Directed By: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, John Hurt, Joseph Morgan, Greg Bryk, Kellan Lutz, Isabel Lucas, Daniel Sharman
There are so many pieces to the filmmaking puzzle; it’s really no wonder so many movies can’t pull it all together. With the visual king, Tarsem Singh, behind the lens, Immortals was basically guaranteed to be imagery eye candy and, sure enough, Singh delivers big time. If only he’d learn to put the same amount of time and energy into honing his script, Immortals could have given 300 a run for its money.
Way back when, there was a brutal war that resulted in the gods ruling from Mount Olympus and the Titans entombed in Mount Tarturus. Determined to end the reign of the gods, in 1228 BC, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) sets out to hunt down the Epirus Bow, the weapon with the power to unleash the Titans. Right in the path of Hyperion’s destruction is Theseus’ (Henry Cavill) home, a small village nestled in a mountainside of the Kolpos Peninsula. Even with his deft fighting capabilities, Theseus alone is no match for Hyperion and his men and Hyperion butchers Theseus’ mother right in front of him. With the help of the oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto), as well as a band of slaves including the thief, Stavros (Stephen Dorff), Theseus sets out to stop Hyperion and avenge his mother.
Meanwhile, up in the clouds, the gods watch and bicker over the proper time to intervene. Riding on his faith in humanity, Zeus (Luke Cavill) demands that his children keep away from the mortals. Should they disobey his orders, he’ll put them to death. However, when necessary, the gods will make their move to ensure that the Titans never escape their tomb.
As this synopsis puts the focus of the start of this review on the story, let’s begin there. With little to no knowledge of Greek mythology, Immortals, in general, is quite easy to digest. The rules of the realm are laid out and, for the sake of the film, all seem quite sensible. The problems arise when looking at the series of events as a whole and when exploring the layers of the characters.
Plot-wise, Immortals has a number of holes. First off, Hyperion’s angst towards the gods is merely glossed over, making his venture far less compelling than it could be. On Theseus’ side, while he does benefit from having a solid amount of character development, his arc throughout the film isn’t well documented and is quite tough to track, particularly when it comes to his relationship to Phaedra. Another relationship that’s sadly pushed to the wayside, is the bond between Theseus and Stavros. Stavros is easily the film’s most relatable character, as he’s not an untouchable god and isn’t completely consumed by the mission. Plus, he’s the kind of guy who likes to have a good time and, with a film with such a serious tone, his humor is much appreciated. It’s clear that Theseus grows to trust Stavros, but we never get to see that transition, which is a major disappointment as their opposing personalities could have made for an intriguing style of chemistry.
Up in the heavens, the only two gods that get their due time are Zeus and Athena (Isabel Lucas) and despite Lucas’ wishy-washy performance, their father-daughter relationship is rather strong. Daniel Sharman’s Aries is rather enjoyable to watch, as he’s a god that thinks for himself and then acts upon his ethics, but, otherwise, the gods are mere set pieces.
Speaking of the set, Immortals looks absolutely gorgeous. The set design, the costumes, the camerawork, every visual element is spot on and, combined, result in two hours of absolutely mesmerizing material. The locations never cease to amaze, from Theseus’ hometown which is artfully carved into the side of a cliff to the dark despair that the Titans are secluded to, deep inside the dreariest section of Mount Tartarus. Even with the overwhelming beauty of the environment, Eiko Ishioka’s costume designs bear a notably striking presence. While the slave and common man garb primarily consists of scraps of leather, the outfits still have an incredible degree of detail and then with Hyperion and the gods, Ishioka seizes the opportunity to go above and beyond, designing beautifully elaborate helmets that lend a hand in defining the characters.
On the directorial front, if you’ve seen The Cell or The Fall, it should come as no surprise that Singh is a master behind the lens. He’s a natural when it comes to pinpointing the most visually stimulating frames and bringing out the best in the set and costume work. Singh also has immense ability when it comes to capturing action. The battle scenes in Immortals are pristine. The choreography has a dance-like quality to it, which, paired with Ishioka’s costumes, turns it into a gripping display of vibrancy and brutality. But all would have gone to waste had it not been for Singh’s stellar understanding of coverage. As Theseus barrels down a tunnel, taking out Hyperion’s men one-by-one, Singh gives us exactly what we want to see at every moment, whether it be a slew of killings in one single shot or a series of quick cuts, offering different vantage points.
However, there is no denying that the battles are Immortals’ prime asset. While it’s quite clear that Singh and his team paid a great deal of attention to visual details, the details of the story get lost in the mix. As enthralling as the action sequences are, Immortals could have benefited from perhaps 15 extra minutes of simple one-on-one conversations to build characters and raise the stakes before shedding buckets of blood. Then again, even without that added degree of depth, for anyone seeking a hefty dose of vicious sword battles, Immortals is wildly entertaining.