It was a very good weekend, movie-wise. I thought that Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was already pretty good and sustained my thrill over its whole runtime. I enjoyed it immensely. But after seeing that with friends on Saturday, I also had a movie date with my girlfriend. As it was my turn to pick a movie (i.e. there weren’t any good Tagalog movies on), I chose something I’d missed out on: The Immortals.
Though I’d been looking forward to his movie for awhile, I have to admit that I didn’t really know much about it. I knew it was done in the style of Zach Snyder’s 300 (was full of digital color manipulation and shot mostly on a green screen stage with the backgrounds filled in later). I knew it was based on Greek mythology and starred Mickey Rourke, who seems to be making a name for himself as the go to guy for asshole villains. I knew it was directed by one of those guys who went around being referred to with one name (Tarsem). That’s it.
As soon as the film started, I remembered where I’d heard Tarsem’s name before. He is Tarsem Dhandwar Singh, the guy who directed R.E.M’s video, Losing My Religion and the Jennifer Lopez vehicle, The Cell. Apparently, the only other feature film he’s done since is an independently financed fantasy film, The Fall, which was released in 2008.
If you’re too young to remember who R.E.M were and have no idea how absolutely ass-kickingly good that video was, take my word for it: this guy knows how to frame a shot. If you can, find yourself a copy of The Cell because aside from being a pretty taut thriller, it’s got visuals that really stick with you, even if you’re asking “what the fuck?!” in your head half the time. That scene where the horse gets sliced into deli cuts was something else.
Immortals is more of the same, only not as happily demented as The Cell. The visuals are still the draw here, but they’re more mainstream; like splash pages in a comic book. Every scene seems to be a set piece in this film, and the filmmakers continuously up the ante (in my opinion, rather successfully). It’s like Snyder’s 300 or Sucker Punch, but with a more Indian (I suppose the PC term is Sikh) flavor to it. I should probably say that The Cell preceded both 300 or Sucker Punch so it might have been Tarsem who influenced Snyder, or someone else. Nothing new in the world.
In any case, the style is still one that floors me. I love the idea that these actors are on a green screen set, hamming it up and waving swords around, trying to pretend that they’re surrounded by an army of barbaric Greeks beneath the walls of an ancient temple. You’ve got to be pretty dedicated to your art to do something like that. You ever seen Dogville? It’s like that, only it doesn’t make me want to kill myself to relieve the boredom. And it’s got fight scenes.
I bet Dogville would’ve been the shit with a few fight scenes.
Just so you know what you’re getting into if you do decide to watch, the film is loosely (very loosely) based on the myths of Theseus and the Minotuar, as well as the storys about the war between the Olympians and the Titans. In Greek mythology, Hyperion was one of the Titans but did little of note. In the film, he is a human, king of Crete, who is routing the Helenics in search of the fabled Epirus Bow. The Bow is a weapon powerful enough to free the Titans, who have been imprisoned by the Olympian gods under Mount Tartarus after their war in heaven. Devastated by the loss of his family and blaming the gods, Hyperion is set on using the bow to begin that war anew.
Naturally, Zeus and friends are set against this and he sets his pet human, Theseus, against Hyperion. Theseus, holding a grudge against the brutal, conquering king, leads the Helenics against the Cretians to protect Mount Tartarus.
Oh, yeah. Along the way he kills a Minotaur.
None of this is strictly by the book Greek mythology, at least as I remember it from high school. However, the film manages to hit every epic cliché and showcase all the standard fantasy tropes, and really that’s what I’m looking for when I go and see these kinds of things.
Mickey Rourke continues to amaze me, despite his King Hyperion feeling exactly like his Marv, his Whiplash, and that dude he p played in The Expendables. I can believe him sitting in his tiny bit of a room with his concubines, eating pomegranates while quietly ordering his flunky to smash a prisoner’s balls to paste as much as I believe the fight scenes he plays in. He just inhabits the part. I thought that Henry Cavill made a decent hero as well. He doesn’t get the choice lines like Rourke, but damned if the man doesn’t look good as an action hero. He even gets his big “We Will Win” speech at the end, and gives a better delivery than Brad Pitt did in Troy.
Oh, and Freida Pinto and Isabel Lucas. Rawr.
Opinion on The Immortals is polarized, with the aggregate review sites giving it around 40%. The consensus is that it’s great to look at, but not really all that sophisticated when it comes to story. But then come to think of it, that’s exactly why I went into the movie anyway.
If you’re looking for a great looking genre film with which to kill a couple of hours, this is a good choice. If’ you’re looking for an Oscar winner, look somewhere else.
P.S. I forgot to say that witnessing the costumes on this movie alone are worth the cost of the ticket.