Gods of Egypt
Being a god with a lowercase g isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Take this film’s titular gods of Egypt, for instance. Sure, the gig has its perks: nice clothes, colorful temples, the ability to turn into strange human-animal hybrids. They've set up a nice kingdom along the banks of the sunny Nile where they gobble grapes, sleep 'til noon and are treated by their human subjects as if they were, well, gods.
But the fact that they're three feet taller than their human counterparts must get old after a while. Where do they sit if someone invites them over for tea? Moreover, they're neither omniscient nor omnipotent. They're not even immortal. Sure, they'll still be kicking around after a millennium or so if all goes well, but they can be killed and will all, eventually, die. These gangly gods may be bigger and better than humankind, but they're not really so different from us. If the typical Egyptian is a Honda Fit, their gods are Ferraris and McLarens—but they're not Star Trek transporters.
That’s why Set, god of the desert, is determined to change all that.
He arrives a little late to a coronation ceremony—wherein Osiris, top-dog god of Egypt, is turning over the crown to his irresponsible son, Horus. But before Horus can slap on the critical headgear, Set essentially takes over—killing Osiris, plucking out Horus' eyeballs and telling the terrified assemblage (gods and men alike) that big changes are afoot.
"You're all terrible human beings," he says. "My opponents are all losers. I'm a winner, and I'm gonna make you pay to get into the afterlife."
OK, so maybe I'm paraphrasing a bit. "Worship me or be enslaved!" is what he actually says. And what he actually means is, “Worship me and be enslaved.” Then he imposes upon the hapless populous the worst death tax imaginable. Why? Because he's an evil god, that's why. Oh, and he also needs the cash to build a massive obelisk in honor of his pops, the sun god Ra. But mostly it's the evil thing.
And that's just the beginning. Truth is, Set’s not content to just rule this nice little stretch of the Nile. He’s got his eyes (and Horus’ eyes, too, it would seem) on everything—the earth, heaven, hell, all of creation. And he'll get what he wants even if he has to destroy it all in the process.
Game, set and match, right? Of course, Set’s plan doesn’t set well with the rest of the gods or most of humanity, but, alas, it's mighty difficult for anyone to stand up to the dude. Horus doesn't have any eyeballs, you’ll remember, which puts him at a distinct disadvantage in the MMA-style rumbles the gods seem to favor. Ra's busy sailing the sun around creation. And none of the other gods are a match for Set's powers.
But Zaya—a pretty human and devoted worshipper of Horus—hasn't given up hope. While her wisecracking beau, Bek, doesn't care a whit for the gods, Zaya eventually encourages him to re-steal the eyes of Horus and give them back to their rightful owner, thus saving her, and the rest of Egypt, from Set's tyrannical rule.
The quest will involve unspeakable danger and, most likely, a sudden and painful death. If I were Bek, frankly, I'd begin to question Zaya's level of devotion to me. But, apparently, denial isn't just a river in Egypt.
When an evil god wants to make a mess of things, it's good and right to try to stop him. And Horus does eventually step up to set things straight. Granted, he's not quite himself these days, and he doesn't go into the venture with the purest of motives: He'd really just like to kill Set and reclaim his full set of peepers. But eventually he comes to, ahem, see his role as Egypt's protector, so that's nice. His one-time lover, Hathor, also does a grand thing, sacrificing herself (in a way) to help bring Zaya and Bek closer together. "I'm the goddess of love," she explains to Horus. "If I can't do this, I'm nothing."
Gods of Egypt, as you may have gathered from the title, is predicated on ancient Egyptian gods. Its story is very loosely based on some of the most famous myths in Egyptian folklore, “The Contendings of Horus and Set” among them. Most of the big characters we meet here (and I mean, like, literally, big) are Hollywood facsimiles of the gods Egyptians actually worshipped once upon a time—Ra, Hathor, Thoth, Anubis, etc. And there are allusions here to other elements of Egyptian mythology: as when a dead person's worth is determined on a set of scales, weighed against a feather of truth. (In the movie, Set decrees that the person's wealth be placed on the scales opposite the surprisingly heavy feather; in Egyptian myth, it was the heart itself.)
Ra is the only god here who could be described as truly revered, and there are moments when he seems to speak in ways that, perhaps, the movie's creators might imagine the real God would speak. ("Tell me, Father, do you care what happens?" Set accuses him. "I care more than you know," Ra responds.) But even Ra is shown to be more of a souped-up human than anything even close to the true God. Yet, as the story goes, he and the other gods were somehow behind the world's creation and wrote the rules for the afterlife. There's no onscreen indication that there's a greater power beyond these petty “deities.”
