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Old 11-13-2011, 12:45 PM
Tarsem Singh's Immortals

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:

Immortals (2011)

“Immortals” is an exercise in the age-old cliché of style over substance. It’s a very pretty looking film, but there’s nothing underneath the surface. It’s one thing to go into a movie and turn your brain off, but it’s quite another thing to go into a movie, attempt to turn your brain off, and end up laughing at the absurdity of a story that is so full of holes that you could march an entire Greek army right through it.

The story revolves around a young hero, Theseus (Henry Cavill) whose village is attacked by King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who is trying to find a powerful bow with which to take over humanity. After Theseus is captured, he is forced to watch Hyperion murder his mother, made a slave, and sent away to work in the salt mines. However, along the way, he encounters the virgin oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto), who, along with her guardians, help him escape. When he returns home to give his mother a proper burial, he discovers the bow that Hyperion has been seeking. Now armed with an extremely powerful weapon of the gods, he must lead an army against Hyperion to prevent him from releasing the dreaded Titans.

That has to be one of the silliest, most nonsensical synopses I’ve ever had to write out, and it is this that ends up being one of the biggest flaws of the film. There are lapses in the plot that go unexplained, certain parts of the film that you are just asked to go along with and accept. For instance, when Hyperion is looking for the virgin oracle, the monk who knows her location is so adamant in his refusal to tell him her location that he cuts off his own tongue. A few minutes later, we see that Hyperion’s guards have found her with the only reference to it being from one of the slaves who tells us something like “Oh, they must have found them.” Did the monk suddenly have a change of heart after going to such an extreme?

Another example pops up when Theseus returns home to bury his mother. He just happens to find the bow in a hunk of rock in the middle of the crypt. Did anyone ever question why this hunk of rock was sitting right in the middle of the floor, or was it just accepted as a nice addition to the room? Furthermore, it is questionable as to why Theseus suddenly feels the need to dig into it with a hammer and chisel. As these lapses begin to pile up, you get a sense that the writers just felt like being lazy whenever they hit a bump in the plot that they might have to explain.

Not only are there lapses in plot, but there are also lapses in logic. In the final battle sequence, when Hyperion’s army is facing off with Theseus’s army, Hyperion is in possession of the bow. Since he has possession of such a strong weapon that can fire unlimited arrows and cause massive explosions, what’s the point of sending in an army when you could simply stand several yards away and obliterate them that way? Why, because there needs to be a seemingly-endless battle sequence to take up the last third of the film, of course.

Then there’s Hyperion’s mission to unleash the Titans after retrieving the bow. Why he would want to do this is never explained, at least not to my recollection. You’re guess is as good as mine, but it probably has something to do with extending that never-ending battle sequence, or to give the gods something to do besides stand around and watch humanity fight each other.

This is actually another bizarre part of the film. There are several unnecessary scenes of the gods watching over Theseus, interfering every now and again when he gets in trouble. Their major contribution ends up being their fight with the Titans at the end, but when you sit there and try to figure out what the point of releasing the titans was, you realize that the gods really didn’t have any point in being in the film whatsoever as the two stories don’t mesh at all.

It’s a shame to see such a waste of talent like Henry Cavill, who gave a wonderful performance in “The Tudors,” Mickey Rourke, Oscar-nominee for “The Wrestler,” and John Hurt, who has had a long and distinguished career. Here, they are forced to spout bad dialogue from a badly written screenplay by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides. It seems like they just watched “300” too many times and thought they might be able to do something similar.

What makes this film a bit of a surprise is that it comes from director Tarsem Singh, who has given us the great films “The Cell” and “The Fall,” both of which are some of the most beautiful films ever made as they explore some of the most mysterious elements of humankind: dreams and the imagination. He’s usually much more careful in his selection process than this, which makes it rather disappointing that he would pick a project this shallow to work on.

“Immortals” is indeed good-looking and is even entertaining for a few brief sequences, but that’s not nearly enough to begin making up for its multiple flaws elsewhere. Throughout a film like this, you can’t help but feel bad for the numerous people who worked so hard on the sets, costumes, CGI, and the special effects only to have it be a part of a mess of a film, but at the very least, it will be their contributions to the film that will be remembered. 2/4 stars.
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