Part history, part mythology, and mostly a spectacle of state of the art digital effects, “Immortals” is a wannabe epic blockbuster that lacks a coherent story or even a unified conceptual design.
Tarsem Singh is a gifted, eccentric visual artist but he is certainly not a storyteller, capable of involving audiences in this gory tale of treachery, vengeance and destiny, in which gods fight men and fight themselves.
End result is a bloody, ultra-violent epic-actioner, which contains many striking set-pieces but is incohesive thematically and emotionally barren, which means that, commercially, it’s targeted at young, undemanding male viewers. (The ad campaign for “Immortals” touts it as sort of a sequel to “300,” a far superior picture).
The premise of the plot (such as it is) is rather simple: when a greedy, power-seeking, borderline mad king rules ancient Greece, threatening to destroy all of mankind, a heroic young villager courageously dares to rise up against him.
That the brutal, bloodthirsty King Hyperion is played by an actor like Mickey Rourke, the saga assume extra-filmic (and non-filmic) meanings that have little to do with the story perse, which is minimal.
Early on, we view Hyperion’s murderous army rampaging across Greece, demolishing mercilessly everything that stands in their way in their way with the kind of efficiency that’s ruthlessly calculated. One village after another falls under Hyperion’s regime, and with each “progressive,” the arrogant dictator feels that he gets closer to his ultimate goal, vanquish the Gods of Olympus as well as all of humankind.
Initially, it feels that there are no obstacles to stop (or slow down) the mission of the crazy king on his way to becomes, as he proudly declares “Master of the Universe.”
Out of the blue, an ordinary stonemason named Theseus (Henry Cavill) vows to avenge the death of his mother, who was a victim of one of Hyperion’s many nasty raids.
Theseus is not alone, and for the sake of appealing to (or not alienating) the female viewers, the filmmakers have created the character of Phaedra (Freida Pinto), the Sibylline Oracle. With her moral support and actual help, Theseus assembles a small band of followers in a final battle for the future of humanity.
Both Theseus and Phaedra believe that he is the only man who possesses the moral authority, courage, and skills to stop the impending mass (and massive)
It’s hard to tell why Tarsem Singh’s film output has been so small, having made a splashy debut with the horror picture, “The Cell,” for New Line in 1996, and then “The Fall.”
Tarsem is defeated by the shortcomings of the shallow, emotionally hollow screenplay, penned by Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides, Greek-American siblings, who must have impressed the producers with their knowledge of Greek history.
The filmmakers, including producers Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton, believe that they have an epic in the mold of “300” in their hands. But they don’t.
To produce the strikingly beautiful images and sounds, Tarsem relies on the talented members of his previous crews, production designer Tom Foden, who worked on “The Cell,” and costume designer Eiko Ishioka, who made major contributions to “The Fall.”
All the parts are so narrowly conceived that it’s impossible (and unfair) to evaluate the film in terms of acting. Mickey Rourke seems to enjoy some sort of comeback, having won praise and Oscar nomination for “The Wrestler.”
The more significant question is whether or not the handsome actor Henry Cavill is destined for a major Hollywood stardom. Hopefully, his agents and managers will get him better film projects than “Immortals.”
The director of photography, Brendan Galvin, must have been instructed (and misguided) by the director to focus his imagery on the battles, which escalate in terms of blood and gore. Beware: There are close-ups of men speared, beheaded, pulverized, impaled—and mutilated in any possible way.
Overall, “Immortals” doesn’t even qualify as a formulaic Hollywood blockbuster. The movie is easily (and mindlessly) digestible, but also immediately and utterly forgettable.
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