Released on the mystical date of 11-11-11, Immortals clearly wants to awe you. Based on Greek gods and mythology, but amped up for people who might have thought 300 was too realistic, Immortals is largely an example of style over substance–but what style it is!
Director Tarsem Singh is largely known for his visually impressive past movies. The Cell and The Fall are incredibly creative visions, although the overall quality of the movies is debatable. Personally, I’m a big fan of The Fall, but not so much The Cell. No matter; this takes some Tarsem signatures (he’s got a few tricks he repeats) and puts them in a sepia-toned ancient Greece in his first big-budget blockbuster-type movie.
Henry Cavill (the next Superman) plays Theseus, an outcast living with his unwed mother in a typical Greek village. The king Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), has declared war on the gods and is rampaging through the country recruiting soldiers and despoiling women. The virgin Oracle (Freida Pinto) has had a vision that a magic bow can defeat the gods and it must be kept away from Hyperion. Theseus is a physical marvel and has been raised to have the moral strength to be the perfect leader to stop Hyperion–if only he takes the initiative in time.
The plot is fine, although a bit typical. The hero must accept his role on a quest to claim a magical item, etc. The appeal of this movie isn’t in the plot. The acting is all acceptable too. Cavill is an appealing leading man and easy to root for. Rourke’s justifications for his war are shown to be valid. Pinto is suitably alluring and exotic. Luke Evans as Zeus was a surprise to me. I can’t remember if I’ve seen him before, but he did a great job exuding power and control. You sense he could do whatever he wanted, but had the self-control to use restraint.
Really though, I just want to come back to the visuals. The sets are marvelously exaggerated. It’s a kind of hyper-reality. Since nothing really defies physics and they COULD exist, your brain almost wants to accept them. The look of the Greek gods is fascinating, much more so than the recent Clash of the Titans. They wear gold, and their helmets match their domains–Apollo wears a spiked helmet resembling the sun’s rays and Poseidon wears a helmet of wire curling around seashells. They are so grandiose that they can look a bit silly–but gods should wear something ostentatious, I think. Another awesome thing about the gods is their fight scenes. They don’t have many, but when they do, they are so fast and so skilled that they truly appear god-like. The gods’ fight scenes are so good that I was actually disappointed when the movie cut back to the mortals.
Other standout scenes are Poseidon’s tidal wave, and Theseus mowing down enemy soldiers one after the other. True, this is reminiscent of 300, but other than this fight and the bronze sheen to the colors, they’re not very similar. Immortals picks up steam throughout, so while it starts a little slow, the finale is quite epic, with a few shots approaching Lord of the Rings scale.
My rating is a 7, but if predictable plots bother you, I’m sure your score would be lower. I thought it was great fun letting a visuals-oriented director play with gods that could do anything. It made for some of the most unique scenes of the year.