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“Immortals” flawed but visually stunning

Posted on November 18th, 2011
Posted on November 18th, 2011

by Coop Cooper

Ancient Greek/Roman films have a spotty record critically and commercially since they are difficult to pull off. Fortunately, “Immortals” is exciting and innovative enough to work as long as you can get over its glaring mistakes.

Theseus (Henry Cavill), a peasant warrior, is favored by the god Zeus (Luke Evans) to save mankind from the brutal King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). Hyperion seeks the Epirus Bow, a magical weapon forged by the gods, so he can use it to unleash the Titans (evil former gods) who are imprisoned deep within Mount Tartaros. Hyperion wishes to enslave the world and start a war in the heavens, but killing Theseus’ mother in a raid sets the hero against him. Aided by a virgin oracle (Freida Pinto), a former slave (Steven Dorff), and the gods themselves, Theseus pursues revenge and his destiny.

Director Tarsem Singh has an impeccable reputation for creating films with unique and beautiful costumes/production design. His first film “The Cell” (2000) gave Jennifer Lopez one of her first starring vehicles and his second film “The Fall” (2005) further proved his skill at creating colorful spectacles. Despite his strengths, Singh habitually falls short in creating tight, coherent stories and “Immortals” is no exception.

Full of gaping plot holes and flat characters, “Immortals” relies solely on pageantry and special effects to grab the attention of the viewer. Thankfully, the imagery is so arresting, it manages to do just that on looks alone. As in his previous films, Singh employed a talented array of costume designers, prop masters and set builders to create a world so gorgeous and interesting, you could spend the entire film watching with the sound off and not get bored. Each shot is an intricate tableau that transcends the story to become a separate form. It’s like reading a graphic novel, the story is only one half of the fun.

incompetent in plot, no one is ever going to call “Immortals” high art. The writers took many liberties with the ancient mythology involving Theseus in order to translate it to film. This leads to many plot holes, bad pacing and a particularly brief mangling of the Theseus vs. The Minotaur tale. Others might further bash the film for copying some of the stylistic choices from the film “300” or for the fact that the film shamefully turns the Greek Gods into superheroes dressed like drag queens. Once again, I can forgive much of this based on the strength of the visuals and the excitement of the action scenes.

There is one sequence where Theseus and his friends appear to be beaten… one god in particular gets so fired up because of Theseus’ heroism, he beams himself into the middle of the fight and proceeds to rescue the heroes by smiting ALL of the enemies with a giant hammer. It made very little sense plot-wise, but that was the first time in awhile I saw a crowd stand up an cheer out of sheer adrenaline.

It is hard to justify recommending a film that is so heavily flawed, but I’m willing to do so for “Immortals.” Designed as an ancient-world superhero film, it’s bound to find a lot of fans and inspire some interest in these ancient tales (something the boring “Clash of the Titans” remake failed to do). The final shot in the film is so jaw-droppingly amazing and epic, it alone could win an Oscar nomination for special effects… but I’m not counting on it since Oscar voters tend to look down their noses at brainless action films such as this one.

Of special note, the actor Henry Cavill who played Theseus is currently shooting the next “Superman” movie in which he will play The Man of Steel himself. Based on “Immortals” he seems like a good choice, but Sam Worthington (“Clash of the Titans” remake) got the same attention as an action hero a few years ago and he turned out to be as cold and stiff as a dead fish. Cavill is destined to be a flavor-of-the-month but whether he becomes bankable star remains to be seen.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5

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