Gods Of Egypt: WTF Is Going On Here?

Fictional themes come in waves. We’ve seen trends involving ancient Greek and Roman battles, onslaughts of vampire and zombie stories, and even a return to deep-space science fiction. When one major project is released in any of these categories, it’s followed by additional interest in film, on TV, and even in gaming.

And lately the buzzing theme in fiction is ancient Egypt, and it may just have been more prevalent in major projects of late than you’ve noticed. It starts, in my estimation, with the end credits sequence following the film X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which depicted a god-like figure (En Sabah Nur, who becomes Apocalypse) lording over legions of Egyptians and stacking the pyramids with telekinetic powers. The scene set the stage for the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, which may or may not delve further into the ancient Egyptian setting. Also in superhero circles, Marvel recently announced a coming series involving the character Moon Knight, who gains his powers in ancient Egypt. And outside of the superhero genre, the most prominent and recent example of ancient Egypt in film was the much-maligned Exodus: Gods & Kings.

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been a particularly prominent console video game released to accompany all these films. That’s not to say there are no Egyptian-themed games out there, however, and many of them exist in the increasingly popular online casino industry. The games available at this platform include numerous historical references and themes, and among them are several that fit into the recent wave of Egyptian fiction. In particular, the game Pharaoh’s Treasure incorporates a lot of major elements of ancient Egypt, invoking Cleopatra, the Sphinx, pyramids, and the treasures of kings.

Even on television ancient Egypt has been revived as a strong setting for fiction of late, with Spike having aired a fairly massive miniseries called simply Tut. One review called it “overstuffed melodrama,” and indeed it wasn’t particularly well received. Nonetheless, it was a bold and beautiful production, and Ben Kingsley’s presence gave it some credibility.

But after all of this build-up in the last few years, it appears that we’re headed toward the biggest ancient Egypt project yet. Publicity recently started up for a 2016 film called Gods Of Egypt, and all I can say is: what in the name of the gods of anywhere is going on here?

If you start with the IMDB page, you’re likely going to feel encouraged that maybe we finally have an epic film worthy of the fascinating history of ancient Egypt headed our way. The plot is outlined simply as an alliance between a “common thief” and a mythical god on a quest through Egypt—not particularly revealing, but interesting enough for an early synopsis. But the cast is nothing short of exciting. Gerard Butler will play Set (the god of a bunch of terrible things), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau will play Horus (the Egyptian patron god), and the supporting actors include the always-enjoyable Rufus Sewell, the up-and-coming Chadwick Boseman, and the exceptionally capable Geoffrey Rush. Even Elodie Yung, who’s about to break into mainstream attention as Elektra in Marvel’s Daredevil series on Netflix, will have a role.

That’s a loaded cast, and it’s what makes it such an alarming experience to watch the first trailer for the film. Simply put, this looks like a sensationally ridiculous project. Gerard Butler’s in full epic mode, and that’s all well and good. Beyond that, there’s almost nothing encouraging to be taken from the trailer. The scenery is cheesy and so contrived it looks like a video game setting; the acting looks forced; and worst of all, the mythical and god-like elements are laughable.

It appears that Butler and Coster-Waldau will morph between human and god forms throughout the film, and their godly forms look like something out of the Marvel Universe rather than ancient mythology. At one point a pyramid crumbles out of nowhere; then, two cobra-like beasts the size of skyscrapers come slithering violently over a sand dune; and there’s one inexplicable moment where Butler is giving a speech and there’s some kind of giant elephant-sized beetle hanging out in the background.

There’s not much else to say beyond the fact this looks absolutely absurd. That’s not to say it might not have some entertainment value, but don’t expect ancient Egypt’s Gladiator from this one.