I recently read an article that outlined some of the problems involving “whitewashing” in film (as if the author thought it was some new phenomenon) and then basically said that it was the main reason that the new Alex Proyas film “Gods of Egypt” wasn’t worth anyone’s time. I’ve never been one to blindly accept these liberal points of view without some balance in my opinion. Whitewashing is a thing that happens in Hollywood. Sure it is. No doubt. Like Chris Rock said at the Oscars, “Hollywood is kinda racist” but he also questioned why we’re more concerned with this than we are with far more important things involving race and inequality in society. I do agree with the author regarding his opinion on “Gods of Egypt” though. Not because there are white actors playing Egyptians. No, I just agree that it sucked. Alex Proyas lashed out in response that modern critics always look to the consensus when “forming” their opinion. He made a point but here is one modern critic saying, “Sorry, Alex. Your movie still sucks.”
The film’s story involves the ceremony to crown a new king of Egypt with the kind but ignorant Horus being the frontrunner. During the ceremony, the vengeful god, Set (Gerard Butler) decides to wreak havoc and claim the crown as his own after killing the previous king, Osiris. He also rips out Horace’s all-powerful eyes and causes him to go into hiding. Horus meets up with a young mortal, they team together to stop Set and a bunch of big green-screen and CGI stuff happens.
The first thing I should mention is the acting because most of it is interesting in a way. Here’s why: everyone in the film looks like they’d rather be somewhere else. I got the same vibe from films like The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones where everyone just looked and seemed so lifeless but that was mostly due to George Lucas’ mediocre attempts at directing actors. Alex Proyas is usually so good at this based on films like Dark City and The Crow, both of which had great performances by Keifer Sutherland and Brandon Lee, respectively. Everyone gets one “studio misfire” though and I’ll count this as Alex’s big blunder. Nicolas Coster-Waldau (Horus) and Brenton Thwaites (Bek) are fine as the leads but there’s no spark or chemistry between them and their performances just feel dull and lifeless as a result. On the contrary, Gerard Butler fares a bit better but is basically left to playing an evil version of Leonidas from 300. He at least puts more effort into the performance than his fellow castmembers but he still looked miserable half the time. Hell, the guy won’t even mention the film on the talk show circuit! The less said about Geoffrey Rush and Chadwick Boseman’s appearances, the better. Both actors are under-utilized and play their roles in a very broad and over-the-top manner. Boseman is a particularly upsetting case after his amazing take on James Brown last year.
One of the main things stopping this film from being good is the use of too much CGI. Look, there are movies where a ton of CGI works and it can create beautiful worlds which almost become a character in its own way like the Lord of the Rings movies, Star Wars, etc. However, the special effects are so vapid and wasteful here. You can almost picture these poor actors being in front of a green-screen with literally nothing to guide them except for styrofoam balls on a string and a director screaming plot points in their general direction. The CGI isn’t uniformly terrible but it just becomes overused far too much with the background, characters and effects and it just makes it all seem as if nothing is really happening because pretty much everything on-screen is fabricated. That’s not the only thing hindering the film though because the script is also very weak too. A character dies? Don’t worry. We have some long-winded way of bringing them back. But what about that other character that died? Well, we’ll have a scripted reason why we can’t bring them back because… reasons? The dialogue is flat and seems to exist just to move along plot points.
Overall, it’s a decent-looking but ultimately unfulfilling experience at the movies that runs way too long and is full of bad writing, unmotivated performances and ridiculous CGI. Take a pass on this one.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)