Directed by Tarsem Singh
Just as 300 reimagined one of the greatest battles of ancient Greece as an R-rated Masters of the Universe, Immortals is a peyote-induced fever dream of Greek mythological warfare served up by a visionary director far more interested in style over substance and a pair of fledgling screenwriters who all must have watched 300 and come to the same conclusion that it wasn’t quite bombastic enough for their tastes.
Immortals is one of the most absurdly entertaining films of the year, often just outright absurd. A hyper-stylized visual tour-de-force from beginning to end loaded with characters, dialogue, pageantry, and epic battles that frequently, unintentionally, threaten to veer off wildly into the realm of camp. The only thing missing to solidify this over-the-top flick’s instant ascension to the status of cult classic is a soundtrack composed by Queen.
THESEUS – A-AAAAAH – SAVIOR OF THE HELLENICS
Henry Cavill will next be seen playing the Man of Steel in the new Superman movie from the director of, coincidentally, 300. After seeing his turn as the heroic Theseus, I fully endorse that casting decision since here he’s already playing a galvanizing superhero that could very easily have been named Super Greek: Man of Bronze.
Those of you familiar with Greek mythology know Theseus to be the young man who slew the Minotaur and saved his people from the evil King Minos. This Theseus does save his people from an evil king, just not named Minos, and while there is no half-man/half-bull, there is a seven-foot brute wearing a barb-wire helmet in the shape of a bull’s head he must defeat in mortal combat. Close enough.
King Hyperion wants to destroy the Greek gods and, in doing so, and by impregnating as many women as possible, make sure only his name lives on in immortality. He needs the legendary Epicus bow – an Olympian bow that fires arrows of light that can kill gods and blow things up real good – to free the Titans locked inside a display box within Mount Tartarus as if they were Zeus’ private action figure collection.
King Hyperion is played by the marvelously miscast Mickey Rourke. With his shaggy hair and long beard, I could see him playing a Viking ruler, not an overlord of ancient Greece. Rourke calmly speaks his every line of dialogue in a voice devoid of any sort of accent unless you count his voice being so gravelly it could be used to pave a country road as an accent. Calmly may not be the proper adjective; half the time he sounds like a man who has just stumbled out of bed after tying one over the night before. Thank the gods that Rourke is one of those gifted actors fascinating to watch even when giving a train wreck performance in a role he is all wrong for.
And if anyone out there thinks Mickey Rourke is the most out of place casting in a Greek mythology movie, then just wait until Stephen Dorff shows up as Theseus’ loyal sidekick.
To find the bow to crash the impenetrable gate of Mount Tartarus to blast open the Big Box o’ Titans to unleash them to kill the Olympians, Hyperion must first find the virgin oracle who knows the whereabouts of this lost super weapon of the heavens.
Freida Pinto is the virgin oracle who won’t be a virgin for very long as she accompanies Theseus on his quest to avenge his mother’s murder at the hands of Hyperion. As was the case with her role in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Pinto is just kind of there to explain a few details, look lovely, and serve as a love interest without ever really being all that integral to the outcome.
In keeping with Tarsem’s go big or go home mentality, even a simple shot of Pinto’s nude butt double is filmed so tight this woman’s immaculate derriere fills up nearly the entire screen – in 3D! If the cinematographer zoomed in any closer, this nude scene could have turned into a colonoscopy.
This is perfectly in keeping with Tarsem’s determination to fill nearly every moment on screen with as much pomp and circumstance as possible - never more so than when the Greek gods take center stage. One thing I learned from this take on Greek mythology: When the gods of Mount Olympus go to war, a whole bunch of heads will explode in super slow motion.
If you’ve longed to see how many different ways a skull can get smashed, crushed, or splattered in slow motion bullet time, then the last half hour of Immortals is for you.
In spite of their very existence being on the line, Zeus (Luke Evans, maybe the youngest looking Zeus ever depicted on film) has issued a strict no interference on behalf of the mortals policy or else face death at his hands. This seems a tad hypocritical given he’s spent most of Theseus’ life training the fearless young peasant boy to be a fearless warrior under the guise of being wise old man John Hurt.
I couldn’t tell you who any of the other gods were that kept popping in and out of this film other than Zeus, Athena, and Poseidon (only because he carries a trident). I assume the one with the ridiculous pointy helmet wielding a Thor hammer was meant to be Ares, and Hermes had to have been the guy adorned in the even fruitier winged helmet that to me looked like it was patterned after Princess Leia’s famous hairdo. Zeus aside, none of them really matter since they’re not actual characters, just excuses for the costume designer to drop some more acid and dream up a few more outlandish pieces of headwear for over-actors to run around in.
Immortals is the violent and vibrant epic fantasy film the Conan the Barbarian remake wished it could have been and the Clash of the Titans remake never had a chance of being. If you hated 300, you’ll hate this even more so. If you can accept Immortals for what it is, you’ll probably have a lot of fun.
And if you’re going to see Immortals on the big screen, make certain to see it in 3D. This movie, for better or worse, exists solely for its visuals and is one of the few 3D movies I’ve seen in ages where the 3D actually adds to the experience.