New movie gives Egyptian gods the epic-fantasy treatment

We’ve seen quite a few movies based on pagan European mythology over the last few years, from Clash of the Titans and its sequel to the Percy Jackson movies and the Thor superhero flicks. And of course, there are quite a few Bible movies in the works right now too, some of which, such as Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, will borrow heavily from post-biblical myths and legends. But now comes word that an even older religious-mythological system is about to get the epic-fantasy treatment.

The Hollywood Reporter says three actors have been tapped so far to star in Gods of Egypt under the direction of Alex Proyas, whose last film Knowing took some of its key images and ideas from the Old Testament; he also came very close to directing a big-screen version of John Milton’s creation epic Paradise Lost, starring Bradley Cooper as Lucifer, before the studio decided to pull the plug.

In Gods of Egypt, Gerard Butler will play the desert god Set, who kills his brother Osiris as part of a larger plan that will eventually target their father, the sun god Ra, played by Geoffrey Rush. Osiris’s son Horus, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, tries to get revenge and fails, losing an eye in the process, and then has to team up with “a young human thief in love with a slave to help defeat the mad god.”

Evidently some tweaks have been made to the original mythology, since the father of Set and Osiris in ancient Egyptian myth was someone named Geb, not the better-known Ra. The basic premise of the movie, with its rival brothers and its plot involving their father, also vaguely reminds me of the Zeus-Hades-Kronos triangle in Wrath of the Titans, though it sounds quite different in some ways, too.

I would be curious to know if any modern-day pagans have any thoughts on this film. Two years ago, Eric Scott, a modern-day worshiper of the Norse god Thor, wrote a couple of posts about the Marvel Studios movie Thor for the website Killing the Buddha — one before the movie came out and one after — in which he explored what it was like to see his chosen mythology turned into movie-based toys etc.

Perhaps there are some modern-day devotees of Ra or Horus who would have similar thoughts about this film, and what it has done to the original Egyptian myth?

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • epredota

    Peter, thanks for bringing this to our attention! I’m a Pagan, although I don’t have a strong relationship with any of the Egyptian deities named as the ‘main characters’ in this film. I tend to think of the creative use of Pagan pantheons – whether ancient or modern – as a story-telling rather than a religious matter. Writers tend to turn to mythology because it is full of darned good yarns, rather than because they themselves have anything to say spiritually or theologically. (I don’t know of any Pagans in Hollywood, at least not with the power to control stories.) In my view, as long as the film doesn’t present itself as being an actual retelling of the ancient stories, I’m fine with it.

    Ancient lore, from whatever tradition, tends to be full of spiritual, cosmological and geographical insights for how to live in the society, culture and economy of which they are part; those insights need to be reinterpreted by and for contemporary Pagans to find their relevance to today’s lives. I really don’t think turning them into Hollywood blockbusters is the best way to do that, but I’m not going to complain about writers, producers and directors looking for a good story.

  • epstaffing1 .

    Why not tell the truth about the ethnicity of the Egyptian Gods! Why portray a false version of Egypt? No one in Ancient Kemet was of White complexion. Egypt is of Africa and the first cousin of Nubia. Its time to stop whitewashing true African History to make one race seem superior. Yes white and other races now occupy areas in Africa but Nothing in Africa had any European influence before 332 B.C. Studies into origins of the human race and precolonial African culture established that ancient Egypt was founded, populated, and ruled by black Africans; the Egyptian language and culture still exists in modern African languages like Wolof language and that black Egypt was responsible for the rise of civilization throughout Africa and the Mediterranean, including Greece,Rome and the Americas. Under King Ramses 3 Egyptians sailed the Americas long before Columbus knew the world was round. Black / African people come from a very strong, intelligent, civilized history. Its time to tell the truth! Blacks / Africans were something before slavery. They were Kings and Queens. They respected the woman because they knew life came from her womb.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/filmchat Peter T Chattaway

      On the contrary, many Egyptian rulers prior to 332 BC were non-black. We have the mummies of many Pharaohs who were not black (including the red-haired Ramesses II, who is often thought to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus), and of course there was an entire dynasty of Semitic Pharaohs known as the “Hyksos” (who may or may not have ruled Egypt during the time when the biblical Joseph — he who had the coat of many colours — is said to have become the Pharaoh’s grand vizier). No doubt the ethnic make-up of Egypt and other ancient cultures is more complicated than Hollywood typically lets on, but it is also more complicated than the suggestion that Egypt was all-black prior to Alexander the Great.

      • epstaffing1 .

