Immortals - DVD and Blu-ray (2011) - Grade D
Director Tarsem Singh began his career directing commercials and music videos and his first full-length feature film The Cell (2000) showcases exactly that fact. However, even though the film is visually brilliant it tells a remarkable story that is entirely character driven and is the film is ends up being an emotionally engaging experience. Then he directed The Fall (2006), which is one of the most beautifully shot films ever made. And even though it’s more visually engrossing than it is emotionally investing, it’s an ever greater achievement than The Cell.
Now comes Immortals and it’s not based on the Greek mythological tale of Theseus, whatsoever. An omen approaches…
Briefly: King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) is a jerk who hates the Gods and knows that the only people that can destroy the Gods are the titans, who were Gods at another time. The titans were defeated long ago and imprisoned beneath Mount Tartarus for centuries (or maybe millennia) by The Gods and Hyperion knows that the mystical, magical bow of Epirus can be used to free them. He plans to do so and sick the titans on all of the Gods in a vengeful rage. Enter Theseus (Henry Cavill): a mortal who is chosen by the Gods to find the bow of Epirus before Hyperion does and, possibly slay Hyperion. I won’t ruin the rest of the film but clocking in at 110 minutes, it’s quite the bore because there’s little story to go around, most of it is senseless, and it lacks much action.
One thing that really bothers me about this film is the adaptation. It shouldn’t but it does. Let me give you an example as to what I mean: in the Theseus mythology, there is a Minotaur that’s performing sacrifices. At one point, Theseus ventures into the Minotaur’s lair, navigates it with the help of Ariadne (it’s a long story), and kills it. Theseus, much like Achilles and Hercules had lived a life full of action and adventures and the Minotaur (and its maze) was quite an adventure. This part of his story, however, is a tragic one because upon Theseus’ journey back home, he forgets to display a certain colour flag on ship’s mast that indicates that he’d slain the Minotaur. His father sees the “wrong colour flag”, believes that Theseus had died, and commits suicide. Most of that story isn’t in the film but the Minotaur is. However, the film’s version sees the Minotaur as a minion of King Hyperion’s who’s just some guy who waltzes around wearing a cage over his head and a bull’s horns instead being a man with an actual bull’s head that lives in the center of a complicated maze and rapes/sacrifices women. It’s more than disappointing; it’s very, truly sad.
The film’s cinematography isn’t very good, either, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The film is shot entirely on sound stages and with green screened backgrounds. Every location in the film is rendered digitally and looks fake. Most rooms in the film are tiny, as are most corridors, and a feeling of claustrophobia will be imminent. And if you ask me, that’s the opposite look and feel that a sword and sandals epic should depict.
The film would have benefited from being shot in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (aka full screen) and that stylistic choice would have been ideal because, aside from Theseus’ hometown, a mountainside village built into the mountain, most architectural designs in the film utilize square motifs. When a giant battle between hundreds of thousands of CG people is about to take place in a giant desert, the terrain is a vast, flat nothing that stretches to infinity and looks just as boring as all of those CG people. And when a large scale corridor battle ensues beneath Mount Tartarus, it’s shot… inside a long corridor where hundreds of extras are murdered, en mass utilizing the latest in CG blood technology. But instead of bodies piling up and Theseus, cleverly piling up the corpses in his entrance in order to block the corridor from his enemies, the bodies just mysteriously disappear between films edits. Curious… and remarkably mind numbing.
I don’t hate Immortals but I was terrifically underwhelmed upon first viewing it in the theatres, because I’m a Tarsem fan. I find nothing interesting in the film; not thematically and not visually. The performances are “straight to video” at best, especially Mickey Rourke’s. He seemed to be bored throughout the entire film. Even when crushing a man’s skull with his bare hands he seemed bored and I can’t blame him. There is essentially no script, and that means that there’s no true motivation to delivering even a decent performance. Rourke knew that when he accepted the paycheck, and so did Cavill. And so did Stephen Dorff (Stavros the thief), Freida Pinto (Phaedra the oracle), Luke Evans (Young Zeus), and John Hurt (Old Zeus). Yes, they’re all in the film and it really doesn’t matter. Anyone can play those roles and not deliver decent performances. Heck, hiring a cheaper cast of unknowns would have raised the special effects budget significantly and might have resulted in larger rooms and corridors.
It’s a disappointing film that’s not worth more than a rental (if even that) and I believe that viewing it on DVD or Blu-ray would show off the bad green screening more so. But at least it’s far cheaper than seeing it the theatres.