Immortals

14 Dec

Title: Immortals
Year: 2011
Director: Tarsem Singh
Writers: Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides
Starring: Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, Isabel Lucas, Kellan Lutz, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt
MPAA Rating: R, sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality
Runtime: 110 min
IMDb Rating: 6.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%

 

I knew going into Immortals that it was going to be the ultimate battle of style versus substance. Director Tarsem Singh is renowned for going all out and delivering visual spectacles, sometimes to the point in which it feels rather self-indulgent of him. That’s something he had proven in his previous directorial effort, 2006’s The Fall, which I actually quite liked and is unlike anything I have ever seen. And in that manner, Immortals certainly doesn’t disappoint, there are real sets that are melded into digital sets with some wicked CGI and there are shots that are just so visually inventive that you can’t help but love them. But the thing is that, this film is only that, a lot of visually stunning tricks, and once you get to the actual story of it you can’t help but be bored to death by it.

Comparisons to 300 will be inevitable for this one, but I actually loved that Zack Snyder movie and I was underwhelmed by this one, the main difference being that 300 had a storyline that, if not downright awesome, kept pushing the film forward at a thousand miles per hour, while the storyline for this one is just so dull that the film kind of drags along and the visual spectacles don’t mean as much if they’re not backing something up that we actually care about and are interested in. I’ll give this film the minimum grade I give to films which I would recommend, a B-, but that grade is based on the aesthetic merits of it alone, and on absolutely nothing else, so be warned, if you’re not a sucker for a kickass visuals then by all means do your best to avoid Immortals.

You can’t help but feel frustrated, really, when watching this movie, can’t help but pity the fact that Mr. Singh is a guy with such a particular and well-honed visual instinct but that just sucks at telling a story, which obviously doesn’t fare well for his upcoming Snow White movie, Mirror Mirror. This is a film that looks quite impressive throughout, but is just so confused in its storytelling that it also doesn’t make any sense, so it’s not as though Mr. Singh will win over any new fans with this film, it’s just a feast of blood and guts that will appeal only to those who knew it would appeal to them beforehand. Though, the one thing you can take out of this one, is seeing Henry Cavill in a leading role, and attest that with a good story to tell, he may just make for a damn fine Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel, which coincidentally is being directed by Zack Snyder.

Because Mr. Cavill actually does a good job with his role here, though granted that means he did a good job looking the part and not actually acting it since there’s none of that in this film. He’s Theseus, the slave-hero of the film that needed that magnetism Mr. Cavill brings to the role, he really grabs hold of your attention which is why I think he’ll make for a great interpretation of the first caped superhero. And I’m not even sure I should go on ahead and try to explain the plot to you guys, the movie pretty much makes no sense, nor does it once seems to care about doing so, it’s just one wow-inducing image after another, your job is to look at these visuals and take them in like you would do with a regular plot in a regular movie.

That’s why the comparisons with 300 are inevitable, not to mention that they came from the same producers so obviously they’ll market it as such, because 300 also had so many visual moments that were just so supremely memorable. The difference was that while the many visual moments may be up to par one with the next, this one is just the sum of them, while 300 transcended that and had a director that knew how to marry the awesomely stylized surface with the depth and substance of the story he was telling.

Mr. Singh obviously succeeds tremendously in the first part, he described this film like “Caravaggio meets Fight Club. A hardcore action film done in Renaissance painting styles”, and that’s actually a dead-on description of how epic it all looks. But then you have that script, written by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, two Greek brothers who seem to have been extremely inspired by their heritage and go off referencing every Greek myth ever written in this film and a few they make up themselves, so what we get is this huge boiling pot that was already bursting over with so much style but that gets added a load of illogical, incoherent narrative cues that don’t ever add up to anything.

I really don’t know what else to say about Immortals. Like I said, going into the actual plot, if you can call it that, is senseless because that’s just what the plot is. This is a film with wicked production design, great cinematography, nice costumes and probably the most awe-inspiring visual effects of the year that invent some really neat new ways of showing violence in stylish ways on-screen. Tarsem Singh is unapologetic about the use of his visual flairs, and I like that, that’s his thing and he’s right to be in love with it because he’s damn good at it, I just want him to find a story that he can actually compliment with that and not overkill it with, though by the looks of the trailer, Mirror Mirror won’t be it.

Grade: B-

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One Response to “Immortals”

  1. Aggeliki Koutsoukou December 15, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    You are right about visuals and acting.
    But you are very wrong about the story-telling.
    You are confusing history (“300”) and myth (“Immortals”) story structures —very different by nature— trying to apply history’s logical rules to mythology.
    “300” is telling a story out of a history episode, and it actually tells it very poorly, twisting crucial things like Sparta’s political system and Persian culture to the point of absurdness, excusing itself with the lame “it’s from the comic” argument.
    “Immortals” is a new myth, and as a myth it’s structured with different logical rules. It is as surreal, inconsistent and fragmental as actual old myths are. Which is, not very much, but enough not to endure mathematic-logical analysis. Myths don’t care about realistic, accurate, gap-free story-telling, or about characters’ psychological consistence, or their sensitivities and feelings’ deep processing. It’s futile to ask many “why”s in myths. The only “why” we need to know is the one that made the hero go after the task in the first place. All other details are irrelevant. Myths are all about a hero’s actions and deeds. They are about a hero overcoming monstrous obstacles and realising unreal achievements, motivated by his own private agenda, on his way to immortality (i.e. to everlasting descendants’ memory). In myths, there is also constant unexpected interaction with the gods, who again act on their own agenda, whatever that is. “Immortals” plot works exactly like the actual old myths, keeps you breathless for the film’s duration, and that’s why I think it’s no less than brilliant.

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