        On the contrary scientific research – such as carbon dating as a means of dating artifacts and remains, and the melanin dosage test which was used to verify the melanin content of Egyptian mummies. Which debunks the myth of a Caucasian Egypt. FYI blacks can have red hair, blond hair and even blue eyes that does not make them white. The Melanin presence makes them of color. The Hyksos rulers of the fifteenth dynasty of Egypt were of non-Egyptian origin. Most archaeologists describe the Hyksos as a mix of Asiatic peoples, suggested by recorded names such as Khyan and Sakir-Har that resemble Asiatic names, and pottery finds that resemble pottery found in archaeological excavations in the area of modern Israel. The name Hyksos was used by the Egyptian historian Manetho (ca. 300 BCE), who, according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (1st century CE), translated the word as “king-shepherds” or “captive shepherds.” Josephus himself identified the Hyksos with the Hebrews of the Bible. Hyksos was in fact probably an Egyptian term for “rulers of foreign lands. The rule of these Hyksos kings overlaps with those of the native Egyptian pharaohs of the 16th and 17th dynasties of Egypt, better known as the Second Intermediate Period. The first pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, Ahmose I, finally expelled the Hyksos from their last holdout at Sharuhen in Gaza by the 16th year of his reign.[1][2] Scholars have taken the increasing use of scarabs and the adoption of some Egyptian forms of art by the Fifteenth Dynasty Hyksos kings and their wide distribution as an indication of their becoming progressively Egyptianized.[3] The Hyksos used Egyptian titles associated with traditional Egyptian kingship, and took Egyptian god Seth to represent their own titulary deity. But they were invaders and not of Egypt! Another Myth Debunked!!!!!!!

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/filmchat Peter T Chattaway

          Yes, the Hyksos were of non-African origin: that was precisely my point. As for the melanin samples, Diop apparently based his theory on a small sample size, which is hardly enough to make a generalized statement about all of Egyptian history — and thus, for this and other reasons, his theory has been rejected by mainstream scholarship.

          • epstaffing1 .

            As my point, Original Egyptians are black. The depiction of Ra as a white male is wrong and a whitewash period. As I stated in my original post other races did move to parts of Africa but was not the Original inhabitants of Ancient Kemet. Oh and Hyksos is actually the Greek term. Anything that proves blacks were more than slaves has always been disputed by mainstream white scholars that want to maintain one race as the superior role. That does not mean their denial or rejections prove their theory to be the truth. Where are the descendants of Hyksos? They are in common day Israel. Who are the closest relatives to the Egyptians? The Nubians of Sudan also of Africa. Were is the arc of the covenant not is Israel. But in Ethiopia. Have you ever wondered why? The truth will set you free!!

          • http://patheos.com/blogs/filmchat Peter T Chattaway

            I am aware of the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition regarding the Ark of the Covenant, but as far as I know they have never let anyone verify it. And while some scholars might very well be racist, I hardly think the vast majority of them are. Statements of fact (including your claim that the ancient Egyptians visited the Americas) have to be backed up with some sort of evidence, and the efforts by Diop and others apparently haven’t done the job.

            As for Hollywood, well, it might not be ethnically appropriate to cast Australians, Scotsmen and Danes as Egyptian gods — or even as members of the same family! — but by the same token, it wasn’t ethnically appropriate for the makers of the Thor movies to cast a black man as a Norse god (and a god who is known in Norse mythology as “the white god”, at that!). See also the controversies over the casting of a Brit as a South Asian in Star Trek into Darkness, the casting of Chinese actresses as Japanese women in Memoirs of a Geisha, and so on. Hollywood tends to be less interested in “accuracy” than in going for whichever actors it considers to be the safer bets, box-office-wise.

          • Nadirah Adeye

            Actually, it’s not really the same thing. I’m not going to take the time to explain why it’s not the same thing because if it needs to be explained, it’s going to take much more time than I’m willing to give during a mercury retrograde. But it’s not. Period.

          • http://patheos.com/blogs/filmchat Peter T Chattaway

            Yeah… you’re going to have to provide a little more detail than that. Are you familiar with the Monty Python sketch about the difference between arguments and mere contradictions? You need to make an argument here.

      • hadihood

        Your talking about the 15 dynasty when they were conquered by the hyksos. And tut was caucasian he was closer to sub saharan africans dna proved that. You in denial

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/filmchat Peter T Chattaway

          No, Ramesses II was a member of the 19th dynasty, not the 15th. As for Tutankhamun (a member of the 18th dynasty), do you have a link for that? Two years ago a Swiss outfit was making the exact opposite claim about his DNA.

  • hadihood

    Man this is pissing me the fick off smh so sub saharan gods are white too i suppose oh and asian goods and hispanic gods smfh a bunch of bulls, they look nothing like the ancient egyptians. We all know what color they were people love living in denial


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