Visually spectacular with masterful special effects, but by all other measures a “no-brainer”, Australians features prominently in Gods of Egypt, the latest work from director Alex Proyas (I, Robot).
The action, fantasy, adventure is set in an alternate world in which ancient gods live among mortals. This co-existence between beings has existed through centuries of peace, but the trust between man and god has been shattered by hubris, jealousy and betrayal and the destruction of creation draws near. Using the Osiris myth as a blueprint, Gods of Egypt re-imagines the tale of the sun god Ra, his vengeful son Set and Ra’s dutiful grandson Horus. It folds several classical narratives into an adrenaline-pumped story of a mischievous mortal who joins forces with a fallen god to save the planet from chaos and tyranny.
Writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless sought to give audiences a thrilling, elaborate adventure that is part homage, part invention. The way to tell the gods apart from the humans is that the gods are gigantic in size, whereas mere mortals all but appear as Lilliputians (think Gulliver’s Travels) in their midst. That, and the fact that gods can – naturally – morph into fast flying robot-like deities (combining human torsos with animal heads and wings). So, to the detail …
Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is an affable, clever and mischievous thief. He and the beautiful and humble Zaya (Courtney Eaton) are deeply in love. Their lives take an unexpected turn when Bek teams up with the god Horus, Lord of the Air (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), to try to defeat his powerful and vengeful uncle, the god of the desert, Set (Gerard Butler). In Set’s eyes, his father, the Lord of Light, Ra (Geoffrey Rush) has always favoured his brother Osiris ,the God of Nature and Life (Bryan Brown) over him. Osiris is deemed to be a wise ruler and merciful facilitator of human souls into the afterlife. Set believes that mortals are dispensable and far inferior to the gods. He puts his pursuit of power, authority and material wealth above all else. Set’s deity is a flying armoured jackal-creature and his weapon is his sceptre. Horus’ other self is also winged and armoured, complete with a falcon-shaped head. His power resides in his eyes. While his ego is initially inflated by his status as a god, through his association with Bek, Horus slowly learns to respect mortals and even develops a liking of them.
So, at its heart Gods of Egypt is a simple love story – that between two humans – and a power play between gods for control of the kingdom. Things explode and crash and burn, virtually incessantly. There is no shortage of colour and movement.
The writers and director clearly had their minds on creating and reinforcing the spectacular, on manufacturing a visual and audio feast upon which audiences could gorge. While that is well and good, the thin, transparent plot with an inevitable conclusion became all so ho-hum. Effects are one thing (and even on that score the mostly special on occasion ended up as a less than credible set piece, especially when characters were beset by fire), but more attention needed to be paid to a half plausible script.There was no more ridiculous a sight than an ageing Geoffrey Rush as the standoffish sun god, all heat and flames. In fact, when he appeared in that guise, the audience just laughed.
Gods of Egypt is an unnecessarily drawn out tale of the preposterous that fails to ignite despite the heroics. It may look good, but it desperately lacks substance. Rated M, put it down as mindless, showy entertainment at best. It scores a 5 out of 10.
Director: Alex Proyas
Cast: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Abbey Lee, Brenton Thwaites, Courtney Eaton, Geoffrey Rush, Bryan Brown
Release date: 25 February 2016
Rated: M – Fantasy themes and violence
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television