I love “Gods of Egypt”. It is everything 10 year old me ever wanted in a movie.
I spent my youth reading every single book that was available on Egypt in the libraries. I spent hours drawing pictures, making board games and inventing stories based in that lore. My stories were not dissimilar from Gods of Egypt, except my adventurers went on the road WITH the Sphinx, but I admit it was used appropriately in the film.
Unlike many of these action movies set in an ancient world, the film is pretty accurately respectful to the lore. Look at the new Clash of the Titans and its sequel that don’t seem to care about mythology, or The Immortals which has a creepy weird relationship with it. Gods of Egypt takes its source material and the only real changes that are made to mythology are a.) the aesthetic and b.) the need to be an action movie.
If you know early Egyptian mythology, you know the story. Set comes and kills Osiris, rips him into 14 pieces. Isis takes her mortal life to follow him to the underworld (which is where the movie leaves it, but honestly I’m certain that might have been a better story to tell altogether, as she collects all his pieces, puts them back together and invents mummification, then, as in the film, balance is restored to the underworld as she and Osiris justly watch over the souls of the dead). Next Set steals the eyes of Horus, and then Horus goes on an adventure to defeat Set and they battle for the rest of the movie. Granted, there’s none of the hot gay sex stuff that Horus and Set spent a large portion of their real mythology battle getting into — but adapted accurately, that stuff would raise some extremely uncomfortable questions between children and their parents. Look it up on Wikipedia. It’s extremely odd. It involves ejaculation and lettuce.
The mythological aspects are well handled. The Sphinx has a riddle, gods can steal each other’s body parts and use them (yeah ancient Egypt!) There is also a scene which made child me jump for joy where we literally see Ra, the sun god, sailing his boat across the sky, descending into the night and fighting the night monster, Apophis, to protect mankind. I am absolutely in love with the idea of a god who spends every night fighting off monsters to keep humans safe from the darkness and evil. Just a beautiful idea lifted straight from mythology and put into the context of an action movie. This is the sort of thing Gods of Egypt does well.
The non-mythology story is about a teenage boy who steals the eye of Horus to enlist the god’s help. Brenton Thwaites is the lead actor of the film, or quite possibly the secondary lead, as he is often relegated to the background (often quite literally) but then the gods get to squabbling and he bursts forth to save the day and get the action going. Brenton Thwaites is spectacular, just in general. I have loved him in everything he has done. Strangely, he may be my ideal actor. He’s as likable as Tom Hanks and as handsome as young Brad Pitt. I didn’t expect to like him when I first saw him, because most young good-looking boys are terrible, but he encompasses everything my inner child wanted in a hero and proves again and again (The Giver, The Signal) that at least somebody has my inner child in mind.
The only other performance that stood out to me was Chadwick Boseman who played the god of knowledge, Thoth. When first introduced I thought, “Hmm, he seems a bit effete for the god of knowledge.” But when his big scenes come up in the second half with all the pontificating and yammering, he was delightful. The twee accent was a perfect choice, and just captures intellect without actually having to always show it. Great choice, Chadwick Boseman. Just perfect.
I know that it is not well received by critics. Here are some Pros and Cons about this film:
- There are no Middle Eastern Actors in a movie that takes place almost entirely in Egypt (The rest of it takes place in the sky). I get that this is an Egypt before that night monster, Apophis, altered the landscape (there’s lots of shrubs and waterfalls that are not native to Northern Africa in the movie, so obviously night monster ate those things at the end), but it’s getting ridiculous. This film follows Prince of Persia, Exodus and a few other films that populate the country entirely with extremely white people. I can’t say it’s “whitewashing” like all the critics though, because there are black and asian leads, just no Middle-Easterners. It’s actually kind of surreal.
- Everyone has a British Accent. The only reasons I’m letting this slide is because its good they chose a single accent, wayward accents tend to distract, and that Thoth owns it.
