As if silly Greek drama couldn’t make any more current headlines, Tarsem Singh’s Immortals — a mishmash of the country’s mythology, is out in theaters. The director who is known more for his lavish visuals than artful storytelling, combines a generic narrative with dazzling aesthetics, producing an oddly derivative yet grandiosely entertaining tale of a mortal who must rise up to become the savior of mankind on behalf of the gods.
The story is very loosely based on strands of Greek mythology. In Ancient Greece, the rampaging King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) searches for the Epirus Bow, a weapon of mythical power, so he can unleash the banished Titans from the depth of Mount Tartarus and declare war on the Gods of Olympus. Only the virgin oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) knows where the bow is but Hyperion’s is fast closing in on her. Unwilling to meddle in the affairs of men, Zeus (Luke Evans) and his fellow Gods must rest their anguished hopes on Theseus (Henry Cavill), an unassuming peasant they have secretly groomed to save humanity. But will Theseus embrace his destiny?
Yes, this flimsy plot is as silly as it sounds, and that’s before you even see the over-the-top costumes or hear the lame dialogue. And yet, Immortals has a subtle campy vibe that makes it surprisingly entertaining from beginning to end. Throats are slashed, heads are pulverized, manly apparatus are squashed, the director audaciously piles on the excesses but always in an artistic manner. The battle scenes are excellently staged and often look more like a ballet of war thanks to copious use of slow motion and CGI effects.
In many ways, this is the perfect vehicle for Tarsem’s extravagant inclinations, allowing him to indulge in staggeringly rich visuals and stylish choreography without any remorse. The ridiculously elaborate costumes (by Eiko Ishioka) for some of the characters, particularly Hyperion and the Gods, include complicated headpieces composed only of lines which can be used to deduce the identity of each god. They add a touch of originality and creativity to a movie that is obviously indebted to Zack Snyder’s 300.
Nonetheless, this total focus on spectacle downplays the human aspect of the movie. Do you want to get to know a little more about the main characters? Well forget about it because there is virtually no character development. Theseus is your generic tortured hero out to avenge the death of his mother, followed by his wise-cracking stock sidekick (Stephen Dorff) and his comely yet mostly extraneous love interest. This isn’t to say the actors were terrible. Cavill displays tremendous screen presence as the rugged leading man and transitions credibly from mere peasant to hero of men. The fact that he was able to do so well with some of the silly and melodramatic lines he had bodes well for his next role in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
As the deliciously maniacal Hyperion, Rourke is obviously having a blast playing another ruthless and intimidating antagonist while Luke Evans brings unexpected inner-conflict as the king of gods Zeus. All of this macho display leaves the film’s few actresses in the dust, with the gorgeous Freida Pinto continuing her string of mostly forgettable roles as a plot device/love interest. Her character basically disappears halfway through the movie — but not before we get a glimpse of her body double’s backside, while the equally beautiful Isabel Lucas is all but eye candy as Athena.
I’m not sure if I would recommend the 3-D. While it was unobtrusive and subtly used, it felt more like an afterthought and didn’t add all that much to the experience. In any case, Immortals is an extravagantly silly movie saddled with generic storytelling but it undeniably makes for a stunning spectacle that action fans will unapologetically enjoy.
Notes: Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality, 110 minutes.