Ancient Egypt: where the gods were white and spoke with British accents, as “Gods of Egypt” will have you believe. The movie most likely to be airbrushed onto the side of a van has rightfully taken quite the public drubbing for its whitewashing of a story with roots ostensibly in North African history. But truthfully, the film is so ridiculously outlandish that it couldn’t possibly be tied to anything in reality, so it’s unfortunate that it borrowed a real place as a loose setting.
Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, “Gods of Egypt” has a much lighter tone and clear willingness to embrace obvious campiness than their previous script, the Vin Diesel vehicle “The Last Witch Hunter.” Taking place in some random ancient time when mortals and gods co-existed, the film starts with the coronation of god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), son of Osiris (Bryan Brown). Uncle Set (Gerard Butler) crashes the party from his desert outpost with an army, to overthrow Osiris and take the kingdom for his own. Battling Horus, he yanks out his powerful all-seeing eyes and banishes him to a dusty pyramid. It’s essentially a sibling rivalry thing.
Enslaving the human people and killing the gods who stand in his way, Set starts building the pyramids and his powers. Young, scrappy mortal Bek (Brenton Thwaites) wants to free his girlfriend, Zaya (Courtney Eaton), from slavery, so he decides to steal and return the eyes of Horus. Cheerful pickpocket Bek is not one iota different in character from Aladdin in Disney’s “Aladdin.” Having returned one eye, the unlikely pair of god and mortal set off on a journey to return Horus to his rightful throne and save Zaya from the Land of the Dead.
That’s the basic plot, but “Gods of Egypt” is both so wildly incoherent and extremely silly that one is tempted to simply try to describe some of the weirder moments in director Alex Proyas’ movie. First, the gods have been digitally enhanced to three times human size and are shot and staged as if they are giants. Also, they bleed gold blood. In one particularly bonkers recurring set piece, they visit the Sun God Ra, who happens to be Human Torch Geoffrey Rush conscripted to a space ship that drags the sun on a chain around a flat, disc-shaped Earth while he jousts a space worm chaos monster. There’s also a scene where the God of Knowledge Thoth (unrecognizable Chadwick Bozeman) pontificates on a head of lettuce surrounded by an army of his clones, while bedecked in a sequined gown and headdress. It’s positively “Jupiter Ascending” levels of operatic fantasy mania.
Even though this is a $140 million project filled with movie stars, beating up on it feels like punching down. It might be because “Gods of Egypt” is essentially good-humored, and seems to have a modicum of self-awareness about its own shameless kookiness. It manages to slip just over the line into that sweet spot of awesomely bad, even though it does overstay its welcome by about 30 minutes, and none of its magical mumbo jumbo makes a lick of sense. That being said, if you’re under 13 years old, or chemically-enhanced, you just might have a blast.
starring Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Courtney Eaton, Elodie Yung and Chadwick Bozeman. Directed by Alex Proyas. Written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. A Lionsgate release. Rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and action, and some sexuality. Running time: 2:07