Lee and Shane dared to believe there was perhaps a successful B-movie in “Gods of Egypt”.
Sincerity doesn’t breed cynicism so much as cynicism feeds off it. An earnest, good-hearted intention often comes with a narrow field of vision; a perfect target for the all-seeing cynic to pick holes in, find flaws and ultimately corrupt.
A direct vision with few diversions and a simple goal will often overcome; see “Good Will Hunting”; a sweet, heart-felt movie that leans lightly on convenience and basics in human conditioning to tell an against-all-odds tale that, regardless of logical flaws, saccharine spirit and social dyslexia, simply can’t be put down due to its committed delivery of a simple, good-meaning moral that there is good and hope in all. See also; “Forrest Gump”.
Only full committal survives, however. Anything less, and cynicism breaks the bow and floods the men. Worse still are those visions that are corrupted from the start; cynical projects written by cynical writers who wear faux-sincerity and ambition to make money, quick. Sadly; enter “Gods of Egypt”.
Ostensibly, there’s still a good time to be had with this movie. It’s beyond camp, in a Power Rangers way. It’s got some real deadpan acting, which will get some laughs. It’s got some interesting visual takes on Egyptian mythology, including some insane interpretation of Ra’s position over the Gods as well as an interesting (if far too brief) look at the Egyptian afterlife which should have just been the movie. It’s conceptually bizarre, visually dreadful in the CG-department and contains some hilarious continuity errors and choppy editing if you’re into that sort of thing. There really are some elements that work well as a “so bad it’s good” movie.
The fault that robs it of that prized position however is the incredible cynicism of it all. Treasured cult failures are treasured because, deep down, someone cared about the content. Look at Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room”; now a beloved cult classic and a lesson in terrible film making. Every second of it is dreadful, and hilarious, and bizarre because the director believed in his vision. He truly thought the dialogue coming out of his character’s mouths were original, insightful messages that reflected perfectly his dysfunctional homage to the works of Tennessee Williams (and, in a way, he wasn’t far off). There was no trope he wanted to capture; he just had a feel for melodrama and he wanted to take his own spin on it. It’s a passion project like no other, and it fails so spectacularly we can’t help but praise it for even trying.
Nobody really cared about “Gods of Egypt”. Well, ok, perhaps not entirely true: one person cared. Somewhere in the production, someone had a genuine passion for the Egyptian mythologies. Someone dug into the rulebooks, pulled out all the characters and imagined an epic among them. That person then either passed this idea to an inept screenwriter and tactless director, or refused to pass their idea on to competent equivalents; either way, that’s a lack of care.
Hammy, boring, clichéd, sarc-filled line after sarc-filled line with absolutely no pay-off. A relentless barrage of one-liners and false promises and misunderstandings and overblown betrayals all shrugged off and forgotten because nobody gives a damn. Twists and turns so shockingly predictable the only shock came when the film actually forgot to fulfil its own storyline by having Horace take over Ra’s position at the end rather than forget Ra’s part in the movie entirely. There’s no fun in this; only cynicism of the form.
There are definitely laughs, and if you have friends and drinks on hand, you might even make a good night of this movie. But there are much better films at being much worse. “Gods of Egypt” is an incredibly long film filled with meaningless action and terrible, awful characters; its best moments are the occasional surprises in the form of bizarre visuals such as the magic transformations and portals to nowhere. It’s easy to laugh when you have no idea what’s going on, but it’s hard to stay invested. Put it this way: if you don’t establish the characters walking into the bar, you’re going to spend more time wondering why all these people are in the same place than laughing at the punch-line.
Final thoughts: Butler and Waldeau, I have very little expectations of you, and I’m not sure who has a high bar for Geoffrey Rush but it’s not me, even if I love seeing him in movies. But Chadwick Boseman; you require an explanation. A pay-cheque’s a pay-cheque, I understand, but did you have to act that badly to prove it? Good heavens R2, you were terrible.
Nikolai Coster-Waldau is one of the few actors who has managed to play a main character on TV show “Game of Thrones” that has somehow avoided being brutally axed (metaphorically and literally) by George R. R. Martin. And yet, Nikolai has taken the precaution of starring in movies suited for a has-been TV-star just in case. Enter Gods of Egypt.
The story is loosely based around that old chestnut of the thief who loves the girl who is then killed and sent on an off-screen journey to the afterlife; meanwhile, two gods fight for the right to not fight a galaxy-eating wormhole and the Sun God Ra is actually Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush. With a description like that, I bet you wouldn’t expect my main criticism of the film to be “dull”. Alas, for all the Power Rangers-esque moments scattered throughout this mess, the film really is dull, dull, dull.
I think I was supposed to be rooting for the thief to defeat Gerard Butler, but I think the movie forgot to tell us why. If anything, the thief and Nikolai’s character seemed to be less interested in the fate of humanity than Butler’s character, but I guess the music wanted us to think Butler was the evil one.
I could be wrong in thinking this movie was terrible, but this movie was terrible. Fact.
[Lee’s review first published 20/06/2016]