'Gods of Egypt': Film Review

Nothing to worship here.

An Egyptian god battles his vengeful uncle with the aid of a mortal in Alex Proyas' fantasy-adventure film.

Oh, dear. Arriving just days before the all-white Oscars is a fantasy-adventure film set in an ancient Egypt almost entirely populated, mortals and gods alike, by Caucasians, including Gerard Butler. After all, when you imagine an Egyptian god, the first thing you think of is a burly Scotsman.

But that's only one of the many problems of Summit's Gods of Egypt, a movie which seems inspired by a video game even though it wasn't. This overstuffed, witless and bloated stillborn $140 million epic is unlikely to spawn the studio's intended franchise — unless, as is so often the case, international audiences come to the box-office rescue.

Directed by Alex Proyas (coming a long way down from the likes of The Crow and Dark City), the film begins with a voiceover narrator attempting to explain what's going on. He needn't have bothered. It seems that the god Osiris (Bryan Brown, one of many Aussie thespians in the largely Sydney-shot film) is about to coronate his son Horus (Nikoaj Coster-Waldau) as the new king. The ceremony is interrupted by the arrival of Horus' uncle, Set (Butler), who comments, "It's a big day for the family," as if it was a bar mitzvah.

Intent on seizing the kingdom from his nephew, the big bad Set — actually all of the gods are big, looming several feet over the mortals as if they'd been shot up with scads of human growth hormone — promptly murders his brother and engages in a brutal battle with Horus.

"You fight well — are you sure you're his son?" taunts Set, in one of his many "Oh, snap" moments. Not long after, he settles the matter by ripping out Horus' eyes, which are transformed into glowing orbs.

Alternately, we're introduced to the supposedly charming young thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites, looking genetically designed to be a teenage girl's screensaver) and his beautiful girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton). She's the slave of Urshu (Rufus Sewell), Set's chief architect — because, hey, even gods need to outsource.

When Zaya is killed during Bek's attempt to rescue her, the grief-stricken young man proposes a deal with Horus, now depressed and drinking too much. If the god will bring Zaya back to life, Bek, who's retrieved one of his eyes from Set's vault, will help him reclaim his crown.

And thus begins an increasingly outlandish series of special effects-laden action sequences in which the pair battle such creatures as two giant serpents piloted by sexy female gods who, along with all of the other women in ancient Egypt, seem costumed by Victoria's Secret. Along the way they're joined by Hathor (a commanding Elodie Yung), the goddess of love, who has a knack for getting males of both the god and human variety to do what she wants.

Among the other gods making brief appearances are Anubis (Goran D. Kleut), the canine-headed god of death who escorts Zaya into the afterlife; Thoth (Chadwick Boseman, probably relieved to not be starring in a biopic), the god of wisdom, who seems awfully full of himself; and Ra, the sun god, whose duties include camping out on what looks like a giant spaceship and engaging in a nightly battle with a cosmic worm. The last character, frequently shown as being on fire, is played by Geoffrey Rush, whose career, judging by this, clearly isn't.

It's all as ridiculous as it sounds, and yet somehow Gods of Egypt doesn't even manage to be campy enough to be an entertaining guilty pleasure. Partly it's a result of the extensive CGI effects which, although elaborate and obviously expensive, still manage to look cheesy. Any five minutes of a Ray Harryhausen-designed stop-motion sequence is more magical than everything on display here.

Butler, his skin unfortunately darkened as if he was spending too much time at the tanning salon with John Boehner, seems to be going through the motions. Coster-Waldau fares better, although between this and Game of Thrones he must be wondering if he'll ever be allowed to wear pants.

By the time the seemingly endless pic lurches toward its final moments designed to set up a sequel, viewers will have long since concluded that the afterlife looks pretty good by comparison.

Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Production: Thunder Road Pictures, Mystery Clock Cinema
: Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Geoffrey Rush, Chadwick Boseman, Elodie Yung, Courtney Eaton
Director: Alex Proyas
Screenwriters: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Alex Proyas
Executive producers: Topher Dow, Stephen Jones, Kent Kubena
Director of photography: Peter Menzies Jr.
Production designer: Owen Paterson
Editor: Richard Learoyd
Costume designer: Liz Keogh
Composer: Marco Meltrami
Casting: Nikki Barrett, John Papsidera

Rated PG-13, 127 minutes