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When the Egyptian god Set feels that he has been denied his rightful place in the pantheon of gods, he rebels and claims the whole of Egypt for himself. Horus attempts to stop him only to have his eyes gouged out. Against this background, and beneath the notice of the gods, two young humans fall in love. When Bek's partner is slain his only chance of retrieving her, from the land of the dead, is to find and rescue Horus so that he may free the land from Set’s evil influence and save his dead beloved…
Gods of Egypt (2016. 2 hrs 01 min 52 sec) is a fantasy film directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998), I, Robot (2004) and Knowing (2009)). So the man has some good genre chops even if the results can be somewhat variable.
I’m at a bit of a loss to say who would be attracted to this movie. It is not without its named actors, Gerard Butler continues to channel his inner Leonidas to the point I kept expecting him to exclaim that "This is Sparta". Game of Thrones has been kind to its major players with them popping up in X-Men films and Star Wars (kinda), so it’s no surprise that one of the draws is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones's Jamie Lannister) playing Horus. To keep the film grounded a lot of the stories focus is on Bek (Brenton Thwaites) as he tries to retrieve his lost love.
Along the way we are also introduced to Hathor (Elodie Yung), Ra (Geoffrey Rush), Isis (Rachael Blake) and Osiris (Bryan Brown), presented as a slightly dysfunctional family, there was even a moment in which I felt some sympathy with Set as he discovers his banishment to the underworld was a test. Mostly the first half of the film plays out the sibling rivalry between Horus, the god who has everything, and his uncle Set, who has apparently drawn the short straw and is not going to accept his fate.
Let’s be straight this is an unapologetic adventure film which does not pretend to be doing anything apart from entertaining its audience. It is neither deep nor does it warrant a rewatch. It takes the mythology of Egypt and turns it into a family feud soap opera. That is not to say that the film is either unenjoyable or without its spectacle, but there is a certain lack of heart at the centre of the film.
The two entwined storylines work well together and never feel forced. The actors give their all; it’s probably worth the price just to see Geoffrey Rush’s slightly bonkers Ra. The story is a journey of redemption for both of the characters with Horus beginning the film as vain glorious, only interested in the trappings of his station, so you can see why Set gets the hump. By the end of the film Bek has learned to trust in the gods and for Horus’s part he has learned that value comes from good deeds and not wealth. It’s a bit banal as a philosophy but fits the film well.
The film also does well for action and pace, it hurtles along and you quite forget that this clocks in at over two hours in length. Of course, none of this would matter if the CGI effects were of a poor standard. In fact the CGI works well in depicting a fictitious Egypt. One of the subtler effects was to make all the gods approximately a third bigger than their human counterparts. This works so well that you forget you are looking at a special effect.
The DVD comes with only a couple of short extras, The Battle for Eternity: Stunts (11 min, 10 sec) looks at how pre-vis allowed the action shots to be choreographed. A Window into another World: Visual Effects (10 min, 32 sec) which covers the effect pretty good.
One of the film's problems is that it has two main protagonists, we didn’t spend enough time with Bek and Zaya to care about her predicament, especially as she is shown very much corporeal on her journey to the afterlife, so we’re pretty sure she will never get there and the fact that Bek can talk to her removes much of the loss that should exist. Likewise Horus’s own vanity does not make him a very sympathetic character.
So, it looks great but the pace and CGI have the effect of removing much of the heart of the film.
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