Jul 16, 2012

[Movies] Immortals (2011)

Greek mythology holds a special place in my heart - as is often the case for many geeks of a literary persuasion. And thus movies that have put effort into depicting the old myths tend to catch my attention. And that includes quirky ones like this movie that just barely touch one the most basic trappings of Greek mythology in terms of the stories that they ultimately come up with.

When the trailers for this movie first came out, I'm sure I wasn't the only guy who felt this was doomed to become a wannabe clone of movies like 300. But the movie had the distinction of having Tarsem Singh as a director, who is rather well-known for his unique approach to visuals in his movies like The Cell and The Fall.

But early reviews all but panned the movie and even those friends of mine who had seen it while it was in theaters complained of how bad it was. Thus the reason we never got around to watching it before now. And now that I've seen it, well, at the very least you could say that I was rather disappointed.

Synopsis: Immortals is a 2011 fantasy action movie that loosely draws from Greek mythology in its story. As mentioned earlier, it was directed by Tarsem Singh with a screenplay by Vlas Parlapanides and Charley Parlapanides.

In the movie setting, we follow the story of how the initial race of immortals waged war against one another. The victors became the gods and the losers became the titans, locked within a prison in Mount Tartarus. Eventually we meet King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who decides to go in search of the fabled Epirus Bow in order to release the Titans and get his perceived revenge against the gods. To this end he first seeks out the oracle Phaedra (Frieda Pinto) to help determine where the bow may be found.

Elsewhere we meet the peasant woman Aethrea (Anne Day-Jones) and her son Theseus (Henry Cavill), who has become a rather formidable warrior under the guidance of his mentor (John Hurt). As they try to flee the coming armies of Hyperion, their status prevents them from doing so and ultimately Aethrea is killed when the forces of Hyperion finally reach their village. Eventually it is revealed that his mentor was actually the god Zeus (Luke Evans) and thus the task of stopping Hyperion now falls on mankind - particularly Theseus.

Now the movie is rather pretty, you have to give Singh that much. His signature style is evident all throughout the movie from the unique angles of the shots, his creative use of interior framing and of course the rich colors of the costumes. But at the same time his visual appeal doesn't quite translate well given the type of movie involved. While The Cell was indeed a horror piece, it was still of a more methodical and dramatic pace. And his other notable movies were also straight dramas with some fantastical elements. This time around the producers were clearly expecting some 300-style action and something got lost in the effort to bring about this translation.

Now I was rather disappointed with Henry Cavill's lack of presence and overall impact for the movie, especially given he is our protagonist here. It's hard to pinpoint precisely what the issue is here but needless to say that his performance was just lacking and he lacked the overall impact to portray a mythological hero.

And as much as he is, well, physically impressive, the movie lacked sufficient opportunities to take advantage of this fact. I'm not say that we need him to pose in front of the camera a lot or something like that. But I would expect them to figure in the mandatory hero shots and beauty moments where we as viewers get to, um, enjoy his hard work on shaping his body thus. And this is considering he's become even more buff for the upcoming Superman movie. Whoo boy.

On that note though, I wonder if he possesses the needed acting chops to portray even that role - in that case perhaps his performance here was more of a direction issue. Just review his "big speech" during the siege of Tartarus. What the heck was that all about?

Then we come to the so-called gods of this movie - you can tell who they are by the ridiculous amount of gold that they wear and the fact that they like to fall from the sky. Beyond my "visual bias" in terms of having these gods appear as very young individuals, none of the actors really conveyed the sort of awe-inspiring presence that you'd expect from divinity. And while you could argue that this was intentional to make them appear more petty and, well, human, you'd still think that they'd still carry themselves as if they had abilities far beyond mortal men.

And their intervention in matters didn't seem all that, well, godly, apart from Poseidon's little swim. For the most part they just fight like normal soldiers and the whole bullet time style effect is fun at first but annoying in the long run. In the end one can only wonder why they're supposed to be gods at all beside the fact that they live in up in the clouds.

Immortals could have been so much more but something fell through the cracks during the filming process that just ruined things. Maybe there were too many restrictions or requirements set by the studio that hampered Singh's ability to execute his vision. Maybe he's just not meant for action movies. Maybe this movie just never should have been made! You decide. As for me, I rate the movie a dismal 1.5 moments I tried not to laugh at that ridiculous teeth-encrusted helmet out of a possible 5.

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