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Uninspired 'Gods of Egypt' is a convoluted mess of filler CGI
Gerard Butler stars as Set in Gods of Egypt." - photo by Josh Terry
"GODS OF EGYPT" 1 stars Gerard Butler, Brenton Thwaites, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau; PG-13 (fantasy violence and action and some sexuality); in general release

Gods of Egypt is much more interested in spectacle than substance, which would be great if its spectacle were more substantial. Instead, over the course of two hours, its thin and convoluted story gradually gets lost in a chaotic mess of underdeveloped CGI.

Director Alex Proyas film is set in ancient mythological Egypt at a time when gods walked among men. Some are benevolent, some are a bit more egomaniacal, but luckily for viewers, all of the Egyptian gods stand about 50 percent taller than standard mortals.

As Gods of Egypt opens, King Osiris (Bryan Brown) is about to pass his throne to his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who intends to continue his fathers gracious reign. But Osiriss jealous brother Set (Gerard Butler) has other plans, crashing the coronation and killing the old king before putting out Horus magic eyes.

Fast-forward a bit, and Set has enslaved the human race, primarily to build a mammoth obelisk in tribute to his father, the sun god Ra (Geoffrey Rush). This stirs unrest, especially in a young mortal named Bek (Brenton Thwaites), who is determined to free his beloved Zaya (Courtney Eaton) from Sets chief builder Urshu (Rufus Sewell). So Bek steals one of Horus magic eyes out of Sets vault and sets out to find the exiled king-to-be.

After some reluctant bargaining, helped by the return of one of his eyes, Horus agrees to team up with Bek to overthrow Set. To do so, they must visit Ra, who seems to spend most of his time fighting a cosmic sandworm that is threatening to eat Earth. They also have to enlist the help of Thoth (Chadwick Boseman), the god of wisdom, and Horus ex-girlfriend Hathor (Elodie Yung), a mistress of the Underworld who has been at Sets side ever since the failed coronation.

The twists and turns of the next hour and a half mask a simple premise, but the straightforward plot often gets bogged down in the kind of supernatural mythology that suggests Gods of Egypts writers were making up the rules as they went along. By the time the films third act arrives, the storys myriad threads are tied into an incomprehensible knot.

This wouldnt be that big a deal if the visual spectacle delivered. Instead, a truckload of low-grade CGI is thrown about the screen constantly, averaging about one good visual for every 10 that fall flat. Impressive CGI creatures such as the aforementioned sandworm and a pair of giant cobras are too often undermined by cheap-looking green screen renderings and other sub-par animations.

When combined with the weak story, the results are lifeless. Take the early sequence where Bek is trying to steal back Horus eye. After cleverly navigating his way through a pair of booby-traps, Bek is dropped onto a path full of swirling, rotating and jabbing swords, and he has to duck, dive and leap his way through on instinct and blind luck. Theres never any question that hes going to make it, and the combination of preposterous premise and unbelievable animation sucks any tension from the sequence.

The acting is about as melodramatic as youd expect from this kind of CGI-heavy fantasy, and Butler is clearly having the most fun of the lot. But without a riveting story or compelling imagery to boost interest, Gods of Egypt leaves audiences with the visual equivalent of off-brand junk food. It will do in a pinch, but the aftertaste might leave you asking why you bothered.

"Gods of Egypt" is rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and action, and some sexuality; running time: 127 minutes
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