First things first — Immortals is not 300. True, it shares some producers and it’s a swords-and-sandals epic packed with tons of visual effects, but that does not mean it’s not its own creation entirely.
Immortals — particularly the 3-D version — is an ambitious adventure in epic, myth-fueled filmmaking and in visual effects. The R-rated movie, which opens Friday, is prettttty. Problem is, it’s hard to tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Using brilliant strokes, director Tarsem Singh (The Cell) has painted an intricate canvas that combines the world of Zeus and the other Greek gods with that of the grimy, war-ravaged world of mere mortals. From the hyper-realistic deaths by sword to the pristine marble worlds of the heavens above, it’s gorgeous.
Unfortunately, at times it’s all just a little too much.
(Spoiler alert: A few more minor plot points follow.)
The tale of Immortals is, well, old. Hundreds of years before the common era, a peasant named Theseus (played by Henry Cavill) is secretly trained by Zeus to be a great warrior. Theseus ends up leading his people in a massive battle against King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who is essentially at war with humanity and searching for the magical Epirus Bow to unleash a wave of destruction.
Cavill looks the part of a brooding hero and even manages to bag the lovely Phaedra (Freida Pinto), an oracle who knows the dangers ahead. There is a lot of awesome swordplay, sweatiness and chest-thumping (thank the gods for Stephen Dorff, who plays Theseus’ comrade at arms Stavros). Blah, blah, blah.
Then there are the standard-issue mortal coils: Theseus doesn’t really want to fight for his fellow Hellenics. At least not until after Hyperion kills Theseus’ mother and the reluctant human hero has his tryst with the wise Phaedra (oh, now it’s on). Even though Zeus has trained Theseus in secret, he insists the gods should not involve themselves in the wars of humans — no matter how sad-face they all get looking down on the mortals’ trials from their perfectly set-designed heavens. Zeus’ resolve remains true even though Hyperion threatens to unleash the Titans, who have been locked away waiting for war with the gods for centuries.
Also, you get to see the Wrestler beat the pulp out of the next Man of Steel.
As Hyperion starts making good on his threats we’re led to the movie’s final, monumental battle scene. And, really, this is what makes Immortals worth the price of admission. You’ll see fast-then-slow, blood-spattered stabs and jabs of all varieties. In-your-face hammers. Cavill doing some serious nostril-flare work. It’s extremely cool to take in.
The bottom line is that Immortals is a great battle epic — well-acted, gorgeously shot, etc. — which is cool if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s an interesting take on what can be done with 3-D visual effects: The things done with multidimensional sunbeams and heavenly battles are incredibly cool to look at — if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, you get to see the Wrestler beat the pulp out of the next Man of Steel, who, for what it’s worth, is so cut that shots of his abs make the movie appear to be in 4-D. And that’s amazing — if you’re into that sort of thing.
What you don’t get is anything more than that. Immortals is excellent Friday-night popcorn fare that one day will look brilliant on your 70-inch flatscreen TV. It’s a cool step in the evolution of mythic storytelling with modern effects. Go see it with your friends. But don’t be surprised 10 years from now — after many more evolutionary clicks in visual effects, which seem less revolutionary each time — when Immortals looks more like 300 than ever.
WIRED Wonderful visual effects and 3-D; badass fight scenes.
TIRED Fairly standard-issue swords-and-sandals plot; slightly overwrought.