Top critical review
300 Immortal Titans!
on February 24, 2014
What would happen if "Clash of the Titans" had a baby with "300"?
Well, it might be something like "Immortals," a very loose retelling of the story of Theseus -- but with lots of godly angst from on high, and everything filmed in a bronzed sweaty style. Tarsem brings splashes of his own colorful, dramatic style to this tale, but he's hamstrung by a plodding, gruesome script.
The cruel king Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) wants to find the Epirus Bow, the only item which can slay the immortal gods and free the brutal Titans. To find it, he tortures priests and captures the virgin oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto), in hopes that she can lead him to the bow.
A young man named Theseus (Henry Cavill) lives with his mother at an isolated village, being taught how to fight by a weird old man (John Hurt), who is quickly revealed to actually be Zeus in disguise (Luke Evans). The law of the gods demands that they not interfere in mortal affairs (how true to Greek mythology!), and Zeus is determined to keep it that way.
But when Theseus is captured and enslaved by Hyperion's army, he is able to escape with Phaedra -- and in short order, he conveniently finds the Epirus Bow. But Hyperion is clever enough to snatch the bow away from them, and unless Theseus can rally the Hellenic armies, the Titans will be unleashed to destroy the entire world...
Tarsem is probably the most visually arresting director of our times. He has a flawless sense for bright colors, exotic designs, and sweeping fantastical visuals that seem to be from another world. Sure, the entire movie has that bronzed metallic sheen that "300" made famous, but it also has the oddly modern Olympus, the scarlet robes of the oracle, the cliffside village... visually speaking, it's gorgeous.
But he seems to have a knack for choosing movies that simply don't live up to his visuals -- in every movie of his that I have seen, the writing is what lets the movie down. And that is the problem with "Immortals" -- the story just sort of lurches and plods along, tangled in never-answered questions (why can't the gods interfere? Why is Zeus allowed to rape mortal women if interference be bad?). It never builds up a sense of momentum until the climactic battle.
And there's really just a grimy sense of ugliness to the movie. Castration, tongues cut out, people being steamed alive, and the relentless vileness of Hyperion's army -- I'm not opposed to a little wanton violence, but the ugliness starts to wear on the nerves.
But the actors, overall, do excellent jobs -- Cavill has a powerful presence as a noble if embittered young hero, and Pinto gives a beautifully evanescent performance as a young girl cursed with terrible visions. Hurt and Evans give an excellent double performance as Zeus, showing him both as a kindly old mentor and as a vibrant young god-king.
As for Rourke, he is absolutely bloodcurdling as Hyperion, coldly and casually spreading chaos across Greece. He's suffered a personal tragedy, so now he spreads death and horror to everyone he touches, raping and torturing in a quiet, philosophical manner.
"Immortals" is graced with exquisite visuals and some excellent acting, but the story just plods along and leaves you feeling dirty after awhile. At least it's better than "Clash of the Titans."