Theatrical Review: Immortals

The evil king, Hyperion of Crete seeks to invade Greece and conquer the Gods of Olympus by using the fabled Epirus Bow to unleash the Titans from their imprisonment in the bowels of Mount Tartarus.  Planning for this moment, a disguised Zeus has been giving guidance to Theseus since his boyhood and now hopes for Theseus to inspire the Grecians to thwart the king.

That’s the basic premise of the latest movie from director Tarsem Singh, Immortals. Tarsem’s past movies have included the serial killer movie The Cell (which I really enjoyed) and The Fall (which I haven’t seen, but I’ll have to rectify that), and are both marked by his unique visual style.  That unique visual style is also the real star of Immortals.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t more at work here, there certainly is.  I know liberties have been taken with Theseus’ story for this film which I’m sure will upset the purists.  The myth gets translated into a new version that has a real emphasis on bloody pulp adventure more than anything else.  As I said in my review for The Three Musketeers, I’m a big comic book fan and I’m used to seeing classic characters get new translations, and that’s certainly at play here.  I’m open to this, but can certainly understand that others might be upset by it.  If you’re thinking about seeing this and you absolutely have to see the pure story of Theseus, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

I wasn’t and just had a real ball with this movie.  Oh, I’ll certainly grant that it has it’s holes and that it’s characters are somewhat limited, but for this film, that just didn’t bother me.  As I said above, Tarsem’s visual style is the big star here and oh… this film just revels in it.

There is an artificiality in the look of the film that I just find really appealing and gives the film more the sense of watching it play out on a really big and elaborate stage more than being filmed on live locations.  Last year’s The Warrior’s Way did this with spectacular results and it’s also in evidence on Starz’s terrific Spartacus TV series.  Of course, many comparisons are being drawn to what Zack Snyder did with 300 which is inevitable, but Tarsem steps that up a bit with a few of his own tricks, in particular a little twist on the slow-motion fight sequences that occur at the end of the film between the Gods and the Titans.  These sequences have the Titans falling in battle in slow-motion while simultaneously having the Gods continue their fight in a sped up way.  It’s absolutely stunning watching these play out, even moreso considering the color palette used in the scenes and having the Gods stand out in their gleaming golden attire.

Now that’s not to say that the cast doesn’t do a good job, they certainly do, but they take a back seat to the visuals.  Henry Cavill (the new Superman for Zack Snyder’s upcoming movie) plays the part of Theseus and certainly has conviction to the role, though the character doesn’t have any real complexity, but then for this type of movie, I thought that was just fine.  He absolutely looks the part and after this, I’m even more enthusiastic to see what he’ll do as Superman.  Frieda Pinto (last seen in one of the big surprise hits of the year, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) plays Phaedra, the oracle who sees what’s to come.  She certainly has more to do here than she did in Rise and she’s an stunning beauty.  Luke Evans (last seen as Aramis in The Three Musketeers and John Hurt share the role of Zeus with Hurt playing Zeus as he appears to the mortals and Evans as Zeus appears to the Gods.  Both are a lot of fun to watch, though Evans gets the best of it by being showcased in some of the spectacular end fight scenes.  Steven Dorff (who I wouldn’t have expected to see in a movie like this) plays Stavros, a thief turned sidekick to Theseus, and while he doesn’t quite shine as brightly as others, he stills looks like he’s having a ball with the part.

The real standout in the cast though is Mickey Rourke as King Hyperion.  Rourke is at the top of his game here, not just physically but really giving out this whole atmosphere of threat and sadism.  He’s just magnetic in the part and shines every time he’s on screen.

I saw this in 3D and I thought it was really well done, though not necessarily for in-your-face effects.  Opinions vary wildly on 3D and certainly with good reason, though now I’m becoming more and more convinced that it really does depend on where you see it.  At the theatre that I regularly attend, Immortals was being shown in their newest and most state-of-the-art presentation.  The picture was bright and detailed with the 3D really highlighted things like planes in faces and subtle differences in character placement.  As I said above, Immortals has an artificial look that looks like it’s being played out on a huge stage and for me, the 3D heightened that effect.  I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to see this in 3D, but if you’re still supportive of the gimmick and have access to a room with primo presentation, I’d certainly recommend seeing Immortals that way.

I saw Immortals with 3 other friends and we all came away with this just having a fantastic time with it.  It certainly does have it’s shortcomings with some aspects of it’s story and characters.  But, it’s stunning visuals and pure bloody pulp presentation drive it in such a way that at least for me was just electric.  I’d very much recommend seeing it, though I suspect I’m going to be in the minority for my enjoyment.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

13. November 2011 by Darren Goodhart
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