February 27, 2016 by bck1402
As I write this, there’s already a lot of negativity aimed at Gods of Egypt for a variety of reasons. Most are probably justified. Let’s just put it this way, Gods of Egypt is nowhere near the epic most of us expected it to be. However, it is a crazy romp of an adventure done is a stylistic manner that may have been completely detrimental to the overall film. Could you have expected anything more from the writers behind Dracula Untold (2014) and The Last Witch Hunter (2015)?
Even by taking those two movies into account, Gods of Egypt would very well fall into the same category in that we are quite firmly in the fantasy genre. The depiction of Egypt is extremely stylised as is the world itself when seen from Space! Earth appears far flatter than one would normally expect, almost reminiscent of the maze world of Dark City (sorry, spoilers), and yet, we have normal looking horizons. Still, it’s a world where gods, almost twice as big as the mortals and have gold in their veins, live among the humans. If that doesn’t scream out “Fantasy”, should the casting and speech inflection be such an issue? As John Oliver put it in the video below, “How is this still a thing?”
Actors, by profession, are hired to play characters that may, and far more likely, may not exist in real life. As marketing of a majority of movies are done off name recognition in order to appeal to the widest audience demographic possible, it is more likely known actors (and they are mostly white) will be hired. For most movies, financial backing will be based on casting too. While Egypt is in the title and the setting of the story here, it is still a fantasy adventure, laden with visual effects that would require a sizeable budget. So, the lack of ethnic casting may not be that big an issue after all. This movie may end up being a hilarious comedy in Egypt for all its inaccuracies, rather than fantasy adventure. Instead of asking if the actor cast is of the right ethnicity, a better question is if the actor cast was wholly appropriate for the roll. Even going on performance, there are numerous issues that most audience members would take issue with, and that’s due to the visual effects used to mix the oversized gods with the mortals around them.
Aside from the Scottish Gerard Butler taking on bad guy duties (is it any different from numerous other flicks with a British bad guy), Danish heart-throb Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on hero duties, and a few other stars in main supporting roles, the majority of the cast hail from Australia, the main filming location and home of the director, Alex Proyas. Keeping everything on a seemingly even keel, everyone speaks with an odd faux-British inflection, not unlike how everyone had a somewhat southern Californian accent in TV series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena, Warrior Princess. Seriously, though, If Proyas had made this movie in Egypt with local actors and extras, speaking their local language (being set in Egypt and all), still loaded with the visual effects here, would the movie still have gone international, reaching the audience the producers and studios would hope for?
For almost all intents and purposes, this is an Australian production. Should Hollywood white-washing even be an issue? And given the current beating the movie is getting, is any actor who would have been ethnically appropriate for any role in the movie really complaining?
Sure, it might have been strange to see Bryan Brown as Osiris, father to Horus (Coster-Waldau), and son of the Sun God, Ra, here portrayed by Geoffrey Rush sporting what looks like a bald cap with a ponytail! Butler is Set, Ra’s second son who feels slighted by his father and takes over Egypt. Elodie Yung as Hathor, Goddess of Love, and Chadwick Boseman as Thoth, God of Wisdom, both standout fairly well with Thoth delivering some of the funnier moments. Coster-Waldau gives a mostly charming performance as one would expect, particularly when countered against Brenton Thwaites’ Bek, who comes across like a platform hopping video-game character driving the adventure for the first two-thirds of the movie.
As much as Bek keeps proclaiming that he doesn’t believe in the gods to his lady love, Zaya (Courtney Eaton), it’s more that he doesn’t care about the “gods”. After all, the gods exists side by side with the humans. It’s not that he can totally ignore them. He cares and believes in Zaya, and it’s Zaya who believes in Horus. So when Zaya’s soul is on the line, Bek will work with Horus to take down Set with the hopes that Horus will help rescue Zaya. Naturally, things don’t go to plan and that’s when the third act heads towards its bonkers finale!
The visual effects are in full force with some working effectively while most will have seasoned gamers wincing. Naturally, we have the digital backgrounds, particularly around Egypt and the Ra’s Ship. Remember, the gods are larger than normal humans so having them side by side is a touch distracting, unlike the forced perspective work in The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Some of the gods also transform into their ‘warrior’ form, so Horus has wings and the head of a hawk when in battle-armour. The gods bleed gold, so that allows for quite a bit of violence and limb-hacking without the typical gory (red-)blood-letting one would expect. At least most of the set-designs and costumes are real, and they look mostly gorgeous. It’s just not quite the dark and dreary worlds we’ve gotten before from director Proyas (see Dark City, I,Robot, Knowing).
In all, this is a romp of an adventure that may require a little brain-checking at the door. Marco Beltrami’s score is adequately adventurous and exciting. As much as the complaints flow for now, it is quite likely this movie will survive in cable reruns with its eye-catching designs and outrageous action. It is by no means an excellent movie, but it is also not entirely as bad as it may seem. It sure doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ve seen far worse and I’d rather sit through this again than Immortals (2011) or Clash of The Titans (2010).
Stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Rufus Sewell, Courtney Eaton, Elodie Yung, Chadwick Boseman with Gerard Butler, Bryan Brown, and Geoffrey Rush
Directed by Alex Proyas
Rating ***/5 (others may want to knock one star off).