Reviews

Better than 'Clash of the Titans', 'Immortals' Is Still Crappy

If you want to sit back and watch a big, dumb sword fight between lots of shirtless dudes with carefully sculpted abs, then you’re in luck. There's a lot of that.


Immortals

Director: Tarsem Singh
Cast: Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Rated: R
Release date: 2012-03-06

When a movie boasts that it's produced by the people behind 300 and is originally intended to compete head to head with the Clash of the Titans remake, it's easy to imagine what the finished product will look like. Immortals is the film in question, now available for your consumption on Blu-ray, and it's exactly what you expect it to be. Let it be said that Immortals is actually better than Clash of the Titans, but it's still pretty crappy.

Not that there aren’t some high points in Immortals. If you want to sit back and watch a big, dumb sword fight between lots of shirtless dudes with carefully sculpted abs, then you’re in luck. There's a lot of that. However, if it’s story, character, or anything at all lurking below the surface that you’re after, then you’re barking up the wrong, heavily muscled tree.

Director Tarsem Singh (The Cell) has a definite visual acumen and infuses Immortals with a cool style. The film is full of sweeping camera moves, inventive uses of film speed, and the entire work has the look of a classic era oil painting. Surely all of this was very impressive in 3D in theaters, zooming around and what not, but transferring these flourishes to a two-dimensional Blu-ray proves problematic. If a scene is outside and brightly lit, everything is fine, but whenever the film moves indoors or into the shadows, which is often, the picture gets muddy and dark. There are moments when you can barely see the characters on the screen.

The story of Immortals is steeped in mythology. In ancient Greece, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke dressed like some sort of lobster bunny) searches for the legendary Epirus Bow. He’s miffed at the Gods, who sit back on Mount Olympus in their gold lamé hot-pants observing the trials and tribulations of mankind below. It’s like their version of reality television. The bow is essentially an old timey WMD, and whoever possesses it can wreak havoc on the Earth and the heavens. Hyperion plans to unleash the Titans, the God’s most vicious enemies, imprisoned in a mountain.

In case you were wondering, that would be bad. Of course there is only one person who can stop this (isn’t that always the way?), Theseus (Henry Cavill). Born a peasant, he is nonetheless humanity’s fiercest warrior and only sole hope.

The plot unfolds as expected. There's a forced quick and easy love story between Theseus and the Virgin Oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto), who doesn’t stay a virgin for long. Theseus has a wise cracking frat-boy sidekick, Stavros (Stephen Dorff). Singh and company don’t waste much time or effort on things like characterization. Most of these sparse moments are spent on Theseus, and boils down to two main facts: he is super devoted to his loved ones, and he doesn’t like it when people call his mother names. Everyone else gets a sentence or two that neatly encapsulates their personalities.

Hyperion hates the Gods because they stood idly by, ignoring his prayers as his wife and child died. Stavros is a thief who prayed for a horse as a boy. He hates the Gods, too, because they didn’t give him a pony.

Every single moment of Immortals is so overly serious that at times you can’t help but laugh. When tears form in the eyes of Zeus (Luke Evans) as he's overcome with emotion at the state of the world, you might sprain something trying to suppress a giggle. Better to just let the mirth out. This is a film that has no sense of humor about itself, absolutely none. Dialogue is delivered in low, ominous tones, and there is nary a smile to be found in the entire 110 minute run time. It's so convinced of it’s own importance.

Immortals is the kind of movie where things simply happen and everything falls neatly into place. There's no build up or tension, and little causality. Phaedra throws herself at Theseus as soon as they meet. When the pace starts to flag, boom, a creepy giant in a bull mask made out of barbed wire arrives on the scene and there's a brawl. In the end, that’s what Immortals is all about" stylized violence and fighting. Admittedly, the climactic battle at the end has moments and it entertaining to watch, but Immortals is simply too long, too empty, and too devoid of substance to be anything more than a slick piece of eye candy.

The Blu-ray of Immortals comes with a decent collection of bonus material. There's a five-minute primer on Greek mythology that actually attempts to justify why they altered the myths, and 20 minutes of featurettes that dig into different elements of production. The most interesting one deals with the stunts, about how Singh and the stunt team staged the elaborate fight sequences. They pulled these off with minimal cutting, which admittedly is a welcome change from action scenes constructed from dozens of split-second edits.

An alternate opening presents the primary players in their younger days. You get a better sense of Theseus and his background, but it's too long and slow, so it's obvious why this wound up on the editing room floor. Two alternate endings are essentially more cumbersome, less streamlined versions of what appears in the final film. Most of the deleted scenes concern side stories, loose threads, and minor characters. None of them add much to your understanding or enjoyment of the film as a whole. Again, they were left out for good reason.

Out of all the extras, the most unusual one, the one that makes this Blu-ray stand out, is the inclusion of a digital comic. Not essential by any means, these stories are a nice little bonus.

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