Gods of Egypt takes place in a version of Egypt where the gods live among men, ruling over them. Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is to be crowned the new king, but his uncle Set (Gerald Butler) interrupts his coronation and usurpation the throne. Horus is left blinded and exiled while all of Egypt is made to suffer under Set's iron fist. That when the young mortal thief Bek (Brenton Thwaites), at the prodding of his love Zaya (Courtney Eaton), breaks into Set's vault and takes one of Horus' stolen eyes. The thief approaches the fallen god and offers to return the eye in exchange for his help.
From there, it's never all that clear what these characters are meant to be doing. The film is generally more interested in showing off this bizarre version of Egypt than telling much of a story. It has the character whizzing around one crazy location after another, each explained to be vitally important to how these gods function and how the world works in general, even though the pieces don't really fit all that well together. The film creates a confusing tapestry of ideas that is only occasionally compelling, strung together with visual effects that don't really look very good.
The goal is to defeat Set, but the film isn't very good at telling us how. It gets really fuzzy with the details, the characters seemingly just jumping from one strange location to the next with no clear purpose. To the film's credit, these locations are rooted in fascinating visual ideas. Horus and Bek get to witness Ra fighting off the darkness on his skyship, and try to break into a pyramid of shifting sand and stone. But it is genuinely difficult to tell what's supposed to be happening. The characters rarely show any urgency in their quest, the whole thing feeling like an overlong sightseeing trip. At one point, Bek actually has the chance to end Set, but apparently saving the world isn’t enough of a motivation for the young thief.
And it's all built on the shaky foundation of this film's visual effects. Barely anything in this movie appears to be real. At best, its scenes look like they were taken out of a videogame, which isn't a very good thing at all. It makes much of the action feel completely abstract, the fights lacking the substance that could make them exciting. It all looks pretty goofy, the film employing a sheen that makes everything feel doubly artificial.
Thematically, the film is a disaster. It kind of tells a story of Horus learning to become a god worthy of being called king, but the way the film writes that out is very, very thin. The film sort of takes a stand against vengeance, except it doesn't, really. That may sound a little confusing, but that's exactly what this film is. The cast works well enough, though the whitewashing does get distracting. It could be forgiven for casting Gerard Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in these bizarre, larger-than-life roles, but did the movie really need Brenton Thwaites to play Bek?
Gods of Egypt is bizarre and confusing, but it’s also kind of interesting because of that. It isn’t good, but every now and then the film’s mishmash of images produces something weirdly memorable. That doesn’t really make the movie worth seeing on the big screen, however, where the assault of subpar CGI is all the more noticeable. But one day, when this film is being shown on television or out on video, it might be something that could be fun to watch with some friends. Because really, it’s pretty insane.