Gods Of Egypt
Mythology has always been a crucial part of the human experience. Millennia ago there was a way for people to understand their place in the natural environment. Before science it was a way for humans to understand and explain nature and ready to pass down from one generation to the next the tenants of their society. Now mythology has taken on an entirely new place in this 21st-century. It has become a rich source of material for screenwriters. The Greco-Roman mythology has always been popular with such well-known deities as Zeus and Apollo. More recently, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Norse mythology has had a resurgence sibling rivalry taken to the extreme with Thor and Loki. In the aptly named movie ‘Gods of Egypt’ it is time for this most ancient cultures to have their deities turned into action figures. It also utilizes one of the most popular themes commonplace across all four mythologies the aforementioned sibling rivalry. This time there is a variation on the theme with the battle occurring between a jealous uncle and his highly lauded nephew. As is the case with increasing number of action-adventure films this film was produced in Real 3-D although many other technical aspects of the film short of properly meshing it can at least be said that the illusion of depth was properly incorporated into telling the story. This is the first movie in almost 15 years for filmmaker Alex Proyas. He has acquired a fan base for himself specifically among those who enjoy their stories presenting a darker atmosphere. Among his best-known films are ‘I, Robot’,’ The Crow and ‘Dark City’. Among these movies it is generally considered that ‘I, Robot’ is one of his weaker works but even this movie soars above this his latest opus. For all the effort put into the movie the end product is an example of anti-synergy the sum of the parts of all less than the whole. The fundamental elements of the individually but the overall sense important to the audience lacks the gravitas necessary to truly draw the viewer into the experience.
The setting for the film is a fictionalized Egypt where the world is indeed flat and that the adhesive their Parthenon directory the earthly nations, most notably Egypt. In the brief prologue it is explained that the gods and goddesses are basically human in appearance except for being over 10 feet tall and having liquid gold in lieu of actual blood. They are also able to transform into their deity forms which are typically humanoid with animal heads and occasionally large wings. The God who is currently the king of Egypt is Osiris (Bryan Brown) who is about to pass on his throne to his favorite son, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). He intends to continue his father’s kind and just the humans including free access to the afterlife upon the death. The transfer of the crown is to be celebrated by a huge festival, a gala event attended to by both humans and the gods. Just before Horus is about to receive the crown his father’s brother, Set (Gerard Butler) attacks resulting in happy that is fatal to both humans and gods. Horus rushes into the fray to stop his uncle but is overcome by brute force and treachery. Set plucks out both of Horus’ eyes depriving him of his power including the wings of his transformed self. Deprived of his powers Horus goes off into exile. Osiris is murdered by Set who seizes the throne for himself.
Among the humans attending the coronation is Bek (Brenton Thwaites) a thief with disbelief that the gods have mankind’s best interest at heart and the love of his life the beautiful maiden Zaya (Courtney Eaton). Under the regime of Set life is exceptionally difficult to both the gods and man. Those deities that refused to acknowledge Set’s authority is summarily killed all for mankind is now necessary to bar your right into the afterlife. If you cannot pay suitable tribute in gold to Set you will be denied eternity in the underworld. A year after Set stole the throne Bek is a slave working on one of the many monuments to the greatness of the new King while Zaya has been taken into the household of Urshu (Rufus Sewell) the overly ambitious chief architect who has his eye on the quite beautiful Zaya. She believes that only Horus is able to defeat Set and contrives a plan with Bek to break into Set’s treasure house steal the artifacts that can restore Horus, his eyes. Making this at least feasible is the fact that her owner designed the treasure trove and all its defenses. She is able to give the designs to Bek allowing him to make his way through all the traps.
After a series of suitable dangers, that do look nice in 3-D, he manages to get away with only one eye and is able to bring them to Horus. Adding a few complications Zaya is killed and having no funds was not be able to enter the underworld and is cast adrift in eternity. Fortunately it will take a few days for how to get to the final date to the underworld and her banishment. This gives Horus and Bek some time to go back to the temples to get the other eye so that Horus will regain his power is able to defeat his uncle. After a brief visit to Horus’ grandfather, Ra (Geoffrey Rush) for help, fallen god and human thief of force into a partnership to somehow defeat the maniacal Set. Along the way there are plenty of battles with a number of gods and goddesses as well as supernatural minions so that those were expecting the roller coaster of action will not be disappointed. Once again it is noteworthy within the context of the story the use of 3-D effects was successful. The one element of the special effects that this come across as highly contrived was the force perspective used to make the deities see much larger than the humans. After this effect was you so seamlessly with Peter Jackson’s films it was almost impossible to get over how artificial scenes where god and man were together in the same frame came across. I do admit that it appeared so unnatural that it took me out of the moment.
The story should have been a straightforward hero’s quest directly out of the works of Joseph Campbell but the role of the questing hero was diluted by splitting it between Horus and Bek. Each had completely different motivations that necessitated their success; Horus had to regain his lost power and more importantly his rightful place on the throne. Bek had been told by Horus that is help in defeating Set will be rewarded by bringing Zaya back to life. Even before the midpoint of the film this is revealed to have been a lie manufactured just to obtain the help of the thief. This does tarnish the heroic nature of Horus and would reaffirm Bek’s original position that the gods really do not care about humanity. Another thing that is completely overdone in this film is how the female characters, both human and goddesses all portrayed. No matter what type of outfit they are wearing amid flowing silky robe to form fitting armor every costume is designed to exaggerate your ready ample assets of the actress. Okay, the point has been made, every female role is portrayed by attractive young women were quite buxom. It is quite difficult for a filmmaker to make such a constant choice appear so overdone but somehow this was achieved in this instance.
This is an excellent example of how special effects can overwhelm a film especially if the screenplay does not provide for a strong enough central narrative to hold the action together. It appears that they wanted to get as much Egyptian mythology into the story as possible in doing so overly crowded the cast of characters. The expression "all sizzle and no steak" does come strongly to mind. What is most disappointing is that there is a lot of potential in this film in a number of excellent actors including Academy award-winning Geoffrey Rush. Rufus Sewell is best suited for those that he is a commanding presence but he is reduced to a sniveling sycophant. One of the current most notable action oriented actors, Gerard Butler may have been able to pull off the sword and sandals look in ‘The 300’ but here he only plays his in this role one dimensionally unable to add any depth to his character. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau obviously did this film while on hiatus pop-culture sensation, ‘Game of Thrones’. Once again and actor proven well capable of infusing a portrayal with subtlety and nuance is overly restricted by a character not as well-crafted as it should of been. This is a passable popcorn flick but it could’ve been so much more.