In Ancient Greece, Theseus (Henry Cavill), a man from humble beginnings, must prevent the merciless King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) from finding a mythical bow powerful enough to slay the Gods. With the help of the virgin Oracle (Freida Pinto) and a thief (Stephen Dorff) he faces foes like the Minotaur and the Titans.
Who would’ve guessed that Zak Snyder’s 2007 Spartan romp would become such the influential movie of our time? Since Gerard Butler and his heavily muscled cohorts rippled their way onto the big screen, there has been an enormous slate of sword-and-sandal epics starring actors with their shirts off. From TV’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand to last year’s Conan the Barbarian, there’s been no shortage of muscular men brandishing swords and spilling blood. Our leading men have all become so stacked that if Gladiator was being made today, Russell Crowe would not make it past the first round of auditions.
So can we expect anything new or different from Immortals?
First of all, director Tarsem Singh (a veteran of commercials and music videos) brings an unexpected visual style to the project. While the focus is still firmly placed on action, Singh shoots his slow-motion fight sequences to resemble renaissance artworks: from the compositions to the way the scenes are lit, many shots look uncannily like something Caravaggio might paint. It is an impressive feat, but the style isn’t entirely consistent throughout the entire movie. Strangely, for a film of such epic proportions, there’s something about Immortals that seems decidedly small. It looks as though in an effort to save money, they filmed on the smallest soundstage on the planet and used only a dozen extras, filling in the rest of the space with glossy computer graphics.
One point of interest is that lead actor Henry Cavill has been cast to play the Man of Steel in an upcoming Superman reboot from the makers of 300 (all roads lead to Sparta, after all). He has a great handle on the action sequences but in quieter moments, he’s stoic to the point of being boring. Frieda Pinto is an alluring screen presence as always but she’s criminally underdeveloped as a character. Mickey Rourke, however, just feels out of place like a Brooklyn gangster magically transported back in time. And perhaps that is our main gripe with Immortals: it’s strangely inconsistent. The elements that we see on screen are striking and wonderful don’t seem to build a cohesive world.
It really is a shame as Singh’s previous film, The Fall, had a small budget but enormous visual scope. He travelled all over the world over a period of four years shooting this, piggybacking his production on the back of commercial shoots and encouraging clients to make their ads in locations where he wanted to film his fantasy epic. Sadly, having a bigger budget for the Immortals could not translate to a bigger look. Incidentally, The Fall is also one of the most striking movies ever made and comes highly recommended by us.
Immortals, however, is still more original and esoteric than any other blockbusters you’re likely to see: the action is absolutely fine and as a movie experience, it’s leagues above something like Transformers. It’s mostly well-acted, exciting when it needs to be and visually stunning throughout.
Rating: 4 greased torsos out of 5.