You’ve probably seen the part in the trailers for Immortals where you see a bunch of people fighting in slow motion in mid-air. It’s a beautiful sequence to behold, looking like some sort of Caravaggio painting. It’s safe to say this was the thing I was looking forward to the most in this movie. Time for a shock, kids. Not only is this sequence in the movie for about thirty seconds, it’s at the very end to tease for a sequel.
Yup. Immortals is that kind of a movie.
Director: Tarsem Singh
Release: November 11, 2011
Immortals tells a heavily-modified version of the Greek myth of Theseus (Henry Cavil). This Theseus is a poor man in a small village whose world is torn apart when the village is sacked by King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who’s searching for the mythical Epirus Bow. Hyperion wants the bow to free the Titans from their prison in Mount Tartarus so that he might bring down the rule of the gods. Theseus’s only hope is the oracle Pheadra (Frieda Pinto), who just might be able to help him stop Hyperion from working his evil hoodoo.
Man, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. There’s so much going wrong with it that I’m struggling with finding what few pearls are sitting in the muck. So much of the film, from the themes to the characterization to the art direction, feels like Tarsem was late in getting his ideas to the studio. It’s as if he’d seen 300 the night before, so he just gave the studio executives a bunch of stills from that, mixed in with a few clippings from Renaissance-era paintings along with a couple frames of the new Clash of the Titans tossed in for good measure. This is heartbreaking for me, as no matter what I’ve thought of his films in the past, neither of Tarsem’s previous films could be called unoriginal, visually speaking. It’s boring, and it’s safe. Tarsem has never been either of those things. Every once in a while, something legitimately interesting shows up. The Titans themselves, when they are first introduced, are fairly original, but they inevitably turn into just another pack of wildling bad guys. Actually, that’s a fitting description of the entire movie. Things that appear original and interesting quickly prove to be trite, silly concepts.
None of this is helped by the fact that the film’s script is terrible. Theseus’s only motive seems to be revenge, at the outset, but this gets murkier and murkier until he’s done a complete 180, personality-wise, and I’m sitting here wondering if I missed a scene or seven where he becomes a more noble man. King Hyperion’s entire basis for dragging out a long war against the gods is barely touched on; he’s basically just a villain for the sake of villainy. Hell, he’s even got one of those terrible schemes that will only end in him dying along with the rest of the world. This sort of logic extends to the side characters as well. People act in ridiculous ways, seemingly just so they can fill that role in the story. We’ve got a thief (Stephen Dorff) standing around quipping for the sake of quipping, despite his insistence that he’s got no interest in the wars, and Phaedra the Oracle just seems to do whatever the hell she wants to.
The gods themselves are the only things that seem to have a certain amount of thematic consistency. Zeus (Luke Evans) is a tortured leader, wanting only to let mankind solve their own problems, and he makes it work. The other gods start to run together (there’s the one female one, the guy with spikes on his head, the guy with wings or something that are also on his head), unfortunately, but at least there’s a certain consistency within their consensus. They play out their own little game, and it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than what’s going on down on Earth.
I spoke earlier about how the film is fairly unoriginal and lazy, visually speaking. The same can be extended for the effects work and 3D cinematography going on here. Obviously, a large portion of the film is digital effects shots, and that’s perfectly fine. However, the effects work is ridiculously inconsistent. The backgrounds and larger shots are absolutely gorgeous. There’s an incredible attention to detail, and there’s a sense of scale that often gets lost in similar movies. At the same time, in a certain fight scene where the gods themselves descend to attack their foes, the artistry goes out the windows. The gods seem to be flailing wildly at nothing, while obviously-digital enemies are thrown back with no real sense of impact or weight. Properly integrating human and digital assets in a fight scene is incredibly difficult, but when The Matrix Reloaded did it better, you know there’s something wrong here. Like with every big-budget action movie, the film is shot in 3D, for the most part, and aside from the odd neat shot where the camera travels through a huge space or through a strangely-shaped object, there’s just nothing interesting happening. We may be doomed to a world where only Avatar can bother to get 3D looking right.
Immortals is a deeply lazy film from a filmmaker who should know better. It lacks both style and substance, with nothing but a lot of sword-rattling and bad CGI blood to show for it. I can’t believe I’m saying this seriously, but you would be better off watching 300. Or stabbing yourself in the sex organs.