Director Tarsem Singh (The Cell and The Fall) teams with the producers of 300 for his third feature, entering the realm of the Gods. Billed as a will-be epic, Immortals has the abstract, stylized, colorful and imaginative components of a Singh feature making it visually stunning with a story that’s sufficient and well-conceptualized, though it could have been better.
A mortal man, Theseus (Henry Cavill), is chosen by Zeus (Luke Evans) to lead the fight against King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). Hyperion is bloodthirsty and torturous on his quest to find the Epirus Bow, a weapon capable of destroying the immortal Gods and humanity by releasing the trapped Titans of Tartarus. From the catalyst a collision course between Theseus and Hyperion is inevitable as Theseus seeks to exact revenge and save his people.
For the screenplay of Immortals, wise, well-researched development occurred with some liberties taken to Greek mythology, which is naturally to be expected. Positives include an emphasis on plot execution with extremely well-done fight sequences strategically placed throughout. There is a fairly dynamic build to the final encounter rather than a bunch of senseless dialogue used as filler between the action, allowing it to surpass a mediocre predecessor like Clash of the Titans (2010). Unfortunately, Immortals does suffer from some regrettable dialogue inclusion and at times, too much dialogue, like another mythical movie – Avatar (remember the line, “you’re not the only one with a gun, bitch?” There’s a few lines in Immortals on a similar plane), which has the potential to detract from its actual memorability. Commendably though, the story was written by Greek brothers (who better to handle Greek mythology?) Charley and Vlas Parlapanides as an epic that is wisely and drastically shorter than most other “epics” (Troy and Alexander are both three hours). There’s something to be said about an ancient Greek story that can be told in under two hours, it demonstrates a clear vision and commitment to an idea that puts a deeper, more hereditary meaning to immortality, kudos.
With a decent story and decent up-and-coming stars used to portray the story, it should come as no surprise that the acting is solid, absent an underperformance by anyone. Having a seasoned actor like Mickey Rourke opposite rising star Henry Cavill works because it’s easy to create an underdog when there’s an older, physically imposing and intimidating actor in the villain’s role. Cavill not only has to prove he’s physically capable of the confrontation but must also prove he’s artistically capable of working beside Rourke without looking out of place, both feats he achieves nicely. Another success Immortals has is the level of acting ability being on par across the board, meaning casting directors Andrea Kenyon, Joseph Middleton and Randi Wells didn’t cast an equal number of Oscar winners with newcomers.
On the subject of casting it’s refreshing to finally see a film with young and attractive Gods. The sentiment that Gods would want to be young and beautiful is sensible and long overdue, the divine cast includes Luke Evans (Zeus), Isabel Lucas (Athena), Daniel Sharman (Aries), Kellan Lutz (Poseidon), Steve Byers (Heracles) and Corey Sevier (Apollo). Physically, they’re all impressive as are the rest of the actors and actresses, including Henry Cavill (who’s in shape for his upcoming Superman film) and Freida Pinto (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Slumdog Millionaire), even Mickey Rourke is in incredible shape. The visual impact of Immortals relies on these chiseled bodies, but also in the art direction and cinematography.
Artistically, the imaginative nature of Immortals is reminiscent of The Cell (2000) with some similar costuming choices made by director Tarsem Singh. There’s one scene in particular where the four high priestesses are detained by Hyperion’s army and they enter their prison (of sorts), donning red saris and interesting, complex headpieces (which are intricately designed for the priestesses and deities) against a bright tan, nearly white background – think desert scene in The Cell where there’s red silk and sand in the same image. It’s a visually beautiful film that intertwines glistening flesh with silk, pristine fabrics and unique, abstract imagery and harsh, sometimes suggestive images. The torturous scenes are cringe-worthy, especially with the use of The Brazen Bull (a torture method used to slowly burn people to death), sterilization and the suggestion of the use of a Breast Ripper.
Immortals runs 110 minutes and is rated R for strong (stylized) bloody violence and a scene of sexuality. On a final note, if filmmakers are going to make films about ancient Greece and mythology, why is there a need to refrain from overt sexuality? Push the envelope fully or not at all. Tarsem Singh, make note for next time. Has he not seen the hit original series by Starz called Spartacus?