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Gods Of Egypt (2016)

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

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 an 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 obvioulsy 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.