The fast-paced Immortals is an unusual education
Starring Henry Cavill and Mickey Rourke. Rated 18A.
If nothing else, Immortals must be adjudged one of the most thorough illustrated lectures on the art of fantasy filmmaking ever to penetrate a multiplex. This is because, within the same frame, 3-D CGIs—both state-of-the-art and stinky cheese—often share space with matte paintings, just as slow-motion digitized splatter is frequently crosscut with bloodless, under-the-armpit spear thrusts.
Because the film is set in ancient Greece and deals with the conflict between hoplites and the gods of Mount Olympus, Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion-animation epics are obviously templates of sorts for director Tarsem Singh, but this polyglot filmmaker borrows equally from mentors as diverse as Sergei Eisenstein, Vittorio Cottafavi, Peter Jackson, and Zhang Yimou.
Like I said, this movie is an education.
Perhaps, you mutter impatiently, but is it enjoyable? And is it more than just a jacked-up video game?
Well, sort of (on both counts).
Playing fast and loose with established mythology, Immortals explains how a demoted Theseus (here a peasant) comes to hate King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), a scar-faced conqueror who is not above freeing the Titans from Mount Tartarus in order to get his way. Our déclassé hero (Henry Cavill) hooks up with a sexy sibyl named Phaedra (Slumdog Millionaire’s Freida Pinto) and, uh, locks horns with an atypical minotaur while the gods dither like an American war cabinet on the rights and wrongs of divine intervention (Immortals isn’t as reactionary as, say, 300, but at times it comes close).
The film is fast-paced and the dialogue doesn’t make your ears bleed. There’s a surprisingly steamy sex scene and the carnage becomes ever more graphic as the plot advances. Finally, there’s a “war in heaven” finale that looks like it was storyboarded by Michelangelo. For incidental pleasures like these, I’m willing to forgive a swashbuckler a great deal of heterodox stupidity.
Watch the trailer for Immortals.