Tarsem Singh's Immortals follows in the wake of Zac Snyder’s 300 with a similar aesthetic and editing style. Despite an interesting cast, featuring the talents of John Hurt, Mickey Rourke and Henry Cavill, it’s a singularly uninspired film, devoid of any story telling of any substance. Immortals main selling points are glossy, stylised visuals and a striking production design which is very derivative of Italian cinema from the sixties. There are also liberal doses of violence and heaving oiled flesh to enliven the proceedings, but it is all feels somewhat arbitrary and a bit of a box ticking exercise. Overall what surprises me the most is how a film maker with all of the drama and excitement of Greek mythology at his disposal, can still make such a turgid and dull movie as this?
Years after the Gods defeated the Titans, a new evil threatens. King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) scours Greece in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power forged in the heavens by Ares. Once he possesses this bow he can unleash the Titans, who have been imprisoned deep within the bowels of Mount Tartaros. In Hyperion’s hands, the bow can also annihilate the Gods. But ancient law dictates the Gods must not intervene in man's conflict. Yet they can work through a proxy, so a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill) is chosen by Zeus, to save his people from Hyperion and his armies. Rallying a band of fellow outsiders, including visionary priestess Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and cunning slave Stavros (Stephen Dorff), Theseus must lead an uprising, or watch his homeland fall into ruin and the Gods vanish from the world.
Director Tarsem Singh has a noticeable visual style, developed during his earlier career where he made several very high-profile music videos. As a result, one cannot deny that Immortals looks impressive. The colour palette is vivid in it’s use of contrasting colours, especially in the end battle between Gods and Titans. Gold, red and black feature in a very striking fashion. There is also an ethereal quality to some of the supernatural elements of the story. I certainly felt that there was an element of Mario Bava and even Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in the proceedings. The action scenes are stylised and brutal yet lack any dramatic power due to their heavily orchestrated presentation. At times they seem like they’d be more at home in a Giallo, rather than a tale of Ancient Greece.
However, despite all the positive aspects of the production design, my biggest criticism of Immortals is that it wilfully neglects any attempt at true story telling and character development. Viewers are presented with the most arbitrary depictions of both heroes and villains and given no specific reason to care about them, apart from the fact that they’re merely archetypes. It feels like the main focus of this movie is the presentation, rather than the story. It seems to be an all too familiar complaint these days. Compared to thirty years ago, film makers nowadays have access to an array of tools that allow them to make the most visually impressive and technically accomplished productions. But there is a noticeable lack of humanity in this process and it becomes a very apparent when you finally watch the finished product. Immortals suffers in this way, saying precious little in the most lurid and bombastic fashion.