Friday, February 26, 2016

Macho Cheese: “Gods of Egypt” overblown silliness that gives one nothing to care about


Gods of Egypt (2016)
127 min., rated PG-13.

“Silly” and “over-the-top” are often unfairly equated with “terrible,” but in this case, “Gods of Egypt” is actually all of the above. There is always room for another enjoyably hokey sword-and-sandals spectacle, and for further proof that it must be an art to get right this particular genre picture, look no further. Gloriously cheesy but hardly worth the viewer’s cares, this vacuous Hollywood schlock is all post-production processing and shiny CG fakery, costing $140 million to make but somehow saddled with the cheapest-looking special effects. “Gods of Egypt” may be silly and overblown, but the real deal-breaker is that it becomes more mind-numbing and bloated than fun or awesomely bad, or else there might be an iota of a reason to recommend it. Even the controversial (and yet not uncommon) casting of white actors as Egyptians is really the least of its problems.

In Ancient Egypt, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the God of the Air, is about to be crowned king by his father, Osiris (Bryan Brown). Set (Gerard Butler), Osiris’ brother, crashes the coronation, killing Osiris and blinding Horus. He plans to hinder the powers of every god and claim Egypt for himself. Standing in Set’s way is mortal thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who manages to retrieve one of Horus’ eyes guarded in Set’s boobytrapped temple and set free Horus himself. As the two go on adventures, it all falls on Horus to not only end the God of Darkness' reign but to save Bek’s beloved Zaya (Courtney Eaton) from the afterlife. 

Inspired by Egyptian mythology without clinging to any historical accuracy, “Gods of Egypt” finds once-visionary director Alex Proyas (such a long way from “The Crow” and “Dark City”) and screenwriters Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless (“The Last Witch Hunter”) screwing the pooch. There are specks of equal visual imagination and dopey amusement that can be stumbled upon: the muscle-bulging Set steers an airborne chariot drawn by oversized beetles; Horus and Set transform into metallic robots when they fight; and it's a glossed-over detail that gods bleed gold. Also, if there is anything halfway-memorable or close to raising a pulse, it is a single set-piece involving two hissing, fire-breathing serpents chasing down Horus and Bek. Otherwise, how many of the laughs are actually intended is left for audiences to decide, as the rest is just a crap heap. The characters are undercooked archetypes. The storytelling isn’t very engaging and made worse by a cop-out conclusion that nullifies its mythological rules. The pacing is uneven, constantly lagging in momentum. The sword fights are choreographed in dime-a-dozen fashion and fall back on speed ramping. The welcome passes at one-liners are, alas, corny and lame. 

Due more to the writing and direction than his talent, the facially angelic Brenton Thwaites is a boring blank as Bek, the human hero of the piece. As Horus and Set—mind you, they are supposed to be nephew and uncle—a dull Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is rendered hilariously oversized in relation to mortals, while Gerard Butler looks good in his kilt and chews up the greenscreened scenery as much as possible. As it goes with most big-budget fantasy-adventure tentpoles that usually have at least one Oscar-winning veteran actor of caliber, this one has Geoffrey Rush as sun god Ra, spending most of his screen time bursting into flames with a French braid mohawk. Courtney Eaton and Elodie Yung, the only actresses on hand with more than a few lines, mostly show their cleavage as the doe-eyed Zaya and Hathor, the Goddess of Love, Set’s current mistress and Horus’ former flame. Lastly, as Thoth the God of Wisdom who’s so wise that he gets cloned, Chadwick Boseman striking effeminate poses in a shimmering gold-and-green gown lends a smidgen of camp value.

Initially verging on diverting mediocrity with B-movie charm but rapidly going downhill as a forgettable, interminable chore, “Gods of Egypt” finally results in 127 minutes of suspense-free indifference. Whether seen in 2-D or 3-D, the film will still remain empty and soulless when there is nothing to care about, get terribly excited about, or even remember. One final question remains: was anyone involved in the making of “Gods of Egypt” actually passionate about bringing this project to fruition? If so, everything of interest was left on the cutting-room floor.

Grade: D +

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