- In mythology the gods of Ancient Egypt have animal heads. While the characters in the film do turn into robot animals (like Silverhawks!), they mostly look like normal humans until they decide to lay the smack down. I feel somewhere in my inner child that I wouldn’t have minded animal headed characters. I guess the sexy times and the romance wouldn’t have played well between a cow headed woman and a falcon headed man, but if your screen romance can’t work between a cow head and a bird head, maybe your romance isn’t strong enough to begin with? I don’t know. I get the logistical need to have actors who can sell the movie — but, that plan doesn’t seem to be working anyway, soooooo…. (As an aside, remember how awesome the animal heads in Stargate were?)
- The Egyptians considered the brain useless. When Set steals another character’s brain, it makes sense to us, because we totally love brains! But the Egyptians did not. So that was one instance of them outright defying Egyptian mythology.
- Dem costumes. Hell yeah. As a costumer, I love costumes. And these costumes are made out of fabrics that I can’t even begin to explain. What on earth is Thoth wearing? Is it hammered beads sewn onto mesh? Who knows, but it’s awesome.
- Dem hats, tho. You remember how Eiko Ishioka’s costumes for The Immortals had weird ass hats? And you were like, “Huh?” Well, this one has hats that make you want to go home and become a warrior goddess yourself. You see the hats and you’re like, “Hell yeah!” Those ladies that ride those snakes have the best hats I’ve seen in years! The black lady in particular. Everything she’s wearing is the best thing. Great job, snake ladies!
- Snake Ladies.
- Set’s animal head is very well done. Historically speaking Set is somewhere between an anteater and an alligator. Many scholars suggest that Set’s head is so indistinct that it is actually a “monster head” where all the other gods are distinct animal heads. The film does this well, creating a head for his animal-silverhawk form that is an indistinct mash up that turns out monster-y. They put thought into it, at least, and based it off of mythology which I appreciate.
- Brenton Thwaites.
- Thoth’s accent.
- Ra fighting the monster every night.
- The greatest monster actor who ever lived, Bruce Spence shows up as the judge of the underworld. I am a Bruce Spence fanboy. Love you, Bruce! Keep on terrifying me in the way you do!
- The stakes.
What are the stakes, you ask? You know how in normal, not over-the-top drama, something is at stake? Like the lead’s girlfriend is kidnapped (Super Mario, Final Fight, most drama) or the world is going to be destroyed (Tranformers, Armageddon). Well, Gods of Egypt has ALL THE STAKES. And I don’t mean like Doctor Who style where everything is always on the verge of being destroyed always. Doctor Who will always re-kagigger time so that the stakes don’t matter. What I mean is every stake ever is at stake in Gods of Egypt. His girlfriend is in danger, his girlfriend’s soul is in danger, his soul is danger, all the world’s souls are in danger, the world itself is in danger of being devoured, the gods are in dangers, the humans are in danger, the gods love lives are in shambles and also in danger, the demons are coming for Hathor (best thing I’ve seen in a movie all year. I love when they just grab her), the people don’t have enough money, war is happening, the monster is coming! And what’s weird about it, is all you really care about is the simple idea that one man misses his love and the other realizes that’s all he needs to focus on, too. The main stake is simple and works, the rest is just bluster and giant serpents (of which there are at least three).
So, obviously, my inner child loved this movie. But did my adult me? Well, there are two scenes that actually made me get the feels. The one where Hathor yields her bracelet to save the girl and gets sucked into demon land. And the scene on the tower during the climax when Brenton returns the eye of Horus. Adult me also appreciated the adaptation of mythology to action film with little to no basterdization. Because I can hardly stand a single one of these fairy tale movies that take out the myth and legend, like Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, or Into the Woods, so I applaud Gods of Egypt.
The hero, Horus, and the Villain, Set, are very mythological, and the two actors who play them are well liked, generally, but don’t really stand out. Like I said, it may have been possible to just do it with animal heads. But I guess we’ll never know. Enjoy the giant Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gerard Butler as they randomly turn into silverhawks.
I totally recommend this film to your children, and when it comes out on DVD I will do a big costume review.