GODS OF EGYPT: When Silliness Works

For some movies, quality can mean several different, even conflicting, things. Gods of Egypt is a perfect example of this paradox; stunningly rendered on a technical level, flatly predictable on a story level, yet undeniably entertaining as a viewing experience. This film doesn’t have much on its mind beyond telling the story of two gods battling for the throne of Egypt, but director Alex Proyas brings a truly distinct vision to the proceedings, loading the familiar story with a terrific barrage of utter ridiculousness that elevates the film beyond its cookie-cutter script.

Gods of Egypt is set in an exaggerated version of ancient Egypt where the god Osiris (Bryan Brown) rules over a kingdom of humans, one of whom is Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a quick-witted thief. Bek is introduced stealing a dress for Zaya (Courtney Eaton, continuing the long tradition of love interests with more cleavage than personality) to wear to the royal coronation of Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Osiris’ son. However, just before Horus can take the throne, his uncle Set (Gerard Butler) derails the proceedings with a violent show of power. With Horus in exile and Set ruling the kingdom, Bek decides to spur the wounded god into reclaiming his throne.

There aren’t many surprises in Gods of Egypt’s narrative, which ambles agreeably from one action sequence to the next before ending exactly how you’d expect. The true delight of the film lies not in its narrative, but in the audacious silliness that infests every single scene. This is a film where the gods bleed gold and stand twice as tall as the humans they rule; a film where battles are escalated by the magical appearance of armored body suits with golden wings; a film where, in a crisis of confidence, Horus prays to the sun god Ra (Geoffrey Rush, totally in on the joke) and is summoned to his floating vessel in outer space. Yes, that’s right – outer space. Gods of Egypt is bursting at the seams with outlandish, memorable moments, and this otherworldly version of Egypt is lovingly rendered by Alex Proyas, who never lets any of the film’s many preposterous indulgences derail the proceedings.

The special features on Gods of Egypt’s Blu-ray release reveal that the film is made up almost entirely of digital effects, a combination of detailed storyboarding and green-screen photography. That artificiality extends to the performances, which are rigid in a way that works with the campiness on display. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau makes for a gallant but unremarkable epic hero, while Gerard Butler gleefully hams it up as the villainous Set. Brenton Thwaites is a decent sidekick, but shows only slivers of personality, and Elodie Young is allowed some graceful moments and hints of soul as Hathor, Horus’ love interest. The best performances are also the most exaggerated, with Chadwick Boseman standing out as Thoth, the arrogant god of wisdom, while Geoffrey Rush’s performance is amplified by the fact that his character is inexplicably on fire for half of his dialogue.

The patently ridiculous Gods of Egypt takes place in a world that in no way resembles our own. In interviews, the actors refer to the film’s setting as Planet Egypt, an apt representation of the batshit insanity Alex Proyas brings to the table. It would be easy to lament that Gods of Egypt’s 140 million dollar budget could have funded 10 superior indie flicks, but it’s hard not to admire the fact that something this ludicrous (and ludicrously expensive) exists, despite no real intended audience or reason for being. And yet, despite all of these marks against it, Gods of Egypt wills itself into being watchable through sheer force of personality, displaying a determination and confidence that’s impossible to hate – but definitely not impossible to enjoy, especially after a few beers.

Gods of Egypt is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD.

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the author

Alex Williams is an avid film watcher and four-year veteran of film criticism. He's contributed to The Daily Texan and DFW.com, and loves BBQ and geeking out over Lost. He currently resides in Los Angeles, but lives by two simple words: "Texas forever." Twitter: @AlexWilliamsdt