Published Nov 10, 2011In the battle of cinematic depictions of mythology, Immortals surpasses recent big budget slop like Clash of the Titans, thanks in large part to Tarsem's aptitude for breathtaking visual artistry. While by no means an outright success ― stilted, overly expository dialogue and Mickey Rourke's roving accent come to mind immediately ― the aesthetically pleasing match of material to director yields some stunning eye candy in this very loose, highly stylized presentation of the story of Theseus (Henry Cavill).
After an opening shot of a creepy cube full of well-muscled men in ornate helmets, with long metal bars clenched between their teeth is revealed as the vision of a virgin oracle (Frieda Pinto), some forced narration provides a brief history lesson on the war between the gods. The vanquished captives of that battle, the Titans, were imprisoned deep within Mount Tartaros and eons later the brutal and sacrilegious King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) plans to free them using the magical Epirus bow.
To find the bow, he seeks the oracle, murdering and enslaving his way from village to village. Held captive, along with her posse of decoy maidens, the oracle has a vision of a fellow captive, the peasant warrior Theseus, fingering him as the deciding factor in this particular conflict between good and evil. Being secretly conditioned for battle since birth by Zeus (Luke Evans), posing as an old man, and having recently seen his mother murdered by Hyperion make him the obvious candidate.
Henry Cavill is a great find for a new go-to heroic figure. His strong presence as Theseus carries an optimistic nobility that bodes well for his turn as Superman in the upcoming Man of Steel. The cast is largely solid and the story is propulsive enough to provide Tarsem (The Cell, The Fall) opportunities to craft new visual wonders at a steady pace, but those hoping for bloodlust on par with 300 may be disappointed.
Immortals is plenty gory, and when the gods decide to interfere in human affairs (a big no-no), the resulting speed-warped action sequences are a joy to behold. Story quibbles aside, the aesthetic feast is gorgeous, unabashedly celebrating classic Geek art, presenting the gods and the men who would act nobly enough to walk among them as finely chiselled, bare-chested specimens. It's the perfect excuse for Tarsem to indulge in his fondness for making people who look like moving sculptures exist in a world that looks like a surreal and sinister, but beautiful, painting, the use of 3D adding texturing that's among the better uses of the technology.
Compelling art design with especially lovely attention to colour contrast and exceptionally graceful cinematography make Immortals worth checking out for anyone even remotely interested in the content or wowing visual filmmaking. (Alliance)