‘Gods of Egypt’
Director: Alex Proyas
Stars: Brenton Thwaites, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
2 (out of 5) Globes
Today’s blockbusters tend to be inspired by old genre trash. “Star Wars” is indebted to “Flash Gordon” serials, Westerns and samurai films. “Gods of Egypt,” by contrast, looks and feels like an old Golan-Globus craptacular, particular the ’80s Italian “Hercules” movies starring Lou Ferrigno. It’s a silly — and, for the most part, pretention-free — eyesore in which the deities are played by beefcakes who can turn into robot birds and flying dogs, a bald Geoffrey Rush battles a space worm with a staff that shoots lasers and, late in, Chadwick Boseman has his neon blue brain ripped out by the North African-by-way-of-Scotland Gerard Butler. It arrives in late February, a time for monster colds; it was made to watch while high on over-the-counter drugs.
The insanity is just barely held together by its story, which riffs on a classic of Egyptian myth. It tells of the battle between evil, power-mad, spittle-barking god Set (Butler, of course) and debauched deity Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). The former has seized the throne, stealing the latter’s magic eyes and casting him into exile. It’s up to a pretty boy mortal, Bek (Brenton Thwaites), to restore Horus’ sight and help him save Egypt and the world from a dangerous megalomaniac who doesn’t care if the world burns, so long as he reigns over it. (No nudge-nudge necessary, one presumes.)
Credit where credit’s due: Bek isn’t a standard “chosen one” who belatedly realizes he has secret superpowers. Unlike the kid in “Pan” or Rey in “The Force Awakens,” he stays human throughout — just a rando who’s lucky he doesn’t die every other scene. What charm “Gods of Egypt” has is that it’s its own crazy thing, as though it was funded by some deranged billionaire with a thing for Egyptian lore. It has bits of other modern spectacles: the monsters are copy-and-pasted from “Clash of the Titans,” while the gods stand several feet taller than the wee mortals, just like “Lord of the Rings” (or, less charitably, “Battlefield Earth”). But it’s content to follow its own freak flag, regularly bombarding our heroes with toothy sand snakes, booby-trapped pyramids and even a brief detour into outer space.
That this is watchable at all is cause for celebration. Details are always fuzzy, and this is the kind of movie where rules are made on the fly and powers are busted out when the screenwriters hit a wall, which is often. But the story more or less makes sense (more or less). To damn with less faint praise, director Alex Proyas (“The Crow,” “Dark City”) has a knack for visualizing imaginative realms. Here he conjures up a magisterial underworld and an Egypt of bright colors, even if the cast counts a nere one black actor. This busy boondoggle even has a sense of humor, which isn’t to say it’s funny; Thwaites’ Bek is saddled with so many groan-inducing one-liners you almost wish he’d been written as a standard-issue bland everydude. This all might make “Gods of Egypt” sound like a blast, but it’s too cramped and muddled and eventually monotonous to achieve true bad movie transcendence. In other words, it’s no “Jupiter Ascending.”