Review: “Immortals”

November 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

Director Tarsem Singh isn’t someone you’ve probably heard of. You may have heard of his films, or maybe even seen one of them (most likely the one with J-Lo), but his name isn’t as ubiquitous as someone like Steven Spielberg. The last film he directed was 2006’s The Fall, a beautiful period drama that, like all his other films, focus on style over substance. But he’s no Michael Bay — Singh’s films aren’t exactly filled with explosions. They’ve got vivid colors, wonderfully composed shots, and beautiful cinematography. It was a little surprising to me when I learned he was going to direct a sand-and-sandals epic focused around Greek mythology.

But then I thought to myself, “What would Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy look like if directed by Tarsem Singh?” At the very least, it would be a gorgeous film with buckets of blood.

I’m in.

Immortals takes a little bit of Greek mythology, namely the stories centering around Theseus and the Minotaur and the Titanomachy (the war between the Titans and the Olympians), and changes them around a bit to create a new tale. King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) declares war on the gods of Olympus and sets out with his army in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon that could help him win a war against the gods.

Zeus (Luke Evans) foresees the coming war and chooses a mortal, Theseus (Henry Cavill), to lead the  rest of the mortals against Hyperion’s army. Holding fast to the old laws that govern their universe, Zeus forbids any Olympian god to directly affect the events on earth (though he himself is obviously bending the rules quite a bit). Instead, Theseus joins a motley crew of adventurers to get to the Epirus Bow before Hyperion does.

For better or for worse, Immortals plays like your typical adventure movie like Clash of the Titans (the original), any of the Sinbad movies, or even more recent stuff like The Lord of the Rings. I guess that’s why Immortals has been getting a bad rep from critics — there’s really nothing new here. Sure, it looks great. Scratch that, this movie can look gorgeous at times. I did see the movie in 3D, and Tarsem Singh and cinematographer Brendan Galvin know how to take full advantage of that extra dimension of depth. There’s also a few cool transitions that the editors employ.

But that’s kind of it.

Immortals isn’t a bad movie to me. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. There’s action, lots of violence, hot women (I don’t think Freida Pinto has ever looked hotter than she did here), and even some crazy ninja fight scenes when the Olympians have to step in and kick some ass. All these things are enough to entertain me at the theatre. But why would I not consider Immortals a new adventure classic?

I’d like to compare this to another stylized Greek action-adventure movie: 300. Visually, Immortals and Zack Snyder’s movie are very similar. But that’s where the similarities end. I’d say 300 is the superior movie for one reason: it’s trying to say something. Maybe I’m reading too much into Snyder’s film adaptation of the graphic novel, but the reason why I love 300 so much is because it’s making a statement on masculinity, on what it means to be a man.

In 300, real men fought for the things they cared about. It also wasn’t just about violence, though. Men had to be passionate lovers who cared so much for their family and their country that they’re willing to die for them. There’s something awe-inspiring about the notion of three hundred warriors standing toe-to-toe against a vastly superior force (a million-man Persian army, according to the movie). They weren’t tricked into going to battle; the soldiers new exactly what they were doing. They did it because they had to. If there was even the slightest chance of victory, they were going to take it, even if it that meant failure brought death.

Now, back to Immortals. Yes, there’s a moment in the film when Theseus makes a rousing speech to rally the troops because they’re outnumbered and about to get their asses handed to them. But I didn’t feel it earned that moment. The whole movie felt slightly empty to me. Again, I want to make it clear that I enjoyed the movie. But I wasn’t “wowed” by it. I’m sure Immortals would look fantastic on Blu-ray, I just don’t think it deserves a spot on my shelf next to the classic films it’s clearly inspired by.



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