Directed by the respectable visual stylist Tarsem Singn ("The Cell", "The Fall"), "Immortals" is a stylized ode to old world cold-blooded warfare. Set in computer generated ancient Greece, the story follows Theseus (Henry Cavill, checked out), a heroic mortal who is skeptical about the existence of the gods (Zues, Athena, and company, who occupy computer generated Mount Olympus) although they perpetually pursue him. Indeed, the film might've had some interesting things to say about mankind in relation to Higher Power, but that's simply not what the film is really about. "Immortals" is an exercise in style through and through, and everyone on screen seems to know it. And for that, it's boring.
Tarsem (as he's sometimes credited) approaches the mythic material like he's making some sort of modern day Ray Harryhausen movie via "Fellini Satyricon". That is, until the fighting really picks up, and it becomes a lofty cinematic video game demo. With only flatline energy radiating from the actors (even the volcanic Mickey Rourke, who plays the savage villain Hyperion, is dull), one wonders just what kind of film they thought they signed on for. At this point, the producers may be hoping for an R-rated "Thor" at the box office, but at best, they've got an art house "Clash of the Titans". (The remake, not the original.)
Oh sure, the battles are cool. After an hour and a half of percolating half-baked tension and bad 3D, they'd BETTER be! The director spares no gore as characters are torn up, smashed, stabbed, run through, and decapitated in brutal color graded artifice. Soulless visual experimentation is rampant in these scenes. At one point, a single shot features the two halves of a guy chopped in two dropping in slow motion while the attacker speed-ramps his weapon into his next target, superfast! All at the same time. Very cool, except it's all but without meaning or weight.
I'd have enjoyed "Immortals" a lot more if A) it weren't in 3D, B) it spent more time hashing out the ideas about mankind and godhood and less time focusing on ways to exploit the said 3D, and C) it weren't a feature film at all, but perhaps an avant garde short or even a series of photographs. Instead, we've got this two-hour slog that, while touching on the would-be intriguing plight of the fading gods of Olympus, also strangely posits that the ancient creatures of legend were really man-made (for example, the minotaur that Theseus must defeat is a guy in a bull helmet made of barbed wire). There seems to be some sort of dichotomy there, ideas-wise, but heck if I can deal with them now. Although I just saw the film a couple hours ago, "Immortals", like the time and place it so artificially depicts, is fading into the mists of memory already. Or maybe Tarsem's computer crashed.
- Jim Tudor
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