Immortals, the bloody, ultra-violent fantasy action film loosely based on Greek mythology, is widely mistaken as a Zack Snyder film (ie, the guy behind the epic 300). I overheard no less than two couples make the erroneous connection when exiting the movie theatre. It is easy to see why, given the similarities in content, styles, themes and incoherent shouting between the two films. Besides, there is an overlap in producers (a fact they keep reminding us). But unfortunately, Immortals is no 300. Yes, it is also visually arresting and the action — when there is action — is blistering, but at the end of the day, Immortals impales itself on its laboured storytelling, rendering it plodding in comparison and ultimately forgettable.
In fact, Immortals is directed by Tarem Singh, an Indian director who was previously at the helm of The Fall and The Cell (yes, the infamous J-Lo clunker) and built his CV on music videos and commercials. His visual style is slick, fast and brutal, with long, clear fight sequences and well-placed slow motion emphasis — rather Snyder-esque — but Immortals does not attempt to emulate 300‘s monochrome colour scheme or its comic book presentation. I’d actually say that Immortals is closer to a mix of Clash of the Titans (for its Greek mythology and fantasy elements) and Centurion (for the excessive brutality last seen in this 2010 ultra-violent Michael Fassbender Roman conquest film).
The plot is straightforward — Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) declares war on Olympus, turning the world upside down to seek the mystical Epirus Bow in order to release these demi-god creatures called Titans to destroy the Gods. Theseus (Henry Cavill) is an ordinary man chosen by the Gods to save humanity and gets caught up in the destruction. He is assisted by a hot virgin oracle priestess (Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire) and a strangely-loyal-for-no-reason thief (Stephen Dorff). Let the carnage begin.
Immortals does have a lot going for it. There are some highly entertaining action scenes, all of which involve bone crushing, blood splattering, head exploding (and according to some, excessive and unnecessary) violence and most of which involve an agile, sword/spear wielding Henry Cavill and his impressive 6% body fat. Watching Cavill (the man whom Stephenie Meyer expressly envisioned as Edward Cullen in Twilight before he got too old for the role, and the guy who was almost James Bond) on the big screen, it’s hard to imagine why he isn’t a massive star already. He looks fantastic, oozes charisma and has reasonable acting chops. Immortals won’t make him that massive star, but the upcoming Superman reboot (again?) Man of Steel, in which Cavill plays the titular character, most probably will.
Freida Pinto and Stephen Dorff are underused as Cavill’s companions, but that’s more the fault of the script than their abilities. Luke Evans (Clash of the Titans) is solid as Zeus, and Kellan Lutz (Twilight) and Isabel Lucas (Transformers 2) are semi-believable as Poseidon and Athena, respectively.
However, it is Mickey Rouke’s Hyperion that dominates. Rouke is phenomenal and seems to relish playing these complex and unforgiving characters. The film would not have been the same without him. Big call, but I reckon it was his best performance since Wild Orchid (just kidding!).
So Immortals was exciting when people on screen were killing each other, but sadly, everything in between was kinda boring. The storytelling really struggled after the opening third and never picked up any steam. The characters remained stagnant and stopped developing, and when you think about it, the story doesn’t really go very far. That would have been mildly acceptable had there been simply action, action and more action (like 300), but for for me it felt as though too much of the 110 minute running time was wasted on the boring stuff.
This makes Immortals an average and somewhat forgettable movie at best, but my bias for exciting battle scenes and visual flair probably boosts its rating a little higher than it should be.
3.25 out of 5!
PS: When I first saw the trailer for Immortals, I was very excited by the obvious allusions to 300. I know that film polarised some viewers but I loved it — it was as close to a comic book or video game (I’m a big fan of both) as any film I had ever seen.
The Immortals trailer also reminded me, unexpectedly, of one of the best video game franchises of all-time, God of War, and in particular God of War III on the PS3. If they’re ever going to make a God of War movie, I’d imagine it to be like this (at least visually).
Amazingly, I found the storytelling in God of War III, told through a series of cut scenes, to be superior to the storytelling in Immortals. Now what does that tell you?
PPS: Forget about 3D. It never even crossed my mind.