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Plot: Horus and a mortal forge an alliance to overthrow rogue god Set

It’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Gods Of Egypt is one of the biggest Hollywood monstrosities of recent memory. There’s something to be said about a $140 million production when the first and obvious comparison is the filmography of Luigi Cozzi. Gods Of Egypt tries it darndest to pass itself off as a peplum or sword-and-sandal revival spectacular, only reimagined as a big budget special effects bonanza and Marvel and DC Comics superhero origin story but with not a single bankable actor to its name. Unless Gerard Butler, Geoffrey Rush, and Rufus Sewell suddenly became sellable names. No. Gods Of Egypt offers conclusive evidence that no amount of budget and eye-searing special effects can salvage a production from the age-old problem of terrible writing. There’s plenty of beautiful things to gawk at during its duration but that doesn’t distract from the more fundamental problems that plague Gods Of Egypt. In short, Alex Proyas’ most recent venture is the western counterpart of The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia (2017) or Luc Besson’s tragic misfire Enter the Warrior’s Gate (2016). In other words, Gods Of Egypt is the sort of big budget production you’d wish Luigi Cozzi had directed.

Gods Of Egypt was directed by Egypt-born, Australia-raised Alex Proyas. Proyas got his start directing commercials and short features in 1980-81. From 1986 to 1991 he directed music videos for the likes of INXS, Crowded House, Cock Robin, Fleetwood Mac, Mike Oldfield, Alphaville, and Sting. Proyas’ first Hollywood feature was the comic book adaptation The Crow (1994) where young action hopeful Brandon Lee was tragically killed in an unfortunate on-set firearm accident. However it was his next feature Dark City (1998) that allowed Alex Proyas to truly show his directorial prowess. The neo-noir Dark City (1998) was overshadowed by the similar The Matrix (1999) a year later and was liberally sampled by Luciferion on their swansong “The Apostate (First Step to Salvation)”. Dark City (1998) featured Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, and Rufus Sewell and was powerful enough to catapult Proyas into the big leagues. His next feature was the Isaac Asimov adaptation I, Robot (2004) with Will Smith and was followed by the science fiction thriller Knowing (2009) with Nicolas Cage and Jessica Biel. Gods Of Egypt is the Osiris myth from the Pyramid Texts - a collection of ancient religious texts dating to the Old Kingdom - reimagined as a Hollywood special effects bonanza and superhero origin story so terrible it could have come from The Asylum.

Gods Of Egypt was anything but well received, but was anybody surprised? It was written by the dynamic duo of Matt Sazama, and Burk Sharpless. Sazama and Sharpless wrote Dracula Untold (2014), The Last Witch Hunter (2015), and Power Rangers (2017) together, so there was little chance of Gods Of Egypt being any good. The biggest star here is Gerard Butler, he of 300 (2006), Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Timeline (2003), Reign of Fire (2002), and Dracula 2000 (2000). Followed closely by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from the original Nightwatch (1994) and Game of Thrones (2011-2019). Rufus Sewell is hardly a name-star but he was in everything from Vinyan (2008), The Holiday (2006), and The Illusionist (2006), to The Legend of Zorro (2005), and Dark City (1998). The same applies for character actor Geoffrey Rush whose diverse resumé includes, among many others, The King's Speech (2010), Munich (2005), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Frida (2002), The Tailor of Panama (2001), and the 1999 remake of William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill (1959). As for the leads Brenton Thwaites and Courtney Eaton they are humble unknowns. Thwaites was in Maleficent (2014), Oculus (2013), and Blue Lagoon: The Awakening (2012) whereas Eaton was one of the virgins in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). Apparently Courtney is not in any related to former Bond girl Shirley Eaton from Goldfinger (1964) and The Million Eyes Of Sumuru (1967).

On the day of his coronation Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is witness to his father Osiris (Bryan Brown) being murdered in cold blood by his exiled overzealous brother Set (Gerard Butler). Set usurps the throne and the powers that come with it and declares a new regime where the living will have to pay riches in order to obtain access to the afterlife. This new regime installed Set strips Horus of his eyes, and thus his godly powers, before nearly killing him too. Hathor (Élodie Yung) is able to convince Set to banish Horus in exchange for the surrender of the kingdom. In the audience young thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) has promised his love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) a life of luxury and riches. A year passes Bek has been forced into hard labour building monuments and Zaya is a handmaiden for Set's chief architect Urshu (Rufus Sewell). Zaya believes that Horus is the only one that can defeat Set and to that end she sends Bek to retrieve Horus’ eyes from a treasure vault. Zaya is found out and killed by Urshu. Bek takes the freshly deceased body of his lover to the blind and exiled Horus and strikes a deal: Horus brings Zaya back to life and Bek will help him defeat Set. Will Horus trust his young mortal ally enough to defeat the despotic Set?

