Synopsis: Mortal hero Bek teams with the god Horus in an alliance against Set, the merciless god of darkness, who has usurped Egypt’s throne, plunging the once peaceful and prosperous empire into chaos and conflict. (From IMDb)
Review: Times are tough in ye olde Scotland, so I shalt shed my kilt and remake myself as an Egyptian god with a lilting Highland accent. Yes, because everyone knows that the ancient Egyptians pictured all of their mythic deities as strapping Anglo-Saxon warriors with flowing locks and piercing blue eyes. The filmmakers really hit this casting out of the park. Not that the actors are terrible, this is actually a strong cast. However, there is little effort to uphold historical accuracy and the actors have no chemistry together; which is the death knell to any film. In this soaring CGI addicted epic, Horus must take on his evil uncle Set in a battle for the very soul of Egypt. Who shall prevail, the honorable Horus who believes in good works salvation or Set who believes salvation belongs only to the wealthy? Enter in a plucky down-on-his-luck Egyptian thief, played by an Australian, and a narrative of epic proportions is born. What could possibly go wrong?
I have always been fascinated by Egyptian mythology. At one point my mother was convinced that I would become an Egyptologist; that was before I learned there was no money in that line of work. As with most myths, Egyptian myths would make excellent films about good versus evil, no modern meddling required. After all, before movies, people were entertained by oral stories. Surely these narratives must have been compelling to withstand the test of time and still exist today. Yet Hollywood has yet to make a decent, straight up adaptation of any of the actual myths. Something must always be changed in order to make it more artistic to pleasing for modern audiences. In the original story, Horus and Set must battle each other in a series of competitions. After these fails, they plead their individual cases to the deities of the Ennead, which is ironic considering Set was a member. Regardless, Horus ends up winning the throne.
In Alex Proyas’ version of the story, 10-foot-tall Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is the freewheeling and women loving heir to the Egyptian throne who gets his eyes plucked out by his uncle, Set (Gerard Butler) on the day of his coronation. Time passes and Set has Egypt in an ironclad fist of evil intentions. Joining forces with an idealistic thief, Horus must solve a series of compounding puzzles to rescue all of creation from eminent destruction; essentially the apocalypse, Egyptian style. The majority of the action packed narrative involves giant monster chases, booby traps, and temples that conveniently crumble at the last minute. Behold the gladiator sandal edition of the classic space opera genre.
Bek, the idealistic thief, does not worship gods of any kind. He is just the run-of-the-mill character who adopts religion when it is most suited to his needs. He only awakens grumpy Horus because his girlfriend, Zaya, is dead. She always believed in Horus and his divine purpose of ruling over a peaceful Egypt. A heartbroken Bek is determined to bring Zaya back from the afterlife. Especially since she died a slave and cannot afford the price to enter paradise. Keep in mind that Set is charging an admittance fee for salvation. All beggars can go to hell. The unlikely partnership between a human and a 10-foot deity leads to most of the comic relief in the film. Also, watching an out of practice Horus try to flirt with Hathor, the goddess of love, is quite amusing. And Toth, the god of knowledge, is a pleasant diversion.
The main problem with the film, other than the horrible affected accents, is a lack of staging. Proyas clearly did not know what type of movie he wanted to make. A standard fantasy epic? Or a buddy cop movie featuring a thief and an ancient mythical deity? Regardless, the film was clearly meant to be the set up to a trilogy of some sort; which I doubt will ever materialize. Everything was just slightly off. The script was atrocious; the narrative only began to hit its stride towards the end. All of the actors playing gods were made taller using forced perspective. But it was not as well done as it was in The Lord of the Rings. And there was too much time spent on Bek’s backstory and not enough on Set and Horus. I think the deadly competition between Horus and Set is a more compelling storyline than the plights of Bek and Zaya. I mean if Hollywood is going to make a movie about the gods of Egypt, then the narrative should be about them. Also, Geoffrey Rush was incredibly underused as the sun god Ra. I am pretty sure he did not even try; talk about a phoned in appearance.
However, there were some really cool aspects to the movie. Ra can grow bigger or smaller at will. A 20- foot tall Geoffrey Rush is a terrifying site to behold. The snake tongued assassins riding on fire-breathing dragon sized cobras were an interesting addition. All the gods bleed gold when cut. However, it is hard to observe this detail sometimes since all the gods happen to wear gold plated armor when doing battle. Though Horus spends most of the movie dressed in a glorified loincloth for no discernable reason. Chariots are pulled by giant flying scarab beetles. Elegant sedan chairs are hoisted by a flock of thousands of exotic birds. Whenever the gods are fighting, they inexplicably transform into metal plated anthropomorphized animal versions of themselves. Technically Horus is an anthropomorphized falcon, most likely a Peregrine, and Set was a Typhonian animal, the closest modern relative is the Jackal.
Overall, the film is perfect for late night viewing. I saw it at 10PM with two of my brothers over spring break. While it is incredibly kitschy, I will still probably buy it for the occasional viewing pleasure. I am still holding out hope for a straight up adaptation of either Greek or Egyptian mythology. After all, Gods of Egypt did come from the same Hollywood that graced the masses with Clash of the Titans, Immortals, Wrath of the Titans, Hercules, The Legend of Hercules, Disney’s Hercules, Percy Jackson & The Olympians, and so forth. Marvel’s Thor is probably comes the closest to honoring the original mythos, and it is based on a comic book that is loosely based on the mythology.
Musings on Books and movies
Musings on Books and movies