Gods of Egypt

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As a kid in the ‘70s, I’ll never forget the thrill of watching the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies on TV (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad in 1974 and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger in 1977). I figured I couldn’t get that same thrill I had as a child with these epic movies, especially since graphics and CGI have gotten so much better and I’ve seen thousands more films.

Australian director Alex Proyas overdid things with the CGI in I, Robot…but he impressed the hell out of me with the sci-fi flick Dark City, which made my Top 10 list in 1998. He brought along its star — Rufus Sewell — so I was anticipating this adventure.

Instead of it being like Sinbad and his voyage, it was like John Carter’s trip from Mars. Yes, this is going to the big budget bomb of the year. It’s a movie that cost in the neighborhood of $150 million, and without the teenagers that flock to those young adult novel type films, and the teenagers that can’t get enough of the superheroes, it’s doubtful that they’ll be content to watch Gerard Butler turn into a golden, Transformers like creature to fight his brother.

It’s also unfortunate for Proyas that, when the movie originally started filming, he got a lot of bad press for casting so many white actors in a film taking place in Egypt. Now, I’m of the belief that you should cast who you want. Why should anyone care that a white actor (Joseph Fiennes) is playing Michael Jackson? My stepdad was furious a British actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) was cast to play an American president (Lincoln). It’s all so silly. Filmmakers are casting big name actors, and they have lots of other factors they’re looking at.

Filmmaker Robert Townsend once told me in an interview, when we both talked about Spike Lee and his constant complaints about everything, that Lee gave him grief for not using more black people on the set. Townsend said he’s interested in saving money and working with people he’s worked with before, not worrying about their race. Proyas probably had similar concerns (he certain brought a few actors he’s worked with before). It’s just not going to help that the Oscars are this weekend, and the race issue is the big thing surrounding that (my story on Oscars and race appears here: http://www.cinemaspartan.com/the-oscar-race/).

The African-American that is cast in this movie, Chadwick Boseman, is interesting as Thoth, the god of Knowledge (although he does seem to be channeling RuPaul a bit).

Butler channels Russell Crowe, and he’s solid.

Australian acting legend Geoffrey Rush isn’t given enough to do as Ra, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) isn’t bad, playing a character he’s sort of done before.

This is one of those movies that will get trashed the way Fantastic Four did last year, and like that movie, isn’t nearly as bad as the critics say. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s not a good film. I’m just saying, it’s not as bad as most of the critics are going to say it is. It’s just the type of movie that…well, it might’ve been a great epic picture in the ‘50s or ‘60s. Today it just comes across as repetitive battle scenes, overdone CGI, and a story that isn’t based on anything that really happened historically.

A brief synopsis of the two hour movie is this: Set (Gerard Butler) shows up. His nephew Horus (Coster-Waldau) is about to be crowned the king of Egypt. This is in a time when gods and mortal men lived together. You could tell the gods, as they were twice the size.

Horus’ father Osiris (Bryan Brown) seems like a kind, Bernie Sanders type of guy. He wants everyone to enjoy the afterlife, even if they are poor and don’t have jewels to offer. Butler ends up killing him, and plucking out the magic eyes of Horus. A subplot involves Bek (Brenton Thwaites of Maleficent and The Giver), who jokes around with these gods, and sometimes steals outfits for his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton). She’s killed, and ends up in this What Dreams May Come type of limbo. He needs to help her out, which means a trip see Horus.

One of the problems is that for every scene that’s interesting, there are three scenes that aren’t. An example would be when we meet Thoth. It’s fun hearing how he’s acquiring all this knowledge.

A scene that doesn’t work, is watching Bek maneuver his way through a booby-trapped vault that reminds you a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Screenwriters Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama gave us Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter. I’m not sure they deserve all the blame for this mess. Sometimes they throw in a few comedic lines that actually land. It makes the movie a decent blend of comedy and drama. It was the director that needed to take this to the next level, and Proyas failed them. Just as he did in I, Robot, there’s too much relying on CGI. It makes everything feel fake. Nothing about watching molten gold dripping out of the gods arms, or huge snakes chasing after people in ruins, is even remotely interesting. And just as the thousands of robots sometimes looked fake in I, Robot…the crowds here often did, too.

There was a sphinx made of sand that was kind of cool to look at. Certainly cooler than the CGI bad guy in the last Star Wars, that just sat there listening to Kylo Ren drone on. Perhaps enough of the interesting visuals will attract some crowds. It’s just disappointing that the director of The Crow, Knowing, and one of the best sci-fi movies of the ‘90s (Dark City), couldn’t give us the kind of epic he felt he was making.

I’m guessing it’ll be another seven years before he makes his next movie.

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5