It's still only February, but it isn't too soon to predict that Gods of Egypt will end up on many critics' lists of the ten worst movies of the year. Director Alex Proyas' bombastic, brain-dead sword-and-sandal epic is a CGI-drunk waste of time, as well as a perfect example of everything wrong with Hollywood today. Lionsgate, desperate to find a new tentpole franchise to replace its now-completed Hunger Games series, developed Gods of Egypt with an eye toward creating a trilogy. To that end, they spent about 140 million dollars to produce this misbegotten extravaganza, apparently thinking that if you just throw in enough special effects, ripped-off action set pieces, and bejeweled cleavage, then maybe no one will notice what a soulless enterprise it is and flock to the cinemas. Not likely. Who wants to see a picture that plays more like a poorly executed video game than a movie?
As the story begins, we learn that gods once lived among the humans in ancient Egypt, and were very much like mortals in many respects -- even to the point of aging and dying. But gold rather than blood runs through their veins, and they each possess unique powers, such as the ability to transform into winged, gold-plated creatures in order to engage in fierce battle. Cut to Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the lord of the air, who is about to take over Egypt's throne from his aging father Osiris (Bryan Brown). But before the crown can be placed on Horus' head, Osiris' peevish younger brother Set (Gerard Butler) shows up with a mass of soldiers, kills his older sibling, and plucks out his nephew's eyes, which robs him not only of his sight but of his supernatural powers. Set then proceeds to enslave Egypt's mortals, and makes them erect gigantic edifices he hopes will solidify his legacy. He also changes up the rules on how to enter the afterlife: Whereas Osiris allowed everyone to enter the heavenly dwelling without charge as a sort of free gift, Set forces the people to pay a massive fee in order to gain admittance. Fortunately for Horus, a cocksure human thief named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) teams up with him to bring down Set and once again make the afterlife available to all. That last part is the most important to Bek, since his girlfriend was murdered by one of Set's henchmen and is facing a very bleak eternity if someone doesn't put a stop to the tyrant's egomaniacal plans.
Gods of Egypt raised controversy early on with its whitewashed casting (for which Proyas and Lionsgate later apologized), but that's the least of the movie's problems. The redundant action sequences, all rendered with cheesy special effects that look like something out of a Roger Corman flick, produce more eye rolls and yawns than awe. Even worse are the clunky dialogue, overblown score, and Razzie-worthy performances. Butler chews green-screen scenery with demented relish, while the miscast Coster-Waldau and Thwaites simply look lost. Worst of all is Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush as the sun god Ra, who, when he isn't tossing flaming spears at what looks like a dust storm with teeth, tries to show his might by bulging his eyes so wide it's a wonder they stay in their sockets. And the women? Sadly, a bronzed bosom is all that's required of their performances.
The only thing Gods of Egypt has going for it is a bit of camp appeal. Chadwick Boseman as Thoth, the god of wisdom, has the right idea: He struts about like a slutty peacock and looks like he's having the time of his life. It's probably the wisest thing to do when you're stuck in a godawful mess.