Immortals Review: World, Meet Henry Cavill
Tarsem Singh puts his own spin on the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, blending it with other elements of Greek mythology in his new film Immortals. While capturing the romance of the genre and adding his trademark visual touch, a slow story and vague characterization holds this one back from being a far better movie.
As the story goes, long ago the Olympian gods won a battle with the Titans and imprisoned the creatures deep inside Mount Tartarus. Now, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) seeks revenge for the loss of his family and declares war. He seeks out the Empirus Bow, the only weapon that can break the Titans free from their prison, to overwhelm humanity and destroy the Olympians. Unable to take sides in the conflict, Zeus (John Hurt) mentors a young boy named Theseus (Henry Cavill) in secret, having faith that he’ll lead the humans to victory. Accompanied by the Oracle priestess Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and a thief (Stephen Dorff), Theseus sets out on an unlikely quest to stop Hyperion.
I’ll level with you, there are a lot worse ways you could spend a night at the movies this weekend than going to see Immortals. Is it a perfect movie? No. Are you going to have fun? Most likely. While I had some issues with the general story (Why exactly can’t the gods intervene, if you’re willing to do so later anyway?), and it lacks the emotional punch of the now seminal and slightly cliché 300, it far exceeds the storytelling of its most recent cousin, 2010’s Clash of the Titans. It’s got all of the action fans of the sand and sandals epics can expect, right down to some pretty jaw-dropping slow motion sequences in battle. There’s blood, brutality, and yes, one not-so-gratuitous sex scene…in 3D.
As anyone familiar with his first film The Cell or his underrated follow-up The Fall knows, Tarsem Singh is a master of visual presentation, which makes Immortals a very pretty thing to look at. The cast doesn’t hurt, but more on them later. From art direction to costuming, Singh’s Hellenic Greece is its own living, breathing person. The 3D works in this movie, highlighting the diverse landscapes and certain character features, but isn’t essential to any of the storytelling. Still, if you’re going to see an epic with this level of eye-candy, why not give it a shot? I’ll forgo discussion of the abrupt and deus ex machina ending, saving a few surprises for those that haven’t seen it yet.
If you don’t know who Henry Cavill (The Tudors, upcoming Man of Steel) is before heading in, there’s a strong chance many of you will leave the theatre in love, or at least with a decent bromantic crush. Cavill’s got the benefit of being somewhat unknown to mass audiences in the U.S. and pulls off the switch between a wounded boy and army-rousing soldier well. Some might call his body a wonderland, which is willfully exploited, as one might expect in our post-Spartacus world. If nothing else, I suspect audiences to leave wanting more of him.
Every hero needs a villain, and Mickey Rourke works a quiet and collected side of villainy in his role as Hyperion. Driven by his vengeful motivations and unique desire for immortality, he manages to create a unsympathetic, yet understandable character that’s ultimately just slightly above one dimensional. The same can be said for Freida Pinto’s oracle, who works as the key to the story’s macguffin and then gets reduced to side-panel scenery when she’s no longer needed. And while I understand you’re pretty much obligated to throw in a sex scene when writing a Grecian epic, hers seemed more than a little abrupt and out of character.
The really undeserved story aspect is the gods. Sure, we don’t need an entire origin epic about them, but my lingering question about their involvement in the affairs of man stands. The primary gods, Zeus (Luke Evans), Athena (Isabel Lucas), and Poseidon (Kellan Lutz), bear cold gazes and a slight dead-behind-the-eyes demeanor that make them seem distant and neutral. I’m sure their meant to struggle with wanting to get involved in the plot’s central conflict, but lack any motivations to do so. John Hurt, who plays the earthly manifestation of Zeus, is also given precious little to do. The same is true for Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries), a traitor without a great reason for treason. In contrast, I had just enough Stephen Dorff in his role as sidekick.
While far from perfect, the pros definitely outweigh the cons in Immortals. If you’re looking for a fun ride, without a lot of hang-ups, catch this one in theaters.
Images courtesy of Jan Thijs for War of the Gods, LLC and IMDbPro