Midweek movie review: Immortals (3D)

Mythological action-adventure Immortals is a surprisingly solid piece of fantasy entertainment. It’s not particularly memorable, and the plot is nothing to write home about, but on the scale of Clash of the Titans (2010) (my review) to 300 (my review), Immortals sits closer to the latter, and, often enough, is far more beautiful to look at than its hyper-stylised genre predecessor.

In a storyline that is Clash of the Titans meets Conan the Barbarian (2010), grieving, vengeful King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) decides to destroy the Olympian gods. Only deities can kill other deities, however, so to succeed he must locate the legendary Epirus Bow and use it to free the imprisoned Titans, the generation of gods before the Olympians.

Meanwhile, principled peasant, and shunned bastard, Theseus (Henry Cavill) is concerned only with defending the weak outcasts of his village. However, when Hyperion’s brutal masked forces rampage through his home, and Hyperion himself kills Theseus’s mother, the young man swears revenge. He joins forces with virgin oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto), thief Stavros (Stephen Dorff) and a handful of other rebels – while the gold-clad Olympians look on, desperate to help but forbidden by Zeus (Luke Evans) to interfere in the affairs of Mankind. Although, disguised as John Hurt, Zeus has himself hypocritically spent years honing Theseus’s impressive combat skills.

It’s all a little too convenient how events unfold in Immortals, and there are some serious narrative lulls, but no matter. What the film lacks in originality it makes up for with nasty edge. Refreshingly, Immortals isn’t sanitised PG-13 fare. Hyperion is a real bastard, subjecting subjugated villagers and new recruits alike to horrible, horrible tortures. And he provides a chilling monologue about how through rape, communities will look on his face, and remember him, for generations.

Although it’s a typically mumbly performance from Rourke, he’s very convincing as Hyperion. The same can be said for the “good guys.” Although their characters aren’t written with any depth, everyone is suitably likeable. Cavill’s Theseus may be an overly-earnest square but in this, his precursor role to Superman, he tackles the intense fight scenes with admirable commitment and, just as importantly, he doesn’t have the distasteful aggression and arrogance of Sam Worthington’s character in Clash of the Titans.

Of course, the chief reason to watch Immortals is its impressive visuals. The film looked cheesy and artificial as all hell in its trailer, but as a complete 110-minute film, it’s actually a far more moderated experience – minus the constantly crazy headgear – with some surprisingly realistic touches to ground events, like people actually tiring during combat.

Anyway, with movies like The Cell, director Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, has already proven his ability to lift imagery straight from the human subconscious and place it front and centre onscreen. This surreal approach to visuals works well in Immortals – veering between the irresistibly dream-like and uncomfortably nightmarish, typically when the gods are involved.

Speaking of which, the ultra-stylised Greek gods do appear a bit silly in Immortals, and I would have preferred to see an expanded pantheon. However, it’s admirable how the filmmakers have made the effort to completely differentiate the gods from the mortals, through their dress, movements and actions. The Olympians feel like gods even if they look, for the most part, like drama majors in some pretentious, avant-garde stage production.

This said, Immortals’ greatest strength is its distinctive art direction. It’s refreshing to watch something that oozes with unique visual artistry, and gives the audience space and time to appreciate the full scope of the sets, and the action scenes. Unfortunately though, Immortals doesn’t impress as a 3D post-production conversion. In fact, the naturally darker format saps the film of its rich colouring, and muddies some night time scenes to the point of being indiscernible. I don’t often make the complaint about 3D being too dark, so seek out Immortals in 2D if you can.

In the end though, Immortals is a breathtaking visual experience that deserves a cinema viewing. You might not remember much about the film a few days later but while you’re watching, it’s a real (guilty) pleasure – mixing high art sensibilities with ultra-stylish video game violence.


Dan O. said…
It’s probably one of the best-looking films of the whole year (yet, I still haven’t seen Tree of Life) and the action is awesome and in-you-face which is something I always like. The story dragged on a bit and I couldn’t help but think that if the writing was a tweaked a little better, this would have definitely been a very solid film. Instead it was just fun and pretty to look at. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.

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