With only two features under his belt, the auteur known as Tarsem Singh has gradually become a real curiosity among the movie nerds. His first effort was the bizarre Jennifer Lopez thriller The Cell, and then he showed up several years later with a blissfully odd film called The Fall. The reaction to Singh's passion project was almost universally rapturous (I love the film as well), which has led us to today: Tarsem has a new rendition of Snow White on the horizon, but for now he's playing tripod on a truly inane action epic called Immortals. Billed as some sort of cinematic coming out party for the most powerful of Greek gods, Immortals is, instead, yet another grimly perfunctory version of the noble hero's endlessly predictable journey.
The gods just pop up once in a while to provide just enough of a presence to include in the trailers and TV spots.
As for Tarsem's now-trademark visual style ... Immortals is pretty much a bust. True, several of the film's goofier scene transitions and a very pointless establishing shots reek of hardcore CGI detailing, but as far as what you're looking at while the actors are speaking -- I've seen more convincing "swords & sandals" locations in a random episode of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. It quickly becomes obvious that virtually everything you can see -- without a pulse -- has been wedged into the background via digital compositing, which makes the material come off like little more than a "movie" section from God of War 3. Yes, the "movie" sections you always hit the button and skip right over.
The actors are equally unconvincing. Draped in a disconcertingly clean blanket, Theseus (Henry Cavill) walks through the goofiness with nobility and impressive cheekbones, but his dialogue is tenth-generation "I will avenge my slaughtered family" bullshit. His dreary quest for ... something vague ... involves a virginal oracle (Freida Pinto) and a thoroughly unlikeable sidekick (Stephen Dorff) as they try to prevent the monumentally evil Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) from acquiring a magic bow that shoots laser-type arrows.
The gods, for their part, meander around Olympus, look down to Earth disapprovingly, and blather about "free will" and all that jazz. And just about when the overwrought screenplay manages to drown in a vat of self-ridicule, up pop a few terribly inert, horribly choppy action sequences that all but scream "Tarsem might have an artist's touch when framing a static shot, but he's an action director like Brett Ratner is Billy Wilder." Edited with a bludgeon and paced like a slog through a swamp, Immortals suffers from taking itself way too seriously -- and from not being nearly serious enough. The only time the film shows any spark of life is when the director is lingering on some of his villains' nastiest and most horrific behavior. Hey, we get that Hyperion is the pinnacle of evil, but if Tarsem wanted to make a horror flick, he should have done that. Being graphically nasty on screen isn't the same as delivering something brutal and powerful.
By the time Immortals allows a few of the Olympus citizens to take part in a physical altercation, the flick has all but flown off the rails and landed somewhere between brain-dead and plagiarized. Half 300 and half Clash of the Titans, although duller and sillier than both combined, Immortals proves, yet again, that the loyal fans of Greek mythology will have to keep waiting for Hollywood to do these characters justice. With movies as dry, messy, and silly as Immortals being churned out, I'm not holding my breath.