An Ultra HD Blu-ray gift from the Gods
Despite an intriguing premise, a poor script and lacklustre design hamper what could have been a fun fantasy adventure.Since the majority of the world isn't that familiar with the myths of Ancient Egypt, the idea must have seemed like a good one. These myths include many fascinating and inventive characters, creatures and events, the majority of which will be unfamiliar to cinema audiences. Throw in a budget of $140 million, a director with a decent track record in effects films and a fun cast and you've got yourself a hit right? Wrong, what you actually end up with is a soulless and largely joyless CGI-fest that features Gerard Butler doing this best Brian Blessed impression.The problem with Gods of Egypt lies in a script that wants to be fun and light-hearted but fails; primarily because it's missing the key ingredient in any fantasy film - a degree of charm. You only have to watch Jason and the Argonauts , which presented Greek myths in a literal manner, to see how a likeable charm can overcome poor acting and a limited budget. Conversely, Gods of Egypt uses slick effects and a big budget to overcome clumsy writing and a complete lack of soul, which is a shame because the sight of gods riding giant fire-breathing cobras should have been cool!
Picture QualityGods of Egypt was filmed digitally using the Red Epic Dragon at a resolution of 6K but it was finished using a 2K Digital Intermediate (DI), which presumably formed the basis for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release and was then upscaled to 4K. The film is presented using a 3840 x 2160p transfer in the correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the region free US Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Gods of Egypt on a Samsung UE65KS9500 Ultra HD 4K TV with a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player, although the film has yet to be released on the format in the UK.
The use of a 2K DI, despite the fact that the film was shot at a resolution of 6K, is undoubtedly due to the costs associated with finishing so many effects shots in 4K and the fact that the film was released with a 3D post conversion. It's a shame that the filmmakers didn't finish the film in 4K but with so much CGI in almost every shot it isn't surprising. As a result when we compared the Ultra HD Blu-ray to the regular Blu-ray directly, there was only a tiny bit more detail apparent. In fairness that's as much a testament to the quality of the regular Blu-ray as much as anything, with both discs revealing amazing levels of detail in every shot.
The stunning picture takes full advantage of the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format
However the Ultra HD Blu-ray still looked better than the regular Blu-ray despite the minimal difference in actual resolution and this was completely due to the other benefits imparted by Ultra HD. The use of 10-bit video depth for the transfer eliminated any distracting banding and a wider colour range allowed for a greater degree of subtlety from the numerous flesh tones to the make-up, costumes and production design. The underworld appeared more desaturated with greys dominating, whilst the heavens were bathed in the the fires of the sun god Ra. Although realistic isn't perhaps the right word given the subject matter, there's no doubt that the Ultra HD Blu-ray was the superior experience with nicely saturated colours that delivered the filmmakers original intentions.
The final aspect of the Ultra HD Blu-ray that made it superior to the regular Blu-ray was the use of HDR. Although the actual resolution of the two formats were almost the same, the Ultra HD Blu-ray still appeared more defined thanks to HDR. It resulted in the cityscapes appearing more detailed and close-ups, clothing and interiors all offering greater clarity and sharpness. The sandy, cracked surface of the Sphinx and the make-up on Ra's face were two examples where the use of HDR added greater impact to the image in small but effective ways. The brighter highlights were more apparent in the way that sunlight would glint off the gods' metallic forms and there was also greater detail in the brighter parts of the image. This was obvious early on in a scene inside a house with a window in the background. There was clearly more detail outside the window on the Ultra HD Blu-ray but it was just a blown-out patch of light on the Blu-ray. The only downside to the HDR grade was that it often drew attention to the enormous amount of CGI in the film, sometimes making it look more like a cut scene from a video than it already did. However that minor quibble aside, Gods of Egypt boasts stunning picture quality that takes full advantage of the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format.
Sound QualityGods of Egypt used a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for its theatrical release but Lionsgate have created a new DTS:X soundtrack for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release, although the same track was also used on the US Blu-ray release. We reviewed Gods of Egypt using a Denon AVR-X7200WA with a full 7.2.4 setup and whilst the film is hardly a classic, the soundtrack is absolutely thunderous, with an effective surround mix that makes full use of the additional channels to totally immerse the viewer.
