Unfortunately, despite taking its opening weekend, Tarsem Singh‘s Immortals seems likely to go as under-appreciated as his masterpiece, The Fall. Whether or not it manages to hold onto a solid fanbase, as is the case with the quite similar 300, remains to be seen, but critics have not taken to the film generally.
Usually, the overall consensus of critics at large is something that I’m only accidentally aware of at all, and the fact that moviegoers rate a film in the polar opposite direction simply the natural course of events, but in this case I find it rather perplexing. I say that because the film is