is examining the scientific merits of a head of lettuce. It’s like the screenwriters signaled to us, hey, we totally did this research and know about the jizz lettuce wraps and the wangs and all, but we decided to write this bland as shit movie instead.
I have never been simultaneously so pleased and so angry to see a goddamn head of lettuce. Here’s your lettuce, assholes, but there are no wangs. NO WANGS.
Apparently I talk a lot with my eyebrows when I’m drunk.
Well, no wangs other than Set’s giant black stone Wang of Evil (yes but can you make it taller), which considering the absolutely delightful racism exhibited in the casting, well. Those are some stygian depths perhaps best appreciated from a distance.
So with all that going against it already, the sheer badness of the directing and acting in Gods of Egypt is really just the oh-god-that’s-not-actually-dressing on the lettuce. This movie should make it into a screenwriting course as exhibit A for this is how we don’t do voice over. The dialog is forgettable at best, awful at worst. And I don’t know if it’s an artifact of the extensive CGI shit they had to do to make the actors playing the gods twice as big as the humans so maybe they were all just acting in isolation in green closets, but none of the dialog actually sounded like dialog. There was no flow. It was actors, many of whom we know can turn in a decent performance, barking out lines by rote without any kind of interplay or response. It was weird, disturbing, and really fucking annoying. We’re talking Plan Nine From Outer Space levels of woodenness, here, but without any of the bizarrely kitschy charm lent by tiny plywood tombstones and pie-plate UFOs. Instead we get overblown visuals that are occasionally breathtaking (Ra’s spaceship hauling the Sun up over the edge of a flat Earth springs to mind here) but probably squarely to blame for the fact that every actor appears to be shouting their lines from a green screen vacuum.
And it’s boring. This movie is so. Fucking. Boring. It’s 127 minutes (still shorter than Transformers 4‘s 109 hour running time, mercifully) that should have been maybe 90 minutes, padded out with boring as shit action sequences with random moments of bullet-time slomo so I guess we can appreciate how cool this is. This film is fucking genre salad all thrown together (buddy comedy, action, romance, family drama, etc) and dressed with cheap exploitation because they spent their god semen budget on birdman transformer effects. The only character whose motivations make any sense is Bek, who presumably loves Zaya because we’re informed of this fact, even if they have the emotional resonance of two slices of plastic-wrapped American cheeze being rubbed together. Set wanting to let Apophis consume the entire world only makes sense if you consider it’s his only way to escape this fucking movie and then okay, maybe he’s doing us all a favor.
In that thoroughly awful way, maybe there’s one tiny, very well-disguised blessing to the unforgivable whitewashing of Gods of Egypt: at least no cowardly studio exec will be able to point to this shit salad and bleat that it somehow “proves” no one wants to watch fantasy movies starring black (and other non-white) actors. If any real lessons stick, like oh maybe it’s past time to stop trying to make movies about ancient (fantasy or otherwise) Egypt that headline white people, that remains to be seen. I don’t do sucker bets.
And remember, kids, if someone wants to sell you a salad, take a good, long look at it first and see if that dressing is really what they’re advertising.
As promised, here are my handwritten notes I took in the movie! You can track my inebriation by how bad my handwriting gets. Not as bad as 50 SoG, I’d say: Gods of Egypt notes
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