Immortals hasn’t exactly been shy about beating you over the head with memories of 300 in its marketing. The posters, the trailers, any press releases, they all took the firm position of “hey you remember 300? Check it out we totally got some of those guys here!!!” I guess promoting it as being from the director of The Cell and the writers of no other movies ever just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Having now actually seen the movie I can definitely see the angle. Immortals features a lot of shirtless dudes with more abs than I thought the human body capable of, running around a visually stunning environment, cutting off many a head and limb in all sorts of bloody glory. Unfortunately it also carries another 300 quality in that outside of the action and the visuals, there is not a whole lot to grab on to. Actually, that is even more the case withImmortals.
Immortals is about future Superman trying to stop Mickey Rourke from getting this wicked awesome bow that will free these dirty dudes from a giant ass box. We don’t want that to happen though. The Gods are watching all this transpire and even though they could destroy Mickey Rourke and his army with minimal effort, they want future Superman to do it because of reasons I’m sure they think make sense but that I was never quite clear on. So we don’t want Rourke to have this bow so future Superman and Stephen Dorff have got to kill lots of dudes to ensure this. Oh and there’s oracles.
The plot mostly exists because they needed to have some semblance of a narrative to string together the action scenes and they chose to go with the bare minimum amount of narrative possible here. The story is basic and the characters are completely one-dimensional. The movie establishes up front that the main character loves his mom and can fight real well, and that’s pretty much his entire character arc. There’s some stuff about him being a bastard child who is outcast from the village but don’t worry we don’t have to hear much about that.
One piece of business I liked involves a character who betrays the good guys right at the beginning and defects to the villain’s side. He, as well as the audience, expects him to be rewarded for bringing over information but instead he is branded a traitor and a coward and is smashed in the testicles with a sledgehammer. I expected him to be a big deal in the plot as the traitor who fucks everyone over but he is just treated as this cowardly pussy who is beat up on for the remainder of the movie. That was a nice touch.
Everything else though is steeped in cliché. The plot never takes any turns that you didn’t see coming and everything feels under developed. What you do get in trade for that is one heck of a great looking movie.
Director Tarsem Singh is no stranger to movies that look crazy good. Say what you will about The Cell (which may not be much because holy crap that thing came out 11 years ago now) it was a damn fine looking movie and this one is as well. The set design is consistently impressive and the scope of some of the scenes is exceptional. Immortals definitely has the epic thing down with plenty of shots of expansive battlefields and gigantic set pieces. Where it really shines though is in the action pieces.
It’s so strange that in this day and age the way we have to first judge action scenes is with how coherent they are. Could you walk away from the action with a decent sense of just what the hell is happening? The answer to that question seems to be no more and more often now but thankfully here you could answer with a resounding yes. The action scenes are well paced, clearly shot and god damn impressive. I do have one issue here though.
You see around the halfway mark of the movie the gods actually come down to jump head first into the action. All I can say about this is holy shit. When the gods fight it’s nothing but heads and bodies getting obliterated into lots of tiny pieces and it is quite frankly just a joy to watch. The problem is that once you see how awesome this is, why on earth would you ever want to watch the regular humans fight each other? They fight pretty well but at no point do any of them shatter heads, they tend to stick with regular old spear stabs to the torso. All you want after that first taste is to see more of the gods fighting and while you eventually do, and it’s spectacular, you can’t help but want more. Thankfully what we do get is fun as all hell and provides some of the best action I’ve seen in a movie this year.
For such razor thin characterization we do at least get some solid acting. Both Henry Cavill and Freida Pinto seem to at least be trying, and Stephen Dorff never disappoints. Mickey Rourke though turns in a pretty low-key, boring performance, only occasionally taking things up to an appropriate level of scenery chewing. Granted he isn’t portraying a very deep villain here but I get the sense Rourke very rarely is aware of what movie he is actually in. They just slap a costume on him and he says the words until he can go home.
I did see the movie in 3D and continue to be casually indifferent to the format overall. There are some impressive shots of depth and some of the gore does come out at you during the fights with the gods, but for the most part you can file this one safely in the category of 3D movies where you eventually forget you’re watching a 3D movie.
Immortals is for the most part an entertaining movie so long as you set your expectations accordingly. What you will get is some mighty impressive visuals and some really entertaining action sequences. What you will not get is a deep story or interesting characters. It’s worth a viewing, and I would definitely recommend a theatrical viewing, but if you miss it I wouldn’t be too crushed.