The sound designers clearly had a field day as they were let loose in the DTS:X playground and they take full advantage of all the benefits the immersive audio format has to offer. This isn't a subtle mix by any stretch of the imagination and might well be the loudest we've ever heard! The score is spread across the front channels creating a wide and open soundstage across which the music is nicely mixed. The dialogue remains clear, intelligible and centred, and when the gods talk there's a slight echo added.
The incredible DTS:X soundtrack is one of the loudest we've ever heard
The surround effects are steered throughout the 360 degree sound field with remarkable precision, allowing them to be effectively located within the room. The effects move seamlessly through the soundstage and the addition of overhead channels not only allows for greater freedom but also an improved sense of environment. As the gods fight themselves in their armoured animal forms, the effects follow them around the room relative to where they are on screen, flying around and over you.
Then there's the bass... The LFE channel is used extensively throughout the mix, with the subwoofers in our setup getting a thorough work out. It seems as though almost every action scene is punctuated with sledgehammer bass that shakes the room like a sonic earthquake. At times it could even get to be a bit much but we can't fault the sound designers for trying, so if you love big, brash, unsubtle sound mixes, then this is the one for you.
ExtrasThe US Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Gods of Egypt comes in a black Amaray case with two discs, the Ultra HD Blu-ray and the Full HD Blu-ray. The Ultra HD Blu-ray doesn't use regional coding, however the Blu-ray is locked to Region A. The package also includes a digital HD copy of the film, although you probably won't be able to redeem the code in this country.
All the extras are in Full HD and included on the regular Blu-ray, with the six featurettes combining to create a fairly comprehensive documentary about the making of the film:
Deleted Storyboards (06:58) – Not so much storyboards as animatics, there are two un-filmed scenes presented – Horus Coronation Party (01:13) and Bek and the Phoenix (05:45).
A Divine Vision: Creating a Cinematic Action Fantasy (11:48) – A short promotional featurette containing information about the ideas behind the film and its production.
Of Gods and Mortals: The Cast (10:52) – A promotional featurette that concentrates on the cast of the film.
Transformation: Costume, Make-up and Hair (11:10) – A short featurette that concentrates on the hair and make-up in the film as well as the extensive costume design.
On Location: Shooting in Australia (12:44) – One of the reasons that the film was lacking any actual Egyptians in the cast and crew was that it was shot in Australia, whose deserts doubled for those in the film. The filmmakers did consider actually shooting in Egypt but sensibly decided that Australia was considerably safer.
The Battle for Eternity: Stunts (11:38) – This short featurette includes storyboards for various action sequences and behind-the-scenes footage of some of the stunt work.
A Window into Another World: Visual Effects (10:57) – This short featurette covers the extensive visual effects used in the film and whilst it gets a bit repetitive, it is amazing just how much of the film was computer generated.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictGods of Egypt was clearly designed as the first film in a new franchise, so much so that it often feels like the first act in something larger. However poor box office returns mean we won't be seeing any more adventures in Ancient Egypt. Loud, bombastic and garish with a soundtrack that is turned up to eleven, Gods of Egypt is the kind of dull and soulless CGI-fest that passes for entertainment these days and is a valuable reminder that a decent script, some likeable characters and a degree of charm can go much further than a pyramid-load of gold.
Gods of Egypt is another stunning Ultra HD Blu-ray from Lionsgate
Whatever the failings of Gods of Egypt itself, the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc delivers the goods with a stunning picture and fantastic sound. The film may have been finished at 2K but the Ultra HD Blu-ray takes full advantage of the new format to present every pixel in the best possible way, with a wider colour gamut and increased dynamic range. The result is an image that reproduces the film's production design and effects in breathtaking detail. The new DTS:X soundtrack is also an absolute stunner, using all the available speakers to deliver an active and highly immersive surround sound experience. The included extras give some insight into the film's production and round off what is another stunning Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Lionsgate.
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