Words by: Jack Dawson
Gods of Egypt commits two major sins that will condemn it in the memories of movie-goers and critics for the remainder of its cinematic run. The first is that it whitewashes a film that is set in Egypt, which by this point is simply inexcusable. Second, it is boring. Oh the film is also badly written, badly paced, enabled with a bare minimum of effort on the part of everyone involved, and takes the colourful and bizarre intricacies of Egyptian Mythology and reduces them to boring clichés feels… sacrilegious. So let’s just dive right into the earliest, strong contender for ‘Worst of 2016′.
Way back when, and possibly in another dimension where white people colonized Egypt, the gods of creation decided to live alongside their beloved creations, despite being twice as tall and bleeding gold instead of blood. In time, Osiris became King of Egypt, and his brother Set was sent to live in the desert to rule over the scarabs and various brigands. In the fullness of time, Osiris passes his crown along to Horus, which is interrupted by Set finally acting on his deep-seated bitterness and stabbing his brother before plucking out Horus’ eyes. Now it’s up to a mortal named Bek to help Horus get back on the throne, and that’s honestly all of the plot that I’m absolutely sure about.
For you see, Gods of Egypt is one of the most confusing films I’ve seen in a while. Character motivations, rules of the afterlife, the exact limitations and strengths of the gods, and even the personalities of the different characters change on a dime. Set probably suffers the most from this, in one scene he advises one of his Elite Mooks to get his wound checked in a genuinely concerned tone, which corresponds with his affable demeanour in previous scenes. The very next minute, he beheads the same Elite Mook, before walking away as if nothing had happened.
This is what the entire movie is like, and the rapid-fire pace that leaves most scenes truncated does the film no favours. The intent might have been to keep us from thinking about the plot too deeply by shifting us from one scene to the next, but instead the viewer’s frustration mounts as the pile of unanswered questions grows larger and larger.
That said, I do honestly think that the script for Gods of Egypt will be held up as an example in future screenwriting classes. And for that matter, so will the acting in this film. The best performance is delivered by Geoffrey Rush, and I’m not sure if that’s because Rush is a fantastic character actor or because his role calls for him to act tired and irritated at the people around him, which doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for anyone acting in this film.
The worst performance is a little more difficult to decide on, I’m torn between Courtney Eton as Standard-Love-Interest No. 1 (which is sad considering her sterling performance as Cheedo the Fragile in Mad Max: Fury Road), and Chadwick Boseman as Toth (which is sad considering he’s the only black actor with a major part in the movie). Their performances are stilted and lifeless, a fault I can only ascribe to bad direction or a script that gives them nothing interesting to work with. See, when I said that the script and performances would be held up as an example, I meant as an example of how not to write scripts or act.
I could go on and on about this movie’s awfulness, the cheap looking effects and the frequent continuity errors. If I was feeling generous, I might even talk about the few positive aspects of this movie. But instead, I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about whitewashing. It seems inconceivable that anyone could have witnessed the frequent backlashes against whitewashing in films such as The Last Airbender, The Lone Ranger and Exodus: of Gods and Kings, and decided that no one would mind whitewashing a movie set in Egypt and cast in 2016. People minded. There’s just no excuse for this anymore, casting white people as Egyptians should have died out decades ago, and it’s a slap in the face for actual Egyptian (or even black actors in general) actors to be relegated to extras in films about Egypt and about its native people.
Lionsgate and Director Alex Proyas have already apologised for it, but it’s too little too late.
Want to know something else that these whitewashing films had in common? They all underperformed at the Box Office. So did Pan. So did Aloha. So did Stonewall. There’s literally no reason to whitewash films like this, it’s not artistically viable and it isn’t necessarily profitable either.
Gods of Egypt is bad. It’s not ‘bad-but-with-interesting-facets’. It’s not ‘so-bad-it’s-good’.
It’s just bad. The script is bad, the acting is bad, the editing is bad, the internal logic is bad, and the whitewashing is reprehensible.
But it isn’t awful. It’s just boring. Truly awful films possess the same deranged genius that informs the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ film; it requires actual passion and a sincere belief that the awful film you’re sniggering at is the greatest film ever made. And it’s clear that no one involved in this piece of work thought it was anything other than a C-Grade movie that was pushed out in late February where it might slip under the radar.