I’ve been consistently review movies for what, a year now? I find that my scoring often falls in line the ratings from my peers. However, anomalies can appear over time. One such anomaly was my review of The Revenant. This movie was touted as the film that would “finally get Leo his well-deserved Oscar!”, and it did! But it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I respect the movie, do not get me wrong here, but as a piece of entertainment, for me, it fell short. However, that’s behind us now! Or is it? I was CONVINCED that I would dislike Gods of Egypt. Not only were many other critics rating it extremely poor, but even the director’s social media comments irked me! But I bought my tickets anyways, because dammit, no one is going to rob me of my movie-viewing experience (and popcorn)! And you know what? Against all the odds, counter to almost every other critic out there, I really did enjoy this film.
The survival of mankind hangs in the balance when Set (Gerard Butler), the merciless god of darkness, usurps Egypt’s throne and plunges the prosperous empire into chaos and conflict. Hoping to save the world and rescue his true love, a defiant mortal named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) forms an unlikely alliance with the powerful god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Their battle against Set and his henchmen takes them into the afterlife and across the heavens for an epic confrontation
I am going to ignore the idea of “whitewashing” at least for now. I don’t think it HAS to be relevant for a film like this. For one, I think the name of the movie is a bit misleading. It may be called “Gods of Egypt” but this is an Egypt far removed from the one we know. Rather than think it is the African-Egypt, think of it as “Egypt World”. It takes elements from the mythology that we know and just runs wild with it. So I do not think it is fair to say they are “whitewashing” this movie because the world stands apart of the racial relationships that we know.
With that out of the way, I have to say what I really enjoyed about Gods of Egypt is that it was big, adventurous and unique. In a world where there is a remake, sequel and the word “franchise” thrown about left and right, it is refreshing to get a Hollywood film that at least tries to set itself apart from the rest. Obviously it is not without its flaws, no movie is, but I am willing to overlook a fair amount of those flaws simply because of the film’s entertainment value. It feels like a blend of Aladdin, Clash of Titans and Mummy and I mean that for both its bad and good qualities alike. It has a young man named Beck, who is out ‘Aladdin’-esque character that is daring, adventurous, a fool in love and has a crap ton of athleticism given his small size. He is probably my favorite character in the film as he provides a grounded viewpoint that the audience can relate to. He is a man who, even when surrounded by Gods, doesn’t believe in them. He feels like they are selfish, foolish and spiteful and are unworthy of praise or admiration. He only really partners with one in hopes to saved his beloved. But I expected the movie to stop there, to make his character one-dimensional and put him in the backdrop as the far more powerful ‘Gods’ duke it out. But they didn’t! In fact, he proves to be irreplaceable throughout the movie performing feats that no one thinks him capable of. Additionally, his character had a number of opportunities to be preachy, whiny or stubborn but he really doesn’t stay in any of these states for long…so yeah… this character honestly makes the movie with watching.
And I know this film gets a ton of flack for how heavily applied the CGI is in this movie, and it truly is. I am of the belief that this $140 million dollar movie could have been made with only 50-80 million dollars instead. It might have been better received as well if that had been the case. This film has a lot of creative elements, but CGI is slowly becoming the lazy-man’s way of filming especially when done poorly. Had this film spent less on CGI and been more creative with some of its effects, I feel like this movie would have earned a lot more respect. Given the type of movie that it is, I think it left a lot of its critics scratching their heads as to why a studio would ever spend so much on a risky project in the first place. Even with my saying that, I didn’t mind the effects, I liked that the Gods had sort of ‘super-suit’ power-up modes. They looked like giant humans fighting and then when they ‘powered up’ in battle they would be adorned with golden metallic suits that made them look rather menacing. As a longtime anime fan, this made me feel partly at home. I am used to shonen-style anime where characters would hold back only to power up later– so maybe that’s why the CGI suits didn’t bother me much?
The movie itself was fairly well acted, with the exception of one notable annoyance I had with Gerard Butler’s character, but more on that later. The two main characters, Horus and Beck are really what most of the movie is about and they both did a solid job. It would be easy to come off as cheesy and over the top in these types of roles but I cannot say that either character did. Sure they might have had one or two overly-dramatic moments during the film, but they were mostly kept brief and did little to change how I felt about the given scene. They worked well together on-screen especially given their physical differences and you never really felt that one was weaker than the other even though the premise of the movie would make that appear quite clearly in favor of the god. They just kept you interested in the characters through the movie rather than the plot holes or issues.
However, what in the fuck Gerard Butler? You couldn’t even attempt to NOT have a Scottish accent when playing and God from Egypt? I mean I know I defended the whole ‘whitewash’ thing by saying the same rules need not apply on “Egypt World” but at some point it feels a bit insulting. Seriously though, as much as I like Gerard Butler as an actor, it just felt like he was overacting in this role. Be it his choice or the direction given to him, he turned what could have been an interesting villain and turned him into an over-the-top whiner. And then they go an attempt to make him an ‘uber-God’ only to allow Horus to casually go toe-to-toe with him. If you’re going to build up a villain in that way, and take him to the pinnacle of his power, I feel like you shouldn’t make the final boss battle so easy to win. This, to me, is the biggest downfall of this movie. You take an interesting world, characters and premise, and throw it all out the window when you give the film zero end-battle payoff. It was as if the studio ran out of money and went “fuck, we need to end this now”.
But endings are a hard thing to pull off especially with the given material. I enjoyed this movie a lot, the world they built was extremely interesting and, quite honestly, this movie would have made a really good miniseries. It would have allowed for certain characters to be fleshed out more and for pacing to suffer less in the movie.
This is one of those movies that, I think, might be appreciated more with time. Many critics are forced to write their piece on a film right after viewing it. Much of the content isn’t allowed to digest. So maybe 5 or 10 years from now this film might get a little more praise, but for now, I must allow myself to be satisfied with the fact that I am one of the few people out there that actually enjoyed this movie. Still, I recommend seeing it is for no other reason than the experience. It stands out in its uniqueness in a world filled with less and less original films– so good or bad, go out there and support originality so that we may see more ambitious films in the future.