Remember those movies based on Greek legends like "Immortals" or "Clash of the Titans"? Action-heavy, glossy, with sort of a sheen?
Well, Alex Proyas - yes, the guy who gave us "The Crow" - apparently decided that that Egyptian myths were ripe for movie adaptation, and thus gave us the gold-plated sandy abomination known as "Gods of Egypt." Aside from the distracting whitewashing of much of the cast, the movie feels a lot like the cut-scenes of a very cinematic video game, but with less appealing characters... and when your depiction of ancient Egypt is less faithful than that of "Yu-Gi-Oh," you have a problem.
The movie takes place in an ancient Egypt where the gods - who look just like humans except that they're giants - rule the commonfolk as kings. But things go awry when the evil god Set (Gerard Butler) interrupts the coronation of Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to kill his brother Osiris (Bryan Brown) and tear out Horus' eyes, which give him his divine power (including the ability to turn into a golden hawk-man). Soon everybody in Egypt is enslaved by Set, including a young thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and his girlfriend Zaya (Courtney Eaton).
The only one who can stop Set is the exiled Horus, so a young thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) steals back one of his lost eyes. However, his girlfriend is killed during their getaway, so Bek makes a deal with Horus: her life in exchange for the eye and information about Set's pyramid. After a quick trip to Ra's snake-fighting spaceship (yes, really), the odd couple must go up against the deadly traps and creatures that Set has arrayed against them - and Set himself is about to get a lot more divinely powerful. Also, Apophis.
"Gods of Egypt" really does feel like one of those cut-scenes "movies" that people make out of video game footage on Youtube, where most (but not all) of the game-play has been cut out for time. In fact, the entire film is more or less structured like a video game, and so are many of the challenges that the main characters face, such as any monsters that they are confronted by or any elaborate "levels" they must pass. Throw in some Easter eggs and multiple endings, and guess what you get.
And that is one of "Gods of Egypt's" biggest sins: it's just not very interesting on its own, without levels or puzzles to unravel. You get the feeling that Proyas has some genuine passion for Egyptian myth and the fantasy world he's created, but it never sweeps the audience away the same way. Instead you feel like you're watching a paint-by-numbers adventure movie without much identity of its own, only some canned moral messages about how mortals are wonderful, MacGuffins galore, too-frequent bloated action scenes and a pair of love interests so uninteresting that they're nearly transparent.
It also suffers from a pedestrian script that struggles to be something unique ("I don't know if I'm strong enough." "Then become stronger."), and has some real clunkers that made me wince ("I'm the goddess of love! If I don't do this, I am nothing!"). Also, Proyas had an interesting idea with the solar spaceship, but it didn't quite work.
Plenty has been said about the whitewashing in this movie, so I'll simply say that most of the main cast are far too pale to be credible Egyptian anythings. Coster-Waldau, to his credit, does seem to be trying really, really hard as Horus, but the character is so loaded with cliches that the actor is practically crushed by them. Thwaites tries to play Bek as a roguish lovable thief like Disney's Aladdin, but has neither the charm nor the intelligence to pull it off or make us like him.
Butler is absolutely hilarious, though. He seems to be saving all his caring for the next "How To Train Your Dragon" movie, so he has none left for this one. He wanders through the movie with his Scottishness hanging out like a sporran, as if he couldn't be bothered to pretend; if he visibly cared less, he would be wearing a fuzzy bathrobe and a pair of slippers.
While Proyas' passion is evident, "Gods of Egypt" feels like the Egyptian love child of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Clash of the Titans," but without the charisma of either. Not stiflingly bad, just tedious and vaguely saddening.