Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Written by: Charley Parlapanides & Vince Parlapanides (screenplay)
Starring: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto and John Hurt
Unlike most bad movies, Immortals is quite beautiful to look at. From the plethora of computer-generated vistas to the shimmering metal of every blood-tainted sword, director Tarsem Singh takes the lifeless screenplay and plows his way through it with a visual grandeur that dwarfs most other modern action movies.
The initial image is of the mighty Titans, who in Greek lore are the greatest threat to the Gods. Here they are dwarfed down to human size as opposed to the mighty renditions in the Disney version of Hercules or the God of War video games. There is a lightning-quick battle between them and Zeus’ crowd, though that King of the Gods is missing his thunderous super powers as well.
Immortals dispenses with much of the traditional mythology in favor of more straight-forward blood-letting. It’s actually a very stupid title, since it’s made clear that everyone is dispensable (often by brutally disposing of them). Even the generic hero Theseus (Henry Cavill) rarely feels necessary, and the villainous King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) even less so. While Singh has a very keen sense of style (he has a music video past), the lousy script by Charley and Vince Parlapanides reduces everything to violence.
Aside from the visual element, there’s really nothing of use at all here. The story is a typical macho revenge story against insurmountable odds. There are epic battle sequences, some of which are even well done. Immortals isn’t even as gory as it could’ve been, though Singh does make overuse of framing Theseus from the side and following him across a battlefield as he stabs countless faceless enemies. It draws obvious comparisons to 300 (and shares a couple of its producers), which become even more noticeable when the final battle has Hyperion’s huge army being funneled through a small tunnel.
Most of the story rotates between Theseus and Hyperion, shedding light on both men’s blood-lust and only vilifying one of them. Hyperion is a typical power-hungry movie tyrant, and Rourke does little to put any life into him. The most lively performance comes from Freida Pinto as the Virgin Oracle, who can see the future as long as she doesn’t have sex. It’s a fairly stupid premise, but Pinto makes the character palpable if not believable.
Immortals is that rare action movie where the female character doesn’t just exist for sex, though it is by no means banished completely from the movie. In fact, the men are more objectified in this movie, and bare skin much more often than the women (yet another similarity to 300).
Theseus lacks almost all of the charisma of King Leonidas, despite all the narrative similarities. His bellowing monologue to rally the troops at the end feels awkward because he’d only met them moments before. Some in the crowd look around at each other with a “Who the hell is this guy?” expression on their faces, which is comical yet understandable. They of course fall in line and begin chanting incoherently as they rush half-naked to penetrate the enemy with their blades.
This final battle sequence switches to the clash between the Gods and the Titans, which is the movie’s most competent and bloody struggle. Zeus, Athena and company look like lesser, gold-tinted versions of the Justice League, but the kinetic frenzy of this battle is still intense. Hyperion unleashes the grotesque burnt creatures with the mysterious Epirus Bow, a weapon that creates an unbelievably powerful arrow whenever it is drawn back.
Much of Immortals is dedicated to the pursuit of this bow, though Hyperion’s blood lust never feels believable. Rourke is so lifeless in a role that is already drained of any life that it drags the rest of the movie down even further. Singh attempts to give the corpse of a story a pulse, but it shows signs of mortality early on and slowly dies out.