Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Gods of Egypt" (2016)

Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites and Gerard Butler
Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless
Directed by Alex Proyas
Rated PG-13 — Violence
Running Time: 127 Minutes

In a world where the Egyptian gods live among man, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is about to be crowned king as successor to his father, Osiris (Bryan Brown). But during the coronation ceremony, Osiris' brother Set (Gerard Butler) arrives with an army, kills Osiris and claims the throne for himself. He steals Horus' eyes and begins a campaign to conquer any of the other gods who oppose his rule.

A year later, Set has conquered the entire world of man, leaving only the skies above and the afterlife. A young mortal thief, Bek (Brenton Thwaites), is convinced by his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton) to break into Set's vault to steal back Horus' eyes so Horus can lead an uprising and free the people. Unfortunately, Zaya's plan is discovered by her slave master, Urshu (Rufus Sewell) the architect from whom she steals the plans.

Zaya is killed while she and Bek escape Urshu, so when Bek tracks down Horus he makes a deal with the fallen god to get Zaya back from the afterlife in exchange for Horus' eye. Now, Horus and Bek have only a couple days to defeat Set before Zaya's soul is lost forever.

...or something.

This movie is awful. Let's just be clear on that right from the start.

With that in mind, let's also be clear that this is also why "Gods of Egypt" is amazing. This is the kind of movie that you go into knowing and hoping for it to be nothing but a $150 million dumpster fire. And guess what: it is.

This movie is 120 minutes of actors looking lost, confused and bored, attempting to play out a script that is somehow both nonsensical and over-explained, all surrounded by truckloads of bad special effects.

Every scene in which Geoffrey Rush appears as Ra, for example. Ra circles the Earth (which is flat, ps) on some kind of space-boat (not a space ship... it's a boat, that sails through space but also... some... kind of glowing water? I don't know) towing the sun with a gigantic chain. Every night, he fights off the demon Apophis (which is a giant CGI worm made up of teeth and clouds and is the only genuinely awesome thing in this entire movie). Rush in some shots is on fire, one of his powers, I suppose, but it's obviously all done with CGI, and Rush looks very confused the entire time — as though he's thinking to himself, "Am I supposed to be on fire right now?"

In a film loaded with terrible performances, the absolute hands-down worst however is Chadwick Boseman as Thoth, the god of wisdom. I'm really not sure what he was going for here, but "good" is not it. Absolutely every line he delivers is somehow both wooden and overwrought. It's painful and hilarious at the same time.

Which is pretty much this movie in a nutshell.

In one particularly bad scene, Courtney Eaton's Zaya has made it to the gates of the afterlife, where Set has decreed the dead must buy their way into heaven. Unfortunately, Zaya has nothing since she's a poor slave. There are two people in front of her: an old man loaded with gold trinkets and an old woman equally as penniless as Zaya. The old man gives up his offering, walks forward to the gate and suddenly screams "I'M GOING TO LIVE FOR-EV-ERRRRRRRRR" for no reason that I can imagine. Then the old woman walks forward, has nothing to offer, and is immediately and painfully torn to shreds for her trouble. The whole thing is so ineptly portrayed that it becomes hilarious.

Much was made of the cast's racial makeup, and basically, it's kind of hilarious how black people are just set dressing here. The filmmakers used the film's fantasy setting (it's clearly not the actual Egypt, or even the real planet Earth) but that is sort of a flimsy excuse because if it is a fantasy setting then it makes even more sense for the diversity of the background characters to reflect the diversity of the main speaking cast. Boseman is the only person of color who has more than one line, and he flubs the whole thing. Half-Cambodian Elodie Yung plays Hathor, the goddess of love, and fares much better than Boseman in every respect — Except for the fact that her eyelines don't match up in scenes when she's speaking to Bek, since the gods in this movie look exactly like humans but are something like 10 feet tall, so they were digitally enlarged.

The special effects are just as bad as the acting and the script. In one scene, Horus fights off Set's hunters atop a waterfall. I'm not sure exactly what was supposed to be happening here but the camera spins around like bullet-time from "The Matrix" and every other action movie in the late 90s/early 2000s, except sometimes the action is still happening at full-speed. It's confusing, but also looks fucking terrible even when you can tell what's going on. None of the other action sequences in the movie use this technique, which is even more baffling.

The film's climax is an exercise in WTFery, as Horus, Bek and Set battle atop a huge obelisk while Apophis literally eats Egypt. The top of an obelisk, as you might expect, is a pyramid. At more than one occasion, Set fails to do the one thing that would ensure his victory: throw Horus and Bek over the side. In fact, at one point, he has Bek in his hands and they're standing on the edge and Set turns and throws Bek to safety then attacks again! The film contrives a situation in which Horus must make a moral choice, except it's so contrived that it's completely stupid and he would have been able to complete his task if he'd actually made the opposite choice than the one he does. Instead, the film decides to throw out its own rules at this point (not that any of it made any sense to begin with) and reward him for his own stupidity.

Y'know, I feel bad for Alex Proyas. I didn't care much for "The Crow," but "Dark City" was great and even "I, Robot" is underrated. But he always felt like he should be making better movies. In the past, he's had a good eye for images and while there is some good imagery hidden in the wasteland of terrible that is "Gods of Egypt," this is easily his worst and worst-looking film. I bet at some point during pre-production, people were looking at all the artwork and designs and thinking that this looks pretty fucking cool.

Unfortunately, that's probably the last time anybody thought "Gods of Egypt" was going to be anything more than a hot flaming piece of shit.