Fox // 2011 // 110 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // March 26th, 2012
The Gods Need A Hero.
"It's not living as such that's important, Theseus. It's living rightly."
The power-mad King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, Sin City) threatens to destroy all mankind in his quest to obtain the Epirus Bow -- a weapon with which he intends to release the Titans, who have been imprisoned in Mount Tartaros since their defeat at the hands of the Gods eons ago.
Powerless to stop Hyperion, due to a law that dictates Gods must not interfere in mankind's affairs, Zeus and his fellow Gods can only look on helplessly as Hyperion continues his destructive quest. That is until a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill, Stardust) -- driven by a desire to avenge his mother's murder -- stands up to Hyperion and his armies. Aided by the virgin oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire), and the thief Stavros (Steven Dorff, Blade), Theseus battles to save not only mankind, but the Gods as well.
Dull, slow, and unable to engage the viewer on any meaningful level, Immortals is a crushing disappointment.
Aesthetically not quite the home run one would expect -- especially coming from as renowned a visual director as Tarsem Singh (The Cell) -- this fantasy epic struggles to really convince the viewer that the vision of ancient Greece being presented to them isn't taking place on elaborate sets or augmented heavily by CGI. That's not to say the film doesn't contain some show-stopping moments: the sight of Poseidon descending from the heavens is spectacular, as are the scenes set on Mount Olympus. All too often, the picture feels cramped, as if the physical sets are no larger than a small backyard, which in turn massively inhibits any sense of grandeur being attempted.
Action scenes, though competent, are far too fleeting to carry the film alone, with lengthy spells going by with little more than a hobbled narrative and stilted performances to show for it. When the action finally does take center stage during the final act, it never really catches fire. There are rare exceptions, of course, the prime examples being a sequence (used prominently in the trailer) where Theseus takes down multiple bad guys with a single shot of his magical bow. Beyond that, there's very little to write home about.
More worryingly, especially for Singh, is the feeling that production began on Immortals without a completed screenplay. The opening 20 minutes sums the film up perfectly, as the movie opens in a hive of activity, with the various players being introduced, but very little really happening. Look beyond all the flashy visuals, and Immortals is revealed to be built upon a premise so threadbare and commonplace amongst the fantasy genre as to render the film almost pointless. Whereas Singh's previous work, most notably The Fall, married sumptuous visuals with imaginative storytelling, Immortals is guilty of being a poor 300/Clash of the Titans hybrid. However, to compare Immortals with 300 is akin to comparing a kitten with a fully grown bengal tiger.
One of the rare glimmers of real entertainment comes from Mickey Rourke's hamming it up as King Hyperion, a power-obsessed warlord who sports the most ridiculous armor imaginable -- the man literally looks like a giant crab claw. His lack of compassion for his fellow man sees him revel in the murder of innocents and the castration of those who betray him ("Your forefathers weep from their graves as the future of their bloodline ends with you here tonight!").
Leading man Henry Cavill has the looks of an action hero, but fails to inject any real intensity into the role of the heroic Theseus. Though he performs ably enough in the action scenes, showing a real dexterity and skill for fight choreography, he comes across as far too sullen to be the enigmatic hero figure the movie is crying out for. Stephen Dorff and John Hurt (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) make appearances, but are either miscast or underutilized.
Regardless of any gripes with the film, Immortals is one fine-looking DVD. There's a nice contrast in the color palettes used for scenes set on Earth and those set in the heavens that really shows of the transfer. Colors are strong, with deep black levels and the picture is never less than sharp. The 5.1 soundtrack equals the video presentation, with a punchy mix delivering clear dialogue and excellent effects work. With all that said, fans of Immortals may be better suited to the Blu-ray release, as Singh's visuals are enhanced further by the upgrade to hi-def -- not to mention the fact it features a better selection of extras. Those purchasing the DVD will find only a selection of deleted scenes and a short making-of ("It's No Myth") on the disc.
Despite going in to Immortals with fairly low expectations, I still found myself underwhelmed by its lack of real spectacle. The film takes itself far too seriously, and only Singh's ability to craft remarkable imagery saves it from being a complete bust.
Review content copyright © 2012 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site