If we were to do this review in a tweet it would have read; “Theseus the Greek Superman rocks into town to save known universe from a wrestler King called Hyperion and spills a little blood. OK a lot!”
We don’t see much from director Tarsem Singh but with a cinematic spectacle like ‘The Cell’ on his CV and the producers from 300 on board we anticipated that this would be a great use of screen real estate. From start to finish whether up close in the fight or the expansive view of lands, sky and ocean, we can say that Immortals magnetically draws the eye. What will be a feature of this review however is the carnage that has to be warning to those expecting a romantic beefcake journey reminiscent of a digital remake of movies like the 1981 Clash of the Titans with Harry Hamlin.
Talk about Gods, abs and Greeks and you’re inviting a certain crowd to the cinema. Like loyal followers of Lord of the Rings, there are the ‘knowits’ and the ‘knowitalls’. So don’t mess with the Greek Mythology people, this isn’t some reboot of a superhero plot. Somehow the writers for this 300 style deviation didn’t get the brief of historical accuracy and so we mutate various time and story lines to get a cinematic piece that’s become a hit with under 18 year old males according to user voting at IMDB. What is also a surprise is the next highest ranking is given by all females up to age 29. Surprising, because apart from the shirtless routine that paraded the screen this was a combination of B grade movie blood fest on a new CGI/3D inspired scale and overkilled slo-mo fight sequences that would have had the Wachowski Brothers bored.
In the original myth Theseus is half man and half God thanks to Mum playing around. It’s the whole Hercules thing again. For this story with nearly no basis on the ‘original’ he is the peasant son mentored to fighting prowess by Zeus (John Hurt) in the guise of an old man playing with mankind’s destiny. Henry Cavill fills the role of Theseus well if not with a stray accent now and then that we hope he has cleared up by the time we see a spectacled version in the 2013 Superman release. Theseus is the hero we see step from his life in the shadows as this son is forced to watch as his mother is killed before him by the King of Crete, Hyperion. After wallowing as a slave he is reconnected to his destiny by the Oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and channels his bottled drive for vengeance back into leading his people and fulfilling a higher calling. In Greek history Theseus is seen as the founder of Athens but this story doesn’t connect the dots the same way so don’t expect it to be the high school history lesson bus tour to the movies.
In the other corner of this myth revisionist landscape is the peasant turned evil ruler Hyperion superbly played out by Mickey Rourke. King Hyperion has given up on faith and is intent on manufacturing his legacy through the age old rape and pillage approach. The irony of his reasoned strategy to a reign of terror is that Hyperion seeks the power of the Gods by hunting high and low for the Epirus bow. Knowing the Oracle holds the key to its location puts the life of the priestess at risk and brings him on a prophesied collision course with Theseus. With this weapon of the Gods at his hand Hyperion can release the Titans locked in Mt. Tartarus and rule the world. You can see that Rourke has relished every moment of screen time as his character deploys masked minions of death throughout his rule. The rejuvenated Rourke career exudes cruelty at every pore as he subdued his conquests and confirmed his menacing tyrant status.
So where does the blood flow start and end. From the beginning any fight scene is beautiful in the shot and gory in the aftermath. Spears accomplish their pierced targets and swords sever limbs and heads. While men of war do what men of war do the body count should have been sponsored by a subtly placed bottle of Heinz tomato sauce. And just when the mortals had completed their place on the battlefield it’s time for “Batter Up” to the God’s as Apollo plays melon head and you’re convinced that we all have Raspberry jello mounted on our necks. A lot of the online chatter about Immortals seems to validate the video game alignment that is coming to the silver screen that this isn’t about a storyline but instead about reaching the next level and a fresh high score.
Tarsem Singh may need to bet his renewed directing licence on his next release of Mirror Mirror starring Julia Roberts and Sean Bean. This will be one of a two soon to be released Snow White interpretations. The other fairy tale remake is Snow White and the Huntsman with Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. The Immortals as a movie has been carried by the same 300 shooting style and edits that worked for TV series like Spartacus but will it cover up for a lack of storyline, bad dialogue and errors in continuity?
This is one of those love ‘em or leave ‘em movies that you just wish had been that much better. The complicated script doesn’t carry and you feel that the only reason you hung in to the end was to make sure Mickey Rourke has his day. It’s hard to rate this movie based on the technical piece versus the story cinema experience and I feel I will be like a lot of the user reviews that are scoring either low or high with only an average to tell the tale.
Reviewed by: Andrew Pitchford