Gods of Egypt | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Gods of Egypt

Alex Proyas’ contribution to pre-history is an unholy mashup of costumed spectacle, loopy fantasy action comedy and crappy CGI effects

As Gods of Egypt begins, a narrator explains (never a good sign) that the events we are about to see occurred “before history.” It’s a cover for a hot mess of a film that sounds more authoritative than “a bunch of crazy shit that makes no sense.”

To wit, Ye Olde Egypt was a land where gods and men lived happily together, distinguished by a few differences: The gods were much, much bigger, could transform into freaky robots and bled gold, while the humans did all the work. 

It’s a family spat that sets the action rolling. King Osiris (Bryan Brown) is handing over the crown to his playboy son, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), when pissy Uncle Set (Gerard Butler) shows up. Set kills the royal family, rips Horus’ magical eyeballs out, enslaves the mortals and, because he can, puts up a velvet rope on the afterlife: Pay up, or … die again, I guess. This new post-life surcharge affects cheeky mortal Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who teams up with Horus to straighten everything out.

click to enlarge “Mortal, look upon my burnished pecs!” Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is schooled by Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)
“Mortal, look upon my burnished pecs!” Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is schooled by Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)

This includes a visit to see Grandpa of the Gods, the sun god Ra (Geoffrey Rush), in a WTF scene for the ages: Ra rides around in the heavens on a flatbed spaceship, grumpily deploying a flaming stick against a giant multi-toothed space worm who dutifully shows up once a day to try and swallow everything.

Director Alex Proyas’ contribution to prehistory is an unholy mashup: 1950s-style exotically costumed matinee epic; buddy road comedy; Transformers: Set vs. Horus; random space-based mindbender penned by a stoner dude in a 1970s dorm room; and giant pile of discarded CGI effects.

Hard to judge the historical accuracy of events that occurred before history — and of such tales that just have giant blue-green scarab beetles hanging around — but one can’t miss that the highest level of Egyptian gods are, once again, a bunch of white guys. And Butler makes a poor show of burying his native Scottish accent under an American one, as if that’s any better.

The ladies are there for the men to bed and to fuss over. In their boredom, they have all raided Bob Mackie’s Closet of Bedazzled Gowns Even Cher Wouldn’t Wear, and try to outdo each other in awfulness. I also learned that pre-history Egypt had the advanced engineering skills to build pyramids and push-up bras.

Butler and Coster-Waldau are decent actors who can do a lot better than this, but maybe they need the cash for gym memberships. Truth: Both are looking very fit. If you fancy sweaty beefcake in short leather skirts wrestling together, coherent story be damned, then this is a keeper.

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