Gods of Egypt: A Misguided Epic That Takes Itself Too Seriously (Blu-ray)
There have been times in the past where films have exceeded the bounds of absolute silliness, and yet, have managed to come out on top in the end. The most obvious example that comes to mind is a film like “Flash Gordon,” where there’s not a single thing that you can take seriously in the entire picture, but given how it embraces that silliness in every manner possible, it still makes for a rather enjoyable flick. Or take something more recent like the first “Transformers” film. Again, absolutely ridiculous and laughably absurd, but I’ll be damned if it’s not an entertaining ride (unlike the awful sequels that followed). Then there are films like “Gods of Egypt” that are ridiculous and laughable, but fail to embrace those qualities, even going so far as to try and give the film a serious tone. If the history of silly cinema has taught us anything, this is a monumental mistake, one that usually leads to an epic disaster befitting of the film’s heavily-destructive storyline.
Set in an ancient Egypt where gods live alongside man, King Osiris (Bryan Brown) is holding a ceremony to relinquish the crown to his son, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). However, the ceremony is crashed by Osiris’ brother, Set (Gerard Butler), who murders his brother and takes the crown for himself, stealing Horus’ eyes and banishing him in the process. Under Set’s rule, almost all mortals are forced to be slaves, including Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton). In order to help Horus, they hatch a plan that has Bek breaking into Set’s vault in order to steal back his eyes. He’s only able to retrieve one, but it ends up being enough for Bek to strike a bargain with Horus in which the former agrees to help weaken Set, while the latter agrees to help save Zaya’s life. Together they set off on an epic quest that will hopefully result in everything returning to the way it’s supposed to be.
If you were to read the basics of this story, something similar to the synopsis above, then it might not seem so bad. In fact, when the film starts off, it’s actually not that terrible. It sets up a decent storyline about one brother betraying another and a mortal that’s willing to help a god reclaim the throne in order to help the love of his life. However, even during this overture of sorts, we can already see glimpses of the film’s major weaknesses, and in fact, “glimpses” is a nice way of saying that they are glaringly obvious.
Take the scene in which Osiris is passing his crown to his son. After Set murders Osiris, Horus fights him right there on the stage, beginning with a decent duel involving bladed weapons. The problem occurs shortly into the battle when they transform into what look like rejected metal superheroes and continue to fight in a CGI mess reminiscent of a bad video game. It’s at this point that the audience merely stares at the screen, aghast at the absolute rubbish they’re watching. It might have been decent if this had been the only time such a scene occurs in the film, but there are in fact several times where the gods use their transforming ability to do multiple tasks, all to the complete disbelief of the audience.
Again, the story is not so much the problem here as is the incredibly sloppy execution, in addition to the constantly changing tone. Once Bek and Horus set out on their quest, we expect grand things to happen to make the journey entertaining on the way, but what we get instead is a meandering tale that constantly seems to be losing its place. As if that weren’t enough, the writers try to distract you from this issue by throwing in a multitude of action sequences that are nothing but fluff. These scenes merely pad the film out to its unforgiveable two-hour runtime, and while they do provide a moment of puzzling amazement, they are the main reason why the film’s tone is ever-shifting from quasi-serious to utterly ridiculous.
It’s a bit of a shame because there’s actually a really good cast hidden within this epic mess, including Gerard Butler (“The Phantom of the Opera,” “300”), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Game of Thrones”), and Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush (“Shine,” “The King’s Speech”). Speaking of Rush, it will forever be a confounding mystery how they managed to get him to appear in this film as the god Ra, who does nothing but hang out on his spaceship and fight the same creature night after night (yes, that was as strange to type out as it is to read). I suppose for the right amount of money, even the best of the best can be lured into something this unappealing.
When it comes right to it though, it would appear that most of the blame can be placed on the script from writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, who have given us such classics as “Dracula Untold” and “The Last Witch Hunter.” I suppose the question really becomes: Who in their right mind thought it was wise to give these guys another chance? They clearly don’t possess much in the way of storytelling ability, so why sink $140 million into a film that didn’t have much of a shot at succeeding in the first place?
Then again, that’s Hollywood for you. Even when a script seems disastrous, there’s going to be someone willing to roll the dice if a good enough cast is involved. Unfortunately for them, even if the greatest cast in the history of cinema had been assembled, it wouldn’t be enough to save this wannabe-spectacle. “Gods of Egypt” may have had an inkling of an interesting story, but when that story is told in such a dumbfounding manner as this, it’s no surprise at all that it collapses under the weight of its own inanity.
“Gods of Egypt” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40: 1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. Much of the film has a very dark, grungy color palette to it, but the picture always remains remarkably sharp and clear. The DTS: X Audio is also top-notch, giving you all of the dialogue, score, and sound effects in outstanding quality. Overall, the film has been given the best treatment possible, ensuring that you get the most out of both departments.
A Divine Vision: Creating a Cinematic Action Fantasy (12 Minutes): A featurette that explores how the film’s world was brought to life, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
Of Gods and Mortals: The Cast (11 Minutes): A featurette that examines the characters and actors through interviews with the cast and crew.
Transformation: Costume, Make-Up & Hair (11 Minutes): A featurette that takes a look at the extensive work that went into each of these areas.
On Location: Shooting in Australia (13 Minutes): A featurette that discusses the crew and filming every scene using blue screens.
The Battle for Eternity: Stunts (12 Minutes): An exploration of the training and choreography that went into the stunts.
A Window into Another World: Visual Effects (11 Minutes): A look behind the scenes at the extensive visual effects work that went into every scene.
Deleted Storyboards (6 Minutes): Storyboards for two deleted sequences that were apparently never filmed.
“Gods of Egypt” is a completely misguided spectacle that suffers from poor storytelling, laughable effects, and a confused tone. It wasn’t a terrible idea for a film, but the execution is all wrong, leaving us with a dull, meandering tale that takes itself too seriously when it should have been embracing its silliness from the very start. Only then did it even have a slight chance of accomplishing its goal of being a big blockbuster that merely wants to be entertaining.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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