As mentioned, Zaya's a Horus worshipper. She wears a symbol of him around her neck and sometimes prays to the god (who doesn't hear her because he's pouting in his father's tomb). Bek, meanwhile, expresses utter distain for the lot of them. "You know I couldn't care less about the gods," he tells Zaya. "Well, they care about you," Zaya says. And gods also pray to other gods, as when Horus prays to Ra to temporarily give him back his powers.
Hathor winds up being the paramour of both Horus and Set (though not a completely willing companion to the latter). She's shown kissing both of them, and she lies nude in bed with Set after a tryst. (We see her bare back; Set stands up to receive visitors, who get an eyeful of, apparently, his anatomy.) She wears skimpy, diaphanous dresses that reveal her hips and buttocks.
Bek and Zaya also have an intimate relationship, and we see them kiss often and cuddle on top of a bed. Her clothes invariably expose a great deal of cleavage, and when he steals her a dress to wear to Horus' coronation ceremony, she slips into it behind a screen through which a silhouette of her body can be seen. Zaya’s employer is furious that the amorous couple has been using his place for "fornicating." No one in this version of ancient Egypt has heard of anything like a traditional marriage, I should note, though Zaya and Bek only have eyes for each other.
Other women wear revealing garb. Humans and goddesses alike give sensual massages to a god. (One starts to get erotic before it's interrupted.) There's much ogling of pretty goddesses, as well as discussion of their physical attributes.
Gods suffer the most in this stylized category, and when they bleed, they bleed shimmering gold. Eyes are plucked out (which turn into blue, glowing orbs). Wings are sliced off. A neck is snapped. Brains are yanked out of a skull (which again triggers a blue glow). Gods are cut, impaled and sometimes have their limbs and/or heads chopped off. Battles are chaotic and messy, with much hitting, kicking, choking, flipping, etc. These mega-humans are thrown into walls and fall from incredibly high perches. We hear that Osiris' body has been cut into pieces.
[Spoiler Warning] One specific scene of violence speaks to the movie’s moral tone: When Horus has vanquished Set, and the other god lies helpless before him, Set reminds Horus, "I showed you mercy!" Horus responds, “I won't make that mistake," and proceeds to shish-kebab the god.
People die, too, sometimes from arrow or blade wounds. Huge snake-steeds try to chomp and breathe fire on them. A gigantic sphinx throws folks against temple walls and tries to crush them under his paws. Life-threatening traps involving blades, collapsing bridges and falling rocks are, perhaps strangely, pervasive. A man falls from a terrific height, presumably to his death. An unfortunate soul is obliterated at the entrance to the underworld. We learn that someone committed suicide.
Crude or Profane Language
One or two s-words. The same can said for "a--" and "d--n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
The morning of Horus' coronation finds the god just waking up from a night of revelry. (Several humans are passed out in his chambers.) Hathor tells Horus that morning that she's both "sober and clothed," both states unusual for her. Later, she's seen drinking from a flask, which someone else throws into a swamp.
Other Negative Elements
Bek is a flat-out thief, stealing everything from dresses to Horus’ eyes. His habits are presented to us as endearing acts of high-spiritedness, and Set clearly respects the guy's creativity and dexterity. Someone spits in a flask of water meant for a god.
Gods of Egypt has some nifty CGI work, but is otherwise terrible in pretty much every sense of the word. The plotting is, at times, nonsensical. The characters are grating. To say that Bek is "one-dimensional" is an insult to straight lines everywhere. There's a disturbing amount of violence and sexual content for a movie that looks like it was designed for 7 year olds. And even when the story tries to make a moral point, it winds up undercutting itself.
But it's the spiritual stuff in Gods of Egypt that looses locusts upon the land, and not because it’ll inspire kids to start setting up altars to ancient Egyptian gods. No, the movie's far too silly for that, and the gods are far too flawed. But I can imagine children pretending to be these gods after seeing the movie. And some might even want to dive deeper into actual Egyptian mythology to learn more about them. And that's where things can get a bit crazy … and not just for spiritual reasons. For instance, as mentioned, the movie's central conflict is loosely based on prominent Egyptian myths that also involve Horus and Set trying to get their semen into each other.
Well. It's rumored that movie studio Lionsgate is hoping to launch a new, financially robust series with this movie to fill the void left by the now-completed Hunger Games franchise. That may not go so great. For should we weigh the heart and soul of this movie against a feather, it'd be found gravely wanting.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Brenton Thwaites as Bek; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Horus; Elodie Yung as Hathor; Gerard Butler as Set; Courtney Eaton as Zaya; Chadwick Boseman as Thoth; Geoffrey Rush as Ra
Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment
February 26, 2016
May 31, 2016