Gods of Egypt
(M) Starring Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Hoping to be a valuable entry into the fantasy adventure club led by Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of the Rings, 300 and the like, this big-budget imagining of ancient shenanigans only provokes faint praise. When the best you can say about a $140-million 3D journey is “Um, well, it wasn’t the worse thing I’ve ever seen”, we all know that means Gods of Egypt is a lacklustre epic no-one needs to rush out to see. Actually, there is one other positive response stirred. When adding up all the on-screen mentions of earth, heaven, the afterlife, love, judgment and immortality, it can prompt any of us to investigate whether there’s a better explanation of existence out there.
Made at Fox Studios in Sydney, directed by Australian Alex Proyas (The Crow, I Robot) and featuring a procession of homegrown performers both veteran (Geoffrey Rush, Bryan Brown — as gods!) and newbies (Brenton Thwaites, Courtney Eaton — as mortals!), Gods of Egypt still does what it says in the title. There’s no throwing immortal shrimps on Down Under barbies. Instead, a whole bunch of gods hang out in ye olde Egypt, feuding and faffing in a cheesy remix of myth, historical record, and other faiths (including Christianity). While it can be tough to keep up with which god is which and what it is they want — let alone care about all that — the basic thrust is nasty-pasty Set (300‘s own Gerard Butler) takes the king’s crown by brutal force. This is at the expense of his optically gifted nephew Horus (Game of Thrones‘ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), whose banishment is eventually interrupted by a perky thief, Bek (Thwaites), seeking immortal assistance.
As god Horus and human Bek go about their journey to give Set what-for, our eyes are singed by 3D effects which, astonishingly, don’t cut mustard for a modern computer-generated “blockbuster”. If you can find your way passed the garish designs of characters, or the two-dimensional dagginess of the Egyptian backdrops, it’s unlikely that you’ll embrace the blurry action, expected obstacles that arise, and the scores of familiar elements that Gods of Egypt resurrects.
Be it Butler keeping his own Scottish accent or Rush shooting fireballs from some sort of celestial platform at a giant space worm, there is plenty in Gods of Egypt which inspires smirks, rather than high-fives. But like the “love conquers all” fuel that is powering the plot, the whole project is hard to loathe — even as it is easy to roll eyes at its corny ways.
If you stay awake, Gods of Egypt contains heaps and heaps of interesting imaginings about how our world might go together. Could our universe be the product of different gods tussling for ultimate control? If gods walked the earth alongside humans back in the day, could they do it again? If gods are so colossal and powerful, why is it that they still get into fist fights?
Two things stood out to me about the way humans and divine beings are presented in Gods of Egypt. The first thing is that the various lessons and “wisdom” shared by thief Bek with god Horus betrays how humans can yearn for the world to revolve around us. We believe our understanding and opinions should have an influence on what a god (or gods) do and think. No wonder that when some of us meet the God of the Bible, for example, we want to tell God how everything works (or should work). Despite all of us being imperfect, inconsistent and actually unable to comprehend everything about everything, we act like we can. As if it would be an injustice for God to not change his mind about something, simply because we disagree.
The second thing is a great observation made by a friend, after the Gods of Egypt preview. Throughout the movie, he and I had heard the gods and humans on-screen speaking of how to enter the afterlife. At one point, access only is granted for those who can pay their way. At another point, access to the afterlife comes at the price of being compassionate or doing the right thing, during life on earth. Which one is it? Depends on whose calling the shots. Evidently, then, in the universe of Gods of Egypt, access to the afterlife is fickle — an awful prospect for humans trying to get in.
But my mate reminded me of a simple, real truth that Gods of Egypt totally ignored. We can thank the one true God for sending Jesus, whose actions on The Cross (and afterwards) guarantee access to the afterlife. Guarantee. There’s no chopping and changing, as is presented in unsettling fashion by Gods of Egypt. Instead, the God of our real universe has locked in an entry point to the afterlife.
That’s something to investigate, more than why these fictional gods in ancient Egypt either have Australian or Scottish accents.
What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
- How many gods are there, really? (Genesis 1:1; Mark 12:29-34; Acts 17:22-31)
- Can humans tell God what to do? (Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 46:10-11; Romans 12:1-2)
- Is access to the afterlife going to change? (John 3:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15; Hebrews 10:1-18)