It’s an absolute minimum of story that barely justifies this unrelenting two-hour digital effects assault on both the senses and good taste. It makes a rather concise case that Gods Of Egypt bears more semblance to Isis Rising: Curse Of the Lady Mummy (2013) and Luigi Cozzi's Hercules (1983) than it does to any other big budget monstrosity of recent memory. $140 million worth of digital effects and a screenplay full of fortune cookie wisdom and empty platitudes can’t distract from what really draws all the attention: the absolute dizzying multitude of breasts encased in highly impractical costumes. Gods Of Egypt is as terribly written as anything from The Asylum, TomCat Films, or Eurociné. Since it only grossed a comparatively meager $150 million worldwide and it’s unlikely that any of its proposed sequels will ever see the light of day.

Gods Of Egypt borrows liberally from Clash Of the Titans (1981), and Raiders Of the Lost Ark (1981) yet it still consistently fails to make something, anything, despite of all the resources it has at its disposal. Gods Of Egypt received five nominations at the 37th Golden Raspberry Awards and was lambasted for its predominantly white cast playing Egyptian deities. It’s an absolute feast for those for whom Emimmo Salvi’s Vulcan, Son Of Jupiter (1962), the aforementioned Hercules (1983) from Luigi Cozzi, and Alfonso Brescia’s Iron Warrior (1987) just weren’t outré enough. And there are more than enough breasts on display to satisfy even the staunchest Jim Wynorksi, Andy Sidaris, and Rene Perez fan. $140 million and the only thing we’re fascinated by are the assembled busts of Courtney Eaton, Élodie Yung, and Emma Booth. It almost makes you wonder why Emily Booth wasn’t given a role in this trainwreck of epic proportions.

Perhaps it’s the absolute overkill of vomit-inducing digital effects or the absence of any sets worthy of the name but Gods Of Egypt makes Mural (2011) and The Thousand Faces Of Dunjia (2017) look measured in comparison. Some parts look like cutscenes from a PlayStation 4 video game, some scenes feel like a video game playthrough. Hell, the treasure vault scene could have come from Uncharted 3. It’s difficult enough to take a movie seriously that spents as much time on setting up a big confrontation between rivaling gods as it does gawking at the impressive cleavage of Courtney Eaton and Élodie Yung. Apparently not a whole lot has changed in the 50 years since Bella Cortez and Chelo Alonso steamed up Italian exploitation. Judging by the sheer amount of time that the camera spents fixated on Eaton’s bust you’d imagine this to be something down the line of Blue Jeans (1975). However Courtney appears in the beginning and then is pretty much a nonentity until the third act. Nothing is more telling that a production is in trouble then when it spents inordinate amount on what the assorted lead women are wearing than on the more fundamental problems of its screenplay. Gods Of Egypt has plenty of both but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining as the big budget shlock that it is. It understands the old adage that everything can be made better by the presence, or promise, of boobs.

It’s nigh on incomprehensible how a director and cast of this magnitude were roped into a production that had disaster written all over it. Alex Proyas is a director with an excellent eye for visuals (as most of his repertoire is testament to) but he seemed way over his head here. If there’s anything that really killed Gods Of Egypt it was the screenplay from Matt Sazama, and Burk Sharpless. Had this just been a big budget popcorn flick (and not a supposed superhero origin story) there could have been some merit to this. It would’ve worked even better had Gods Of Egypt fully embraced its innate ridiculousness. How else can you describe Gods Of Egypt than a contemporary Luigi Cozzi sci-fi/fantasy, complete with chiseled heroes and bosomy women? Personally, we would have loved to see Courtney Eaton as the lead, but a gender inverted romance would probably be too progressive or woke for a general audience. The audience, after all, never knows what the audience wants. Gods Of Egypt probably won’t be ushering in a big-scale peplum revival which is truly unfortunate.

