Movie Review: Immortals
Release Date: November 11, 2011
· Tarsem Singh
· Mickey Rourke
· Henry Cavill
· Freida Pinto
· Luke Evans
· Isabel Lucas
· Stephen Dorff
· John Hurt
· Visit the official Immortals website.
by Jeff Ritter
Published: November 13, 2011
"Immortals" is the latest film by director Tarsem Singh, who created the "The Cell" and "The Fall," neither of which was my cup of tea. I generally try to avoid watching trailers whenever possible, but I'd seen one for this and wondered which film will it rip off more: the fun if over-exaggerated "300," or the abominable, soulless "Clash of the Titans" remake from last year?
Fortunately, Singh toned down his substantial artistic flare enough to make an accessible and generally fun popcorn flick. Not that there's anything wrong with artistic flare, but sword-swinging epics aren't the place for avant garde storytelling and overly elaborate costuming. The Greeks are traditionally garbed; citizens in robes and sandals, soldiers in Hoplite armor and the like. Singh gets his flare fix in with the Olympian gods, many of whom sport very elaborate head gear that also serve to name the wearer. Ares the god of war sports a spiked mohawk-style crown of sword blades whereas Poseidon's head wear is decidedly fishy.
The story, crafted by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, revolves around King Hyperion of Crete (Mickey Rourke) invading Greece on a quest to find the fabled Epirus Bow, with which he plans to unleash the Titans, long imprisoned in Mount Tartaurus. The King's quest brings him to the sleepy seaside village where Theseus (Henry Cavill) dwells, devoted to his mother and befriended by a kindly old man (John Hurt) who turns out to be Zeus (Luke Evans) in disguise. Zeus reminds the Olympians that some ancient and vague law prohibits them from interfering in the affairs of man (since when?!?) and that sets up the conflict. Theseus is soon joined by Stavros the Thief (Stephen Dorff) and Phaedra the Oracle (Freida Pinto), and together they find the Epirus Bow only to lose it to Hyperion. When the Titans are unleashed, Zeus finally accepts that they must get involved and along with Athena (Isabel Lucas) and a handful of other Olympians they set to re-imprisoning the Titans. At the same time, Theseus and King Hyperion have their final showdown.
Mickey Rourke, as I'd hoped, is the main reason to see this movie. Since his turn as Marv in "Sin City" Rourke has been hitting one home run after another. "Immortals" isn't going to garner anyone Oscar nominations, but it's worth seeing just to watch what an actor can do when driven to succeed and given the space to work. I've heard that Tarsem Singh basically let Rourke have at it, embellishing lines as he saw fit. True or not, the cool menace that he brings to Hyperion puts him in that "cool villains" category with the likes of Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones in the only "Star Wars" films worth watching), René Belloq (Paul Freeman in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"), or Barbarosa (Geoffrey Rush in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies). Rourke seems to give himself over completely to Hyperion's cruelty.
The rest of the cast won't stick in your head nearly as much, though they are a very attractive lot. Henry Cavill reminded me a little of Harry Hamlin from the beloved original "Clash of the Titans." Stephen Dorff provides a little comic relief, but I don't think he steals a single thing in the whole movie--some thief! The ladies though...by Zeus they are lovely! Indian star Freida Pinto is gorgeous and does a decent job juggling multiple facets of Phaedra: a tough gal who can take care of herself, a wide-eyed virgin falling for Theseus and the haunted oracle who's visions seldom foretell any good news. Isabel Lucas is almost too cute to be Athena or perhaps it was her blond locks throwing me off, I usually think of Athena as a brunette. Even Theseus mother Aethra, played by Anne Day-Jones, is easy on the eyes.
The plot and storytelling were something of a mixed bag. Theseus is famed in mythology for ending the terror of the Minotaur. He does that here too, but it's not the mythic man-bull you're hoping for, just a large brute of a man wearing a bull mask. The sets are interesting if somewhat illogical and the pacing would have been awfully slow if not punctuated by Hyperion killing off messenger after messenger about every eight minutes. As far as I know, the Epirus Bow was invented for this story, and I have to suspect that the Brothers Parlapanides were fans of the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon I watched as a kid, because the bow is basically the same as Hank the Ranger's, magic arrows appearing as the string is drawn. I was very disappointed with the Titans. I always pictured the Titans as huge monstrous things like the Kraken, famously unleashed in "Clash of the Titans" and infamously turned into a cute giant sea turtle in the remake. Here they are merely gray humanoid savages. I didn't see enough out of them to warrant the interference of the gods--I think the Greek warriors could have taken them. They mostly serve as an excuse to show off some flashy special effects, where the gods engage in a bit of "300" style slow-motion dismemberment in what barely qualifies as 3D. There probably isn't another movie with more beheadings and crown to crotch smashing than "Immortals." I'm glad the film didn't overuse the "300" slow-motion style, which with the films producers having also been involved in "300" there was certainly that risk. Strangely, Zeus never throws a lightning bolt the entire time, but the gods still put up a heck of a fight. I think it would have been better in 2D, since once again the 3D adds nothing but a headache and pinch marks on my nose.
You'll probably find a number of reviews that will be more negative about "Immortals." I've seen one by some homophobe on IMDB who decried all of the rippling abs and broad shoulders as homoerotica. I've heard the same comments in every shirtless sword-swinging movie since Russell Crowe in "Gladiator." Get over it. If Singh really stayed true to ancient Greece, they'd have shot most of the scenes totally nude. The ancient Olympics were originally contested in bare skin. If you're afraid of seeing physically fit men in sweaty fight scenes, maybe you should quit watching these types of movies. I'm sure a number of women would love to have your seat. I didn't go in to "Immortals" expecting an Oscar worthy epic. I expected to be entertained (I was), to see how Tarsem Singh handled the myth of Theseus (creatively, but not bad) and to see if Mickey Rourke would steal every scene he's in (he does, and rightly so because that's what damn good actors do). I didn't notice any homoerotic overtones because I was too busy drooling over Freida Pinto and Isabel Lucas. The action gives a respectful tip of the cap to "300" without overdoing it and "Immortals" got right everything Louis Leterrier "Clash of the Titans" mess got wrong, with the exception of the use of 3D. Once everyone realizes that 3D doesn't add anything to most movies we'll all be better off. Based on my expectations, I enjoyed "Immortals" and have no qualms about recommending it. I don't need every movie to be socially topical and thought provoking like "Margin Call." Sometimes I just want to see Mickey Rourke make heads roll, and that's exactly what Immortals provides.