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John Lichman's third attempt at a personal blog and online savanting idiotic.

An Ode To A Grecian Speed Ramp: Immortals

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When your film requires an opening quote about truly being immortal before launching into the type of audio assault not seeneardInception, it brings to question just how much is your mortality worth? Not in the “Will I die a legend and thus live forever” way, but more a “my ears can’t take much more of this, when do we get to the pretty people in gold clothing smashing shit up like the trailer promised us” way.

That’s kind of forgivable for Immortals, the third feature from director Tarsem–now with an added middle and surname in his credit–who previously overstuffed our eyes with The Cell and The Fall. Electing out from referring to this as a potential noun phrase trilogy, Immortals is a mash-up hybrid of the tales of Thesus and Hyperion into a dimly saturated (if you’re going 3D, which you shouldn’t due to this being post-conversion) series of deserts and kind of stunning set pieces including a shining watering hole surrounded by white sands to a really dark subterranean cave “that’s like a maze” where he battles a “minotaur.”

Still, the basics of the stories are kept the same: a war in heaven was waged and the victors were now the Gods (immaculate, golden white examples of why CrossFit works) while the losers, not killed but imprisoned within Mount Tartarus, became the Titans (…black guys kept in chains and biting a bar in a cage. Yeesh). Decades–or really, seconds later–Theseus (Henry Cavill) saunters into frame, a caring son to his social pariah of a mother (we learn later “she was raped by many men, none know who his father is. He’s a bastard.” Plus Poseidon, in the original lore, but that’s not brought up here). He’s given several bon mots about being a warrior by the Old Man (John Hurt) who turns out to shockingly be one of Zeus’ (Luke Evans) many forms! Meanwhile, the local militia is moving the townspeople out from their hillside home behind the gates of what will eventually become Athens, due to the oncoming forces of King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), and his legion of masked warriors. Oh and there’s a virgin oracle (Freida Pinto) who reveals her ass before losing her oracle powers to the awesome might of Theseus’ abs (bonus: a must-watch Daily Show interview with her while promoting Rise of the Planet of the Apes).

Here’s the part where you could expect unfurling history about how Hyperion was originally a Titan seeking to free his brothers and sisters and searching for the film’s Deus Ex Weapon, the Epirus Bow. Instead he’s simply Mickey Rourke and a steady legion of body doubles; note how his paunch can grow and shrink depending on what type of action is needed, or if his face is uncovered. In contrast, the gutteral screaming of Cavill, as he launches spear and sword in unison, is one of the more visually compelling feats in the world of speed ramping.

That is, of course, the visual effect made famous thanks to The Matrix and brought back into the forefront of pop culture when Zack Snyder’s with 300.  In simpler terms, the promotion of Immortals all but promises a film filled with this after bleating how this is made with “the producers of 300:”

And they’re not wrong–it’s in there. In fact, there are two stand outs that feature the best head-smashing you’ll see since Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. Likewise, you’ll even be able to perceive homages to Alejandro Jodorowsky and other European auteurist directors. Why so vague? Because at a point, Tarsem’s lens is boring and the spectacle of head-smashing becomes tedious, outside of playing the fun game of “Mickey Rourke or Body Double?” Bigger questions do pop up, as the press screening clearly had color correction and sound issues, but would those be fixed in 24 hours for the major release?

It’s better to treat Immortals as what it really is: a shockingly competent re-imagining of Greek legend sure to flunk any teenager in a Greek History course when they answer, “Zeus killed the Titans with an awesome chain and Theseus TOTALLY stabbed Hyperion before the mouton collapsed!”


Written by john lichman

November 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm

One Response

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  1. It’s probably one of the best-looking films of the whole year (yet, I still haven’t seen Tree of Life) and the action is awesome and in-you-face which is something I always like. The story dragged on a bit and I couldn’t help but think that if the writing was a tweaked a little better, this would have definitely been a very solid film. Instead it was just fun and pretty to look at. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.


    November 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

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