'The Immortals' lands back on its mortal coil

Immortals Henry Cavill in "Immortals." SOURCE RELATIVITY
November 21, 2011

Director Tarsem Singh's "The Immortals" is a cinematic Icarus. It spreads its delicate waxen wings, soaring on delusions of its own self-importance, and then aims straight for the sun. For those who are perhaps not well-versed in early Greek mythology, let's just say things don't end well for the flying fellow and he makes a rather inglorious splashdown.

There are moments in "The Immortals" that achieve thrilling heights, but is too often landlocked by a stilted story (did the mythology really need that much tinkering? It seems to have persevered pretty well on its own for centuries.), a few flat performances and some of the silliest headgear you’re likely to see outside of an underground rave.

It draws, ever-so-slightly, on the legend of Theseus (played by Henry Cavill) and the Minotaur, as well as the war between the Olympians and Titans. But aside from recognizable character names, he rearranges the chess pieces to suit his own cinematic needs.

Most notably:

• Heracles (best known to us as Hercules): he is now an Olympian, and as powerful as he was in legend, he was a demi-god, never an Olympian.

• Hyperion (played by a suitably heavy Mickey Rourke): he is now human, which flies against lore in which he's an imprisoned Titan.

• The most notable shift, though, is the character Athena (played by Isabel Lucas), the goddess of wisdom and war. This is the goddess to which the Parthenon was dedicated, Athens was named after her and she was the patron to Odysseus, Jason and Heracles. But here, she's a merely a moody, whiny young lady with serious daddy issues. (Granted, anyone with Zeus as a father would need time on the therapist's couch, but still...)

The only time "Immortals" truly gathers momentum is during its third-act battles.

They are filmed with all the slo-mo blood splatter we've come to expect in our fight scenes today, but Singh does polish them with a particular attention to detail. But there are the only times in which the silly 3-D glasses are merited. And, frustratingly, when these gods march into mayhem and some are killed (some quite easily, mind you), there is little-to-no consequence.

Gamers are familiar with a little PlayStation title called "Gods of War III, " in which many similar battles between heavenly heroes and mighty mortals can be fought. But if a god is vanquished in that game, there are serious repercussions (if sun-god Helios is extinguished, so is light on earth). In "Immortals," we get a pretty arterial spray and little else.

Singh’s "The Cell," made over a decade ago, bared the mark of a visual stylist. But he has yet to find a creative narrative that could give him the platform to use his palate to its potential. And despite the occasional lifts into the air, "The Immortals" ultimately lands back onto this mortal coil with a resounding "thud!"

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