May 3, 2016 Gods of Egypt (Movie Review)
Legendary Director Georges Melies pioneered the Fantasy film with 1902’s A Trip to the Moon, inspired by the Jules Verne’s novel, From the Earth to the Moon, to look beyond our earthly realm. To achieve the special effects, Melies used a technique called substitution splicing to show instant movement and characters appearing and disappearing instantly. One hundred fourteen years later, technology has progressed, still utilizing Melies techniques, but also practical effects and the advent of computer-generated imagery, often called simply CGI. With that said, on February 26, 2016, the Australian/American Action Fantasy film entitled Gods of Egypt proves just how far film effects in general have come. Directed and co-written by Alex Proyas (The Crow 1994, I, Robot 2004) and Basil Iwanyk (Clash of the Titans 2010, John Wick 2014) from a script co-written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold 2014, The Last Witch Hunter 2015), the film distributed by Lionsgate subsidiary Summit Entertainment came with a massive marketing campaign, as well as high exceptions. A typical forecast for modern Action style Fantasy films, does Gods of Egypt sink or float?
The Egyptian god Set (Gerard Butler: Dracula 2000 2000, The Phantom of the Opera 2004) murders his brother, King Osiris (Bryan Brown: Cocktail 1988, Full Body Massage 1995), to take the throne. Thereafter, a mortal thief, named Bek (Brenton Thwaites: Maleficent 2014); who witnessed the assassination, and true heir to the throne, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: Nightwatch 1994, Mama 2013); who was left for dead when he tried to avenge his father, set out to destroy Set to bring peace back to the world of the gods and bring back Bek’s girlfriend, Zaya (Courtney Eaton: Mad Max: Fury Road 2015); whom jealous Set killed, from the Land of the Dead.
When Proyas set out to make Gods of Egypt, which was based on the Egyptian story “The Contendings of Horus and Set;” where the gods Set and Horus battled for the rule of Egypt, he wanted to go big in the vein of classics such as The Guns of Navarone (1961), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and even Sergio Leone’s Western films. While not as deep as the mentioned films, Gods of Egypt has adventure with the requisite themes of vengeance and love, right and wrong, good and bad, with the visual look of a graphic novel within the constraints of a PG-13 rating.
Butler’s turn as the power-hungry Set is something to behold as he truly lets the role envelope him, while Waldau’s Horus is his polar opposite, wanting peace for his land as his father had. Then, Thwaites’ Bek just wants the simple life with his love. These characters are handled competently and with an air of old school adventure fun…with a wink at the audience. Legendary actor Geoffrey Rush (House on Haunted Hill 1999, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) appears as Ra, the Sun god.
Shot on location in Australia using the new Panavision’s Primo 70 series of lenses, with the lure of tax incentives reported to cover 46% of the estimated $140 million budget, the film combines layovers for sets, forced perspective for size differentiation between the gods and mortals, motion capturing for Kenneth Ransom’s (Forever Young 1992, Crocodile Dundee Lost in Los Angeles 2001) Sphinx, and multiple shots of Chadwick Boseman (42 2013, Captain America: Civil War 2016) in his turn as Thoth; who can replicate himself.
In addition, Marco Beltrami’s (Scream franchise, No Escape 2015) score has that Egyptian adventure vibe that made the inspired films of yore such a thrill instead of throwing in Rock songs that have no business in a period piece, unless it is, say, 2001’s Moulin Rouge. Yes, the soundtrack is variations on what viewers have heard before, but the score will sweep the viewer away. Like such films as 1981’s Clash of the Titans and 1985’s Legend, there is a healthy dose of corn while the adventure and action is always present and engaging…even if the setup for said adventure has been done before. It is within the actors and actresses that the plot lives.
Despite many critics’ negative reviews, Gods of Egypt, though not as high as the standards of the classics that inspired it, is wholly a fun, fantastical bit of escapism. With that said, it is sure to get teens’ juices going and let the kid in parents come out to play, thus making the film a worthy watch for those not expecting to be blown away with more in-depth substance. CrypticRock gives Gods of Egypt 4.5 out of 5stars.