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Max’s Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.5/10
(2 reviews total)
With their sweeping vistas, badass heroes and affinity for giving face
to what lies beyond this life, the swords-and-sandals genre never goes
out of style in Hollywood; Ben-Hur, Spartacus and Gladiator are among the classics that come
to mind. However, in the new (digital) age of Hollywood, the genre took
a decidingly *cough* sharper turn with Zack Snyder’s 300, an
arguably overzealous college student compared to its distinguished
predecessors, ready to break down some walls and protest while showing a
lot of skin.
It is in the spirit of 300, we turn our sights on Immortals, a visually rich campaign from director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall).
Whereas its older brother (and this restyled genre is built on the
backs of “bros,” don’t lie) is an all-out action extravaganza from the
mind of a 14-year-old boy, Immortals strives to do the same with far more discipline. In this respect, it succeeds in bringing this “stylized” genre one step
towards some sense of relevance while just missing a chance to find its own identity.
The film opens on the Virgin Oracle (Frieda Pinto) fortelling that
King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) will seek the Epirus Bow in order to release
the Titans from their prison under Mount Tartarus where they have been trapped ever since
they lost the war with Zeus (Luke Evans) and the other Gods of Olympus.
Hyperion seeks the Oracle to show him where the Bow can be found,
killing all who get in his way while desecrating
houses of worship. All the while, Theseus (Henry Cavill, who may I just
say … damn) lives life on the coast under the stigma of a
bastard. When word reaches his village of Hyperion’s crusade, he
attempts to leave with his mother, but Zeus has bigger plans for the
mortal. Unless the Titans get directly involved, Gods are unable to
interfere with the affairs of Humanity. Therefore, Theseus inadvertently becomes a
hero on behalf of the Olympians and the rest of the world Hyperion
swears to destroy.
Thankfully, the script is not as laughably bad as it could have been. And if you’ve seen 300,
you know that such a script can go horribly awry. Everyone has a bit
part to play, some more than others. Cavill made a smart move in
getting his name out there now before his Superman debut. He’s got
enough charm and dare I say talent to tackle a leading man role and
from the look of his body, he’s certainly not lacking in dedication. The
supporting cast is well-rounded and likable with Pinto bringing the
tenderness (amongst other things) as the Oracle and Stephen Dorff (Blade) playing a thief who takes up Theseus’ cause as well as all the one-liners.
If anything felt lacking it could be the Olympians, who don’t get much
to say but just enough to do. Although it’d seem that the lack of Olympian
presence in the bulk of the film was what Singh was aiming for; whenever they do show up it illicites a strong “aw yeah” reaction. When they
do show, it is pretty cool, if too quick to appreciate fully.
But if it’s anybody’s show, we’d have to give credit to Mr. Rourke
as Hyperion, who clearly thought things over for the role. What could
have easily been a scene-chewing part turns out to be an impressively
subdued (gasp, you know you’re shocked) performance as a mad king fueled by grief who will use any means to get what he’s after.
Even if his wardrobe isn’t nearly as calm (cite Singh’s influence), it’s
nice to see a more grounded villain take the stage in such a movie with just enough menace as to drive the conflict forward.
There’s no question that Singh comes from a visual background and it holds up well here. Unlike 300 (have we mentioned that film for
comparison yet?), whose palate was all over the map, Singh employs
(mostly) golds and browns to give the film a greater sense of visual consistency. It’s less jarring to the
eye, especially when viewing in 3D, and easier to sell the flick as a
moving painting, which in many instances seems to be what the crew is
The action is better than expected, if a little tacked-on towards the
end. Theseus is plenty badass and the camera rarely feels lost in the
scramble of the fights, which improve in scope as the film progresses.
Plus, it’s violent — very violent. But this is not violence in the sense
of Drive or even 300 (did it again!); the deaths,
maimings, etc. are all graphic but seem to switch from a live-action
actor into CGI, which definitely makes the sequences look like a video
game. Whether that appeals to the viewer is based on personal opinion,
but Singh and Co. still have fun killing CGI soldiers with various
weapons coming out of various orifices.
Immortals gets a lot of things right: It’s cast is well chosen
and up to the task, its director and crew have a clear
visionary flair that doesn’t feel overdone and its action is just
enough to satisfy without feeling like we’ve gorged ourselves on some
form of action pornography. Still, it just seems to be missing that “step” that sets it apart
as its own entity with its own message — entertaining or otherwise. The film has that wonderful painting quality, but
lacks the interpretation and meaning that comes with it. Still, it’s a
pleasing road to go down on and a welcome entry in the action genre.
Directed by Tarsem Singh
Written by Vlas Parlapanides, Charley Parlapanides
Starring: Henry Cavill, Micky Rourke, Frieda Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans
Other Player Affinity Staff Reviews
Simon thought: “Although I never expected Immortals to win any screenplay accolades, there is little excuse for the lazy, uninspired writing on display here and makes any scene sans disembowelment a tough slog. The hyper-stylized sword-and-sandals clashes are uniquely executed and contain an interesting blend of slow-mo and fast-mo, though at times I found it difficult to follow exactly who was who and what was actually transpiring across the vivid tableaus Singh presents. I’m beginning to believe that there may have been more action than I recall and the aforementioned dry spells relatively stretched longer than their actual duration, but I was expected more clanging swords and less virgin oracle prophecies. I could stand to watch Immortals again; toss it in during a gathering of friends on a Friday night, zone out during the chatter and cue back in when the blood flows, but for the most part, my memory of this 300-esque epic has already drained from my ears.” Rating: 6/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.5/10