Forgive me if I have a “The Ten Commandments” flashback for a moment. The 1956 film (the last directed by the legendary Cecil B. DeMille) was one the the ultimate Biblical treatments to take place in Egypt. With Academy Award winners Charlton Heston (“Ben-Hur”) and Yul Brynner (“The King and I”), plus actors who should never be in movies like this: Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson, among others, the movie was nominated in several categories, including Best Picture, but has since become almost a caricature of the genre.
Still, it’s light years better than the newest offering with action taking place in this nation, the unimaginatively-titled Gods Of Egypt, directed by Alex Proyas (“Knowing,” “I, Robot”) that features god/prince Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Oblivion,” “Game Of Thrones” TV series) and his Uncle Set (Gerard Butler, “Olympus Has Fallen”), battling to earn Osiris’ (Bryan Brown, “Kill Me Three Times,” but probably better known as the philosophical bartender in Tom Cruise’s “Cocktail”) crown. All of this brought to life (somewhat) by the writing duo of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless.
If this seems like “Thor,” so far, there’s more. It’s based on the myth of Horus and Set, with the kindly father choosing his drunken womanizing former over the brutal despotic latter. What’s a dad or brother to do in this situation? Sensing his pop’s hesitation, Set steals the crown — and his brother’s eyes while he’s at it (what he does to Osiris is a bit worse) — and begins his iron rule of terror. Meanwhile, we are introduced to the human heroes, Bek (Brenton Thwaites, “Maleficent”) and his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton, “Mad Max: Fury Road”), the former of which goes on a weird journey to retrieve Horus’ eyeballs (which, of course will give Set ultimate power — for some insane reason).
To make a long plotline somewhat more intelligible, Bek brings back just one eye while the rest of the computer-generated effects go on an epic trek to find the other bloody orb. On paper or in a meeting room, this all may seem really nifty, but when it appears onscreen, only those who have never seen a movie like this will believe it’s worth the price of admission.
Filmed so much in “300-Vision,” Zack Snyder should be given some kind of credit, with a mish-mash of computer graphics that do not so much impress, but rather overwhelm and annoy, with giant robotic gods that dwell on Earth and fight each other like deranged Transformers. Some have compared some scenes in this film to “Ultraman,” the cheap 1960s Japanese TV series that ushered in the heyday of the costumed robotic superheroes, but this author was more irritated by the whole enterprise, having been reminded of so many better efforts which this seemed to steal from (“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Beowulf & Grendel,” “Clash Of the Titans” — original 1981 version — among others).
It appears as if a lot of hard work and thought went into the concept of Gods Of Egypt, it’s just a shame that the final product reflected very little of that. Loud and mostly headache-inducing, empty flash over substance has never been a truer axiom.
On the other side of the process, the term, “Don’t act, don’t tell” is more than appropriate. Brown, the veteran who began his career in 1977 and starred in the terrific “Breaker Morant,” isn’t around long enough to judge, and everyone else just simmers in mediocrity (especially Thwaites and Eaton, who is coming off appearing in a Best Picture nominee, although you certainly could not tell). And the picture’s biggest star, Butler, continues to communicate in guttural, harsh-sounding grunts, which he initiated in “300” and perfected in every film he’s been in since.
If one has already seen “Deadpool” several times or “The Witch” or almost anything else at the box office, Gods Of Egypt may hold you over until “Zootopia,” but don’t expect to remember or even care much after walking out of the theater. May the gods be with you in this sojourn, friends.