Low Expectations: Gods of Egypt

by Matt McKenna

ScreenHunter_1757 Mar. 07 10.24There's a week in a thirteen-year-old boy’s life in which Gods of Egypt might fit somewhere within their top twenty favorite films of all time. At least, it would have been in my top twenty films when I was thirteen–there are certainly enough outrageous battles and sardonic quips to keep teenage me entertained. Strangely, the theatre where I watched Gods of Egypt was absent of teenagers, and instead contained a dozen or so adults who sat quietly through the film’s two hour running time, walked out just as quietly after it was over, and presumably went quietly home to never think about the film again. I wonder what their expectations were for Gods of Egypt, and I wonder if the film met them.

Gods of Egypt is not about the historical Egypt, but rather a fantasy version of Egypt in which the Gods live amongst the mortals. Gods can be killed just like mortals, but they are distinguished from mortals in that they are fifty percent bigger, bleed gold blood, and can occasionally morph into robot animal things that look and sound a lot like Transformers. The silliness of this premise is the best the thing film has going for it.

The plot of Gods of Egypt revolves around the evil god Set (Gerard Butler) usurping the kingdom from his nephew Horus (that guy from that Game of Thrones show everyone is talking about). In the process of this coup, Set rips out Horus’ eyes, which upon extraction resemble two sparkly bouncy balls, and banishes his nephew to… I don’t know, somewhere else. Eventually, a mortal asks Horus to bring his girlfriend back to life, and the duo begins their journey of vengeance together.

To the film's credit, a plot does exist, and if you try really hard you can follow it. Going against the film is that whatever plot it has is lost within a soupy mix of overambitious CG–whether it’s supporting actors awkwardly riding giant fire-breathing snakes or endless sandstorms obscuring the characters, I’m not sure how much footage director Alex Proyas actually needed to record of the human actors to get the movie finished. And while it may sound cool that a significant amount of screen time is devoted to Ra (Geoffrey Rush) battling an enormous many-toothed chaos-worm hellbent on consuming Egypt, the experience of watching these scenes feels like watching an hours-long trailer for an XBox 360 game.

Gods of Egypt is a PG-13 movie aimed at young adults, so it doesn’t make sense to be ultra-critical of its narrative techniques. However, one reason the film is boring is because the rules of this movie universe feel arbitrary, which ruins the drama on the off chance the viewer was experiencing any. Spoiler alert: Set kills his dad Ra, and the audience (I think) is supposed to worry that perhaps evil may triumph over good. Moments later, however, Horus offhandedly mentions that “Ra isn’t dead,” which was sure a surprise to me since I saw Set stab him through the chest with a spear. Ra’s non-death scene wasn’t the only time I was unsure if a character was truly dead or if something that happened actually mattered. In fact, good luck finding a film less committed to its own plot points, especially when you consider that by the time Gods of Egypt ends, the world has apparently reset itself, and the characters who were previously murdered reappear donning beaming smiles as if nothing happened during the previous two hours.

Having low expectations will certainly help in deriving enjoyment from Gods of Egypt. If you head into the theatre assuming the experience will be like watching your older brother play video games for two hours without giving you a turn and perhaps making fun of you in front of your friends, I think your expectations will be properly calibrated. Of course, saying Gods of Egypt is bad isn’t a particularly brave statement to make considering the film stands at only 13% on Rotten Tomatoes. Indeed, piling on the film for its terribleness is certainly less interesting than considering the film could still turn a profit for the studio. Even though the movie cost $140 million and doesn’t look like it’s going to earn anywhere near that amount at the box office, Gods of Egypt could still end up in the black partially because Australia covered almost half the film’s budget in tax credits. I wonder what Australia thought it was buying.