Visually, Immortals is a perfect companion piece to sit next to Zack Snyder‘s 300. Where 300 resembles the graphic novel with washed out grays and heavy grain and filtering, Immortals looks polished, clear and almost fake. Backdrops look painted, characters stick out with gold colored armor and orange skin and each location varies heavily from the last. Immortals is a visual treat thanks to director Tarsem Singh and his particular eye for painting a story. He makes it feel like its own film, not trying to copy any other popular films of the genre, instead trying to sit rightfully beside them. Unfortunately for Immortals that is its highest praise. The visuals are worthy of the dimming 3D and the blood and violence is sure to please fans of war, but the story takes more time than it needs to establish, making the film at times feel like more of a task to watch.
Theseus (Henry Cavill) is a peasant, a strong one at that. His village is under threat of attack by the evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and he needs to get his mother along with other loved ones out of harm’s way, but the rest of the town people think it’s best for the peasants to stay behind and leave the village last, increasing their chances of running into Hyperion. After standing up to one of the local soldiers Theseus proves his courage and strength, but politely declines an offer to join them.
The next morning his village is attacked and his mother, along with many others are slayed and killed by Hyperion and his army. Theseus is forced to watch as Hyperion personally slits his mother’s throat. As Theseus’ rage slowly builds, Zeus (Luke Evans) sits up above in the heavens watching. Zeus has ordered that the Gods only watch as the mortal’s battle, only interfering when the time is right.
Theseus’ path crosses with the virgin oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto). She has visions of the future, which shows Theseus standing side by side with Hyperion, holding a sacred bow that Hyperion is desperately seeking. She helps guide Theseus and a small group of men to the bows location where Theseus’ mother was killed. After finding the bow and learning of its special powers Theseus slowly starts to believe in the Gods, which leads to his rising. Theseus must go to war with Hyperion and prevent Hyperion from summoning the immortals and destroying the world.
Immortals mostly works because of Tarsem Singh. His artistic eye is much different from other directors working in the field. He keeps his films bright, colorful, clean and clear. Heavy grain use has been overpopulating films lately for no good reason other than to simply exist, making Immortals feel a little different because Singh keeps everything polished and beautiful. Each scene looks better than the last with exotic structures and locations. He never abuses the slow motion effect like some directors, only using it when the Gods fight against immortals and mortals. It almost feels like something out of a God of War game.
The battle scenes are shot fluidly with an understanding of placement. The camera stays steady and keeps its distance, allowing maximum action to be shown at once. Actors and actresses are easily distinguishable from each other and everything is extremely focused and purposeful. You never feel lost or unsure of who is battling who, which is sometimes a problem with war films. The visuals never reach the point of distraction, they only help paint the picture and give you a better understanding of what’s going on without feeling too stylized.
Action fans will enjoy Immortals for its gruesome bloody scenes and action heavy last act. Although most of the blood is done via CGI, it still looks impressive up against the visual backdrop. Heads are literally whacked and smashed off bodies while swords and spears impale throats and chests. The action is fun and it never feels repetitive. Each character has a fighting strategy that differs from the others, allowing for a creative slew of kills. Things get really good when the Gods decide to intervene. They go straight for the heads, smashing them to tiny bits and literally cutting people in half.
Henry Cavill leads the cast as Theseus, the most important character of the film. He does a good enough job with his lines, but they have little impact. Hopefully Immortals isn’t an indication of his acting quality for Man of Steel. He mostly feels generic in this one, doing fine when the action picks up, but never leaving room for any sort of emotional connection. Theseus only really matters in Immortals because he progresses the story, which allows for more action, nothing more.
Mickey Rourke seems content as Hyperion. He kills and rapes without the slightest sign of remorse. His performance is the perfect example of phoning it in. He doesn’t really seem to be all that engaged with his role, but his physical image and ugly face help make Hyperion all the more creepy and unforgiving.
Stephen Dorff plays unnamed soldier number 6 aka Stavros. His character’s name isn’t important; all that you need to know is he’s that guy who cracks jokes at our main hero, while helping him kill any soldiers that get in their way.
Freida Pinto plays the virgin oracle with little importance. The character sees into the future, which some may consider a burden while others consider it a gift. She’s sick of her power and just wants to live a normal life, which doesn’t really fit in with the main story that much. She helps guide Theseus, but her character doesn’t feel important aside from that.
Immortals struggles most with pacing and story repetition. The film starts out with a wide array of visuals and some cool action sequences, but then it cuts back and attempts to tell a story worth hearing. It’s your typical man looking for purpose, loses family and rises to the occasion. The story jumps back and forth from Hyperion speaking his evil plan while killing an innocent civilian to Theseus looking for the sacred bow. While looking for the bow he does a bit of self-discovering, which works, but feels of little importance.
The film gets really good when the war starts towards the end. That’s when Singh’s visuals mesh perfectly with bloodshed and chaos. That’s when the acting isn’t that important and the action is. At that point the film feels like a fun enough visit to the cinema, but nothing too deep or important. It just sucks having to sit through the stuffy opening scenes to get to the good stuff. The story is never strong enough to carry itself and the characters never really feel worthy of caring for.
Still, Immortals isn’t a complete waste of time. It uses the 3D gimmick just right, adding much depth to Singh’s impressive sets. It also works well when limbs and blood come flying out at you. The story itself isn’t strong enough to carry the film from one action scene to the next. Immortals starts out fine, but drags in familiar territory rather quickly. Action is evenly placed at intervals allowing for you to never get too bored, but it does start testing that in the middle. Once the last act picks up it becomes a really fun movie, mixing the visuals with some great action. The story at that point takes a back seat, but you really don’t care at that point.
Immortals is a movie full of fun moments, but you have to sit through some boring stuff to get at them. Henry Cavill doesn’t have me convinced that he can play Superman just yet and Mickey Rourke doesn’t add much flavor to his generic bad guy role. There really isn’t one actor that sticks out. Only director Tarsem Singh and his visuals stick out in Immortals, making it feel like its own beast and not a direct 300 copy. Singh unfortunately suffers from the same problems that Zack Snyder does (in Sucker Punch); he’s so focused on making visuals stand out that he forgets to make the story count. You don’t ever really care about what’s going on in Immortals. You just want your action fix with tons of blood!
If you’re okay with a weak story getting substituted with colorful sets and easy to digest action sequences than you’ll probably enjoy Immortals. Those looking to dig a little deeper won’t find anything but dirt and sand.
Immortals – 7/10