That Gods Of Egypt supposedly intended as a franchise launcher is obvious enough. It certainly looks the part. $140 million can buy a producer or director a lot of things, but not a decent screenplay or writer, apparently. Instead history will remember it as one of the great disasters of modern cinematic history. Yeah, it truly is that wretched. What good is $140 million worth of special effects and a halfway marketable cast when the first thing the audience is collectively transfixed by is the fact that Courtney Eaton and Élodie Yung cut dashing figures in their figure-fitting costumes? The comparatively smaller regional cinematic industries that used to cater to this sort of thing have all either gone, or made, extinct by Hollywood itself.

Gods Of Egypt is a b-movie through and through and at least Gerard Butler (apparently the only one in the cast) was smart enough to realize what hot mess he got himself into. It’s absolutely amazing how a trainwreck of this proportion was expelled from Hollywood’s creative colon – and nobody thought that maybe the idea wasn’t all that good to begin with. There’s more than enough myths and folkloric tales from Egyptian antiquity that are worthy of a big screen adaptation. Gods Of Egypt is obviously not that movie. How often can you say that TomCat Films did the entire premise better… and probably on a tiny, tiny fraction of the budget that director Alex Proyas spent on lunches during the entire production too? Not often.

Plot: the raunchy Schulmädchen are here. Hilarity ensues!

In the late sixties something interesting happened in German comedy. Franz Josef Gottlieb released his faux-documentary The Miracle Of Love (1968) wherein the sexual fantasies of a supposedly-but-not-really married couple were explored in pseudo-scientific manner through a number of tantalizing vignettes. Its companion piece The Ideal Marriage (1970) is lousy in comparison and Hermann Schnell’s Anatomy of an Orgasm (1970) actually goes out of its way to be scientific and supposedly educational. A trait that all three share is that they were white-coat erotica, a particular strain of sexploitation that filled grindhouses before the advent of hardcore pornography. White-coat erotica in turn gave rise to the much more popular and widely known Report-films, a series of pseudo-documentaries chronicling the sex life of whatever their subject happened to be (schoolgirls, housewives, nurses, et al.) The Report films were a lewd spin on educational films (Aufklärungsfilme) since television was still a fairly novel concept. They were a decade-long, mostly German phenomenon that happened parallell with the raunchy Tiroler sex comedy getting more bawdy as sexual mores became more liberated and permissive in the late sixties and early seventies. From 1975 onward the Schoolgirl Report series took a dip as sex cinemas became popular but would continue to exist into the early 1980s until they no longer were deemed profitable.

Schulmädchen-Report: Was Eltern nicht für möglich halten (or Schoolgirl Report: What Parents Don't Think Is Possible) was the original and is historically important for exactly that reason. It’s now almost a relic from a much more innocent time. Loosely based on the non-fictional Schulmädchen-Report by sexologist Günther Hunold the Schoolgirl Report from Ernst Hofbauer professes to take a scientific look at the sexual lives of girl students. Schoolgirl Report was something of a gathering of West Germany’s comedic talent. Not only is Ernst Hofbauer directing, Walter Boos was in the editing suite and co-directed. Producing was none other than Wolf C. Hartwig. On their own each man carved out a place in German comedy and their bundling of forces could only result in something that would revolutionize the German comedy for years to come. The timing couldn’t have been better too. In 1968 French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir released her two-volume treatise The Second Sex concerning the treatment of women through out history. The tomes are considered a major work of feminist philosophy and the starting point of second-wave feminism. The Italian mondo documentaries were in full swing. At the same time the sexual revolution swept over the United States and the wider world. Conservative sexual mores, once sanctified, became archaic relics of yore, as permissiveness became the norm. Across the world people were looking for a more egalitarian society and the dominant ethos was that of varied and flexible gender roles for women. What better time than now to capitalize on the sexual escapades of those wicked and wild schulmädchen?

