I had a quick look at this movie a couple of months ago. At the time, it was generating a lot of negative feedback due to its… er… unfavourable optics. Gods of Egypt is on general release now, and I think it’s a kindness to say that the reviews are mixed. I went to see it yesterday, and unfortunately, the optics are only part of the problem.
But let’s deal with them first shall we? This has nothing to do with whether or not Hollywood as a whole is doing enough to cast minorities in major roles (if you look at the stats, then they appear to be doing their bit); this is purely about this film, and in this film the casting is a massive issue.
Gods of Egypt is pure fantasy: it’s based around the idea that the Gods of ancient Egypt actually lived in Egypt. They adopted a very ‘hands-on’ management approach to running the world they created, striding around in their perfect ten-feet tall bodies with liquid gold for blood. The film-makers even portrayed the world as flat so that the audience is left in no doubt that none of this actually happened.
Okay, that’s fair enough, but even the most outlandish fantasy has to have some grounding, otherwise the audience won’t engage. Even in a fantasy, asking the audience to believe that the Gods of Egypt were from anywhere but Egypt was just an invitation to switch off. Set (Gerard Butler, complete with an unapologetically Scottish accent) went about his world-conquering as though he was trying to start a fight in a pub. The hero, Horus, was not particularly convincing as an Egyptian God (look, I’m just going to say it: he was a little bit too… caucasian), but Nikolaj Coster-Waldau delivered a reasonable performance, considering what he had to work with. Brendan Thwaites and Courtney Eaton played the human lovers too wrapped up in themselves to notice the world was going to hell in a chariot. Well, that’s young love I guess. They were both the weakest actors in this movie, and believe me there were a lot of others fighting for the same accolade.
Now these two were a curious pair:
Giant snakes with steering controls.
I especially liked the way they decided to put the black actress on the black snake and the white actress on the white snake. I’m probably being a little too PC here, but seriously? Why not surprise us by mixing things up a little bit? Or maybe matching snakes to skin colour was the surprise. I don’t know.
The special effects looked a little bit cheap to me, and the fight scenes were uninspiring. The sets were spectacular, but really not enough to stop the whole film appearing rather tired.
I wanted to like this film more than I did, but it didn’t even want to meet me halfway. It’s a shame really because I had this feeling that there was a half-decent – not original, but half-decent – screenplay struggling to free itself from bad dialogue, poor special effects and lacklustre acting.
Will it clean up at the box office? On notoriety alone I’d say yes, it’ll do extremely well. Does it deserve to? On that, I’m not so sure.
Three out of ten.