Film Review: Immortals

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Martin Roberts on 10 Nov 2011

The thought of a 300-esque Ancient Greek romp helmed by visual maestro Tarsem Singh and detailing the events following the Titanomachy – the war between the Olympians and the Titans – was an exciting prospect. Alas, the great potential inherent in this project is matched only by the disappointment experienced while watching it, and anticipation for Singh’s next effort – a new take on the Snow White story – should be significantly diminished.

King Hyperion – himself a Titan – (and played by a snarling Mickey Rourke) is searching for the Epirus Bow, an artefact which will help him free the Titans imprisoned in Tartarus and thus wreak vengeance on the Gods. But now humans have entered the equation, and Hyperion is ruthlessly bludgeoning his way through anybody and anything standing in the way of his search. And so his forces begin to descend on the village of strapping peasant Theseus (Henry Cavill), a good-hearted soul but one reluctant to get involved in the affairs of war. He soon develops a personal interest in Hyperion, however, and along with a small group of companions (including an oracle priestess played by Freida Pinto) sets off to find the bow for himself, and put a stop to the violence.

Singh quickly establishes his unique visual sensibility with a striking introduction depicting the Titans trapped in a box under Tartarus. Unfortunately, this promising outset is quickly overshadowed. Singh’s aesthetic flair is drawn exasperatingly thin on this project. Some of the CGI-assisted sets, designed to be minimalistic and purposefully out of proportion, just don’t work, while the colour palette and overall visual style suffer from similar diminishing returns to 300, a film with which Immortals shares more than just a producer credit. There are some visual beats which do hit the mark – Singh’s take on the Minotaur myth, the innards of a steel cow, the aftermath of a wave of tar-filled water – but in general the film’s visuals are hugely disappointing. In his previous film The Fall, Singh’s artistry sometimes overwhelmed the narrative, but at least it was almost always arresting – there are scenes here which are just dull, hamstrung by unimaginative CGI landscapes. The design flourishes in the masks and armour, too, didn’t work for me; the elaborate headdresses of the Olympians in particular.

The Fall, crucially, had a human element to back up its visual whimsy; characters which meant something. Here, Henry Cavill does his best to inject an underwritten heroic staple with some semblance of personality, but he’s fighting a losing battle, as are many of the supporting characters. John Hurt gets some dull dialogue as Theseus’ mentor, while the Olympians, youthfully cast and decked out in shimmering gold outfits, inexcusably lack weight, both visually and dramatically. Luke Evans, as Zeus, comes out of it best, at least conjuring a sense of fractured nobility, while Isabel Lucas, as Athena, looks lost as the goddess of wisdom and war.

The film is fairly violent at times, but it’s dramatically vacuous action with little to no weight. Fight scenes reminiscent of 300 not only come across as shockingly derivative, but also inferior to the film they’re lifted from. The film’s crescendo, a large-scale battle between warring human beings and, later, between more supernatural entities, loses interest before it even begins, requiring Theseus to make one of the worst motivational war speeches in recent memory. When the Olympians finally get called into action late on, they are unforgivably sidelined in a series of increasingly shallow CGI-inflected brawls.

It’s presented in 3D, but the post-production conversion adds nothing to proceedings. There is one scene, in which a horse’s galloping hooves kick dust into the screen, which looks particularly  poor. Underwritten, dramatically shallow and visually disappointing, Immortals is a missed opportunity. Unlike the myths on which it is based, it will be quickly forgotten.


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