By Kyle G. King. When called out over the explicit whitewashing of his latest film Gods of Egypt — a film dealing with 100% Egyptian characters and 0% Egyptian casting — director Alex Proyas responded by first apologizing, and then decreeing, “under the rules of creative licenses and artistic freedom of expression, I cast the actors I considered right for the roles. It is also of course everyone’s right to disagree with me. That’s art.” And while the misrepresented characters in his film did indeed cause indignation, the most upsetting aspect of Proyas’ latest isn’t his racially insensitive casting choices, it’s how he obscures all accountability for his poor decisions under the banner of ‘making art’.
While the names and storybook folklore surrounding the film’s central characters are loosely based on ancient Egyptian scripture, very little about Gods of Egypt resembles anything that could be considered reverential. In that purgatory between a well-realized historical drama and the generic “so bad it’s good” absurdity of CGI-action flicks lays this overwrought Hollywood gobbledygook decorated with the stylization of a tribal tattoo on a dirtbike. Instead of embracing its ostentatious pageantry by inviting its audience to laugh along with it, Gods of Egypt lionizes its cartoonish subject matter as melodramatically as its laughably bad 127 minute runtime allows.
After god of the desert, Set (Gerard Butler) rips out the magical eyes of his nephew Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), he claims the title, King of Egypt, as his own. Exiled, blinded, and alone, Horus attempts to reclaim the throne with the talents of a young thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites). And that’s… pretty much it. But the film’s general conceit of “mortals and gods fighting for power” was never really supposed to be the point; Gods of Egypt exists solely as an expo for CGI set pieces and lousy action sequences. As we absorb all this computer-generated teal and orange swirling across the screen, it becomes impossible not to visualize these actors hamming it up to nothing but dots and markers behind a green screen. It’s so distracting, there’s no chance of simply enjoying the fun.
In fact, there is so little about the movie that seems real that it becomes a chore just to keep up with its incompetent attempts at world-building. Magic is conjured out of nowhere to get characters out of jams and lazy screenwriting fails its broad attempt to convey an elementary saga of good vs. evil. The thesis behind Gods of Egypt is to treat the audience’s attention span like that of a toddler: big and shiny things are designed to keep you interested and distracted enough not to recognize the endless amount of awful at play here. Tan white people with British accents in ancient African countries, riding magical floating sun boats and giant beetle-drawn carriages to do battle with each other, all for the approval of their deadbeat father — it’s somehow ends up worse than it sounds. Though it deals with gods of light, love, wisdom, and disorder, I’d ask you to instead pray to the god of mercy that Gods of Egypt doesn’t ever see a sequel.
Directed by Alex Proyas.
Produced by Brian Bookman, Topher Dow, Basil Iwanyk, Stephen Jones, Kent Kubena, Michael Paseornek, and Alex Proyas.
Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless.
Starring Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Elodie Yung, Courtney Eaton, Chadwick Boseman, and Geoffrey Rush.
1 out of 10