Immortals (2011) / Action-Fantasy
MPAA rated R for strong violence, gore, and a scene of sexuality
Running time: 110 min.
Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, John Hurt, Joseph Morgan, Isabel Lucas, Ann Day-Jones, Greg Bryk, Alan Van Sprang, Peter Stebbings, Kellan Lutz
Director: Tarsem Singh Dhandwar
Screenplay: Charley Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides
April 11, 2012
Director Tarsem Singh (The Fall, The Cell) delivers his usual highly-stylized, incoherent visual masturbation all over this somewhat gory sword-and-sandal epic, cranking up the computer-generated display at the expense of such things as interesting plot, rich characterizations, or an interesting storyline to follow. If you've always wanted to see characters from your Ancient Greek myths battle it out to the gruesome deaths while wearing funny costumes and flashing ripped abs when not posturing like subjects in a Renaissance painting, you've found your movie. It's a soul-suffocating endeavor without much genuine humor, romance, thrills, chills, or basic reason to exist except to sate those who like money-shot 'Mortal Kombat'-style fatalities of heads getting smashed into bloody pulps or throats ripped open throughout.
Set in Greece in the year 1228 BC, Henry Cavill (Whatever Works, Stardust) stars as Theseus, a lowly peasant aided by the god Zeus disguised as an old man (Hurt, Hellboy 2), who utilizes his penchant for the spear to take up the cause. Mickey Rourke (The Expendables, Operation Stormbreaker) plays the psychopathic King Hyperion, willing to take the Greeks, and the mostly abstaining Olympian gods themselves, through the release of a wildly dangerous group of immortal captives referred to as the immortal Titans, on a quest to secure the long-fabled, magical Epirus Bow to use as a powerful weapon against the divine Olympians. Theseus is assisted to get to the Bow first by the lovely virgin Phaedra (Pinto, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), the most powerful of the Sybelline oracles, and crafty thief Stavros (Dorff, Public Enemies), as the band of small ragtags mount oppositions to the powerful army of evil.
Mediocre casting is but one of this dreadful epic's many faults, especially in Stephen Dorff as the requisite comical third wheel, who seems to completely forget he's in what is essentially a period work. Hammy acting is employed by all, though none more so than Mickey Rourke acting much like he did in Iron Man 2 (sans Russian accent), except for a few scars and silly battle helmets. Cavill is, at best, a placeholder hunk who lacks the charisma to balance out Rourke's maniacal villainy. The overwrought delivery coats the films with a leaden atmosphere that stifles any sense of fun, danger or intrigue for anyone not staring with mouths agog at the art design or crazy costumes based on nothing resembling Ancient Greece. Some of the locales are used multiple times, as if there were only about four or five basic scenarios where scenes could take place, all of which have a small theatrical setting. Instead of vast armies and peoples, it's just a handful of combatants at any given time. Mount Olympus has only five gods looking down upon the populace. Though epic in scope, a times it feels more like a small theatrical production in execution.
Singh's visuals are, as always, the most interesting part of his films. One wonders what he might do if he were ever to be afforded a terrific story, the way that Zack Snyder had Alan Moore's seminal "Watchmen" to work with. Here, Singh cribs more than just a little off of the look and style of Snyder's very similar 300, with its computer-generated backdrops and slow-motion fight scenes that look ripped straight out from video games. 300 is a film that has its own set of flaws that are mostly exacerbated in Immortals, as the story itself proves to be not even risible to the comic book dialogue of its predecessor. It is violent and larger than life in the same ways as well, with heads smashed like watermelons at the power end of a giant hammer, or throats that get ripped wide open at the bloody end of a chain or blade.Not surprising that both films share some production credits. Then the plot is quite similar to Clash of the Titans, and not the good version, with a similar battle of men trying to take down gods, and Titans that need to be released in order to secure dominion for the evildoers.
Perhaps only to marvel at Singh's orgy of aesthetics, it might merit a curious look, but anyone looking for an engaging tale befitting the magnitude of Greek mythology will find that there's not much life to be found in Immortals.
©2012 Vince Leo