As legend tells, gods once lived amongst mortals in Egypt, the paradisiacal birthplace of life. Noble god Osiris (Bryan Brown), who has ruled over the land with compassion and generosity, chooses his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as successor to the throne. But this decision displeases Osiris’ banished sibling Set (Gerard Butler), who returns on his nephew’s coronation day to murder his father and usurp the kingdom. A year passes and the people of Egypt find themselves wholly enslaved by the despot. While they toil away building massive obelisks in tribute to the evil monarch’s conquests, their cries for help remain unanswered as Horus lies in exile at his father’s tomb. When rebellious young thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is coaxed by his true love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) into stealing a valuable artifact from Set’s treasury, he sets in motion a monumental quest that will partner him with a god to save his beloved from the land of the dead, and thwart a tyrant’s diabolical plan to destroy the world.
Although the narrator states that the gods have gold running through their veins, and that they can transform into beasts to do battle, it’s not enough to prepare audiences for just how outrageous those concepts will appear. The Roland Emmerich-styled excesses of digital extras populating epic landscapes quickly subside for the utter nonsense of mid-air, Transformer-like (or Iron Man-like) combat, full of metallic wings, fireballs of light, and shimmering blades that dart about as if lightning bolts perpetually unable to strike a target. And the gods themselves, designed to be slightly oversized humans (like something out of “300” or “Jack the Giant Slayer”), fit in quite poorly with the mortals, who frequently exhibit superhuman capabilities themselves.
In fact, Bek is so agile and fast that he’s able to swipe magical objects and penetrate impenetrable fortresses with both ease and skills that surpass the very gods he accompanies. It would have been more manageable if all the characters were simply the same size. This becomes especially frustrating when the various villains go out of their ways to avoid killing the puny human, since he’s supposedly no match for their boundless divinity. Strangely, Bek’s pursuit of love seems to be the invincible shield of armor necessary to duke it out with the titans that arm themselves with celestial weaponry so powerful that they’re left unexplained.
When even the human characters are impervious to peril, there’s never really any suspense. Several of the monsters are amusing, with their designs matching the might of the “Clash of the Titans” movies from the 2000s, but they fail to present formidable danger for the dwarfed heroes who sprint around on the ground, always millimeters out of reach of enormous fangs or breaths of fire. It also doesn’t help that new rules and ideas are continually devised on the spot to prolong the story. The loss of an all-seeing eye, or the momentary inability to sprout wings, or the portal-jumping transitions between the land of the living and dead are never given much thought; they just happen, spontaneously lending to a premise already too unnecessarily complex for the straightforward fantasy picture this should have been.
When wirework, frenetic camera movements, and extreme murkiness cloud the lack of riveting choreography or inventiveness, it’s evident that “Gods of Egypt” is trying to hide its muddled mix of borrowed designs. Derivative of far too many projects to mention, the plot still somehow possesses enough potential to be watchable. But the alternating of video game concepts, high-quality creature animation, and astonishingly pathetic, green-screen chariot riding makes the entire venture feel as if ten different directors alternated the tackling of every scene. At its best, its reminiscent of “Baron Munchausen” (or the Grimms’ fairy tale “The Six Servants”), but at it’s worst, it’s barely fit for a made-for-TV movie from the ‘90s.