Alex Proyas’s fantasy of ancient Egypt is 2016’s first big bomb. Sometimes it’s a glorious trainwreck — and sometimes it’s a genuinely infuriating one.
1. Gerard Butler just goes with the Scottish accent.
Most of Gods of Egypt‘s cast members decided that mortals and deities in a fantasyland version of ancient Egypt would speak with the British-ish accent that period pictures use to signal they’re set in the past. The notable exceptions are Chadwick Boseman, whose god of wisdom Thoth opts for an excruciatingly unidentifiable but still vaguely theatrical cadence, and Gerard Butler, who decides his own Scottish brogue will do just fine for his god of the desert Set.
There’s something magnificent about the scene in which Set wades through the worshipful crowd at the coronation of a new god-king, opens his mouth, and lets out an apology for being late that makes it sound like Butler just wandered into the scene by accident. It’s so “fuck it,” he might as well be wearing jeans. He clearly felt that megalomaniacal living gods with daddy issues who can transform into dog-headed metallic forms can talk however they want. And who would argue the point?
2. The actors playing the gods have all been sized up by 80%.
Gods of Egypt reportedly cost $140 million, but can look startlingly cheap. The CGI is omnipresent and rickety, and some of the sets have the stageyness of a ’50s biblical epic. But every once in a while, there’s an effect that evokes the more charming hokeyness of the 1981 Clash of the Titans — and that effect is that all of the gods are several feet taller than all of the mortals. It’s consistently silly looking, like Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Horus (god of the sky) and Elodie Yung as Hathor (goddess of love) were just sized up in Photoshop. But it’s also more memorable than the blur of impossible computer-generated cityscapes.
3. The Earth is flat.
(Call B.o.B!) Director Alex Proyas isn’t some movie noob — the man directed the 1994 goth kid classic The Crow, the solid Will Smith effort I, Robot, and the sci-fi noir mindfuck Dark City, a film that came out a year before The Matrix in 1998 and comes close to beating the Wachowskis movie at its own game. And while Gods of Egypt is a trainwreck, the feverish inventiveness of the imagery in Dark City occasionally glimmers through, like in the scenes in which we see that the world in which the movie takes place is flat, an archaic idea of the layout of the universe brought to evocative life.
4. Geoffrey Rush lives on a space boat and fights a chaos worm.
So yes, sometimes Gods of Egypt has fascinatingly go-for-broke visuals. Other times, 1997 Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush, in liver spots, white robes, and a French braid as sun god Ra, glowers on his boat in space between breaks fighting chaos, as represented by a toothy cloud worm.