A delegation of eminent figures in the fields of psychology, sociology and science are called upon by concerned parents and faculty members alike when a schulmädchen is discovered in the throes of passion with the busdriver on a schooltrip. As parents and educators are mystified what to do with the situation, and whether or not to expel the girl for her transgressions, the school dean (Wolf Harnisch) is more than willing to hear the informed opinions of the scientific community, among them sociologist Dr. Vogt (Helga Kruck), as well as respected local municipal gatekeepers. Even the girl’s psychologist Dr. Bernauer (Günther Kieslich) is allowed to defend the girl’s case. The panel is moderated by a reporter (Friedrich von Thun) shooting a documentary about the case. Intercut are candid “on the street” interviews with people across age brackets and demographics and confessional vignettes following a dozen or so Püppchen as they go about their lives and talk about their sexual fantasies or – misadventures Schoolgirl Report tries its darnedest to be a serious dissertation of what it considers an alarming new trend among the German youth, the practice of free love. The libertine and promiscuous lifestyle of their daughters has their repressed and conservative parents in a state of disbelief and shock. Erwin C. Hartwig and Ernst Hoffbauer had their finger at the pulse of youth counterculture when the sexual revolution of the late sixties swept Europe. Once controversial and incendiary 50 years later Schoolgirl Report is incredibly tame by any standard. That half of the interviews were faked only adds to the exploitation authenticity. Unbelievably well over 6 million people went to see Schoolgirl Report im kino. Schoolgirl Report caused a stir in the old Bundesrepublik and made Hartwig a millionaire.

There are no big stars in the first Schoolgirl Report. Only Jutta Speidel could be nominally considered the name-star as she was a regular in Germany comedy. It wouldn’t be until the sequels before domestic – and international starlets as Claudia Fielers, Christina Lindberg, Ingrid Steeger, Shirley Corrigan, Katja Bienert, Uschi Karnat, and Karine Gambier made their debut in the series. As these things tend to go there were regulars among the schulmädchen with the likes of Karin Götz, Ulrike Butz, Puppa Armbruster, and Christine Szenetra returning for many later episodes. The first few Schoolgirl Report movies also tried to maintain a veneer of respectability and hid behind pseudo-science to validate their existence. Later installments became increasingly wild and concerned themselves less with a semi-realistic depiction of youth sexuality.

If anything the Schoolgirl Report series was a spiritual precursor to the Girls Gone Wild brand (1997-2013) and roughly had the same objective. That’s to say, exposing nubile young women in flagrante delicto and preferably with not much in the way of clothes. In its native Germany (well, West Germany, to be exact) Schoolgirl Report was a box office smash that ended up inspiring not only 12 official sequels (lasting all the way through the seventies into the eighties) but also spawned a legion of domestic imitations as Wedding Night Report (1972) (with Christina von Blanc), Early Awakening Report (1973) and Keyhole Report (1973). Even infamous and prolific Spanish sleaze merchant Jess Franco didn’t shy away from getting in on the action with his Virgin Report (1972) and the Erwin C. Dietrich co-directed Around the World in 80 Beds (1976). Not bad for a cheap sexploitation romp masquerading as a taboo-breaking and controversy courting “youth of today” exposé, itself a thinly-veiled excuse to show as much naked mädels as possible while trying to maintain a veneer of respectability.

In the ensuing decades since the moralizing, the prude mindset, and the surrounding hypocrisy concerning teenage sexuality haven’t changed in the slightest. In any medium of your choosing teenage – and adolescent girls remain a fixture for fetishization and sexualization. Schoolgirl Report was progressive for its time and it has all but admitted that the “documentary” framing device was merely there to avoid the kind of censorship that movies like this usually endured. Very much like Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1979) almost a decade later Schoolgirl Report posits that it does not condone the promiscuous excesses its hedonistic minxes engage in, yet in the same breath goes well out of its way to shoot every transgression in loving detail. Whether its same-sex couplings, polyamory, nude photography, father-daughter and/or brother-sister incest, prostitution (either voluntary or via coercion), rape, or teen pregnancy no topic was ever too controversial or taboo for the Schoolgirl Report franchise.

A recurring theme is that many of the mädels are attracted to much older men, often authority figures or clergy. Girls corrupting clergy was one of the standards of classic sexploitation. Here the girls in question just happened to be schulmädchen. It always were the mädels who were aggressively instigating the trysts and various sexual permutations. Each vignette serving as some kind of male wish fulfillment scenario or as a cautionary tale, if the Report had honorable intentions. In true seventies fashion the men typically were victims (self-agency apparently exclusively a female trait) or sacrificial lambs in many of the more tragic (and, sometimes, abusive) scenarios. The earlier episodes obviously were far more innocent than the later, much more outlandish sequels as the series desperately tried to remain relevant increasingly finding itself competing with the new sex cinemas. What remains a constant is that Wolf C. Hartwig never had any trouble finding ample of German mädchen willing to get naked for him. To think that Lindsay Lohan refused to get naked for her supposedly sleazy thriller I Know Who Killed Me (2007). The old adage never rung truer. They truly don’t make ‘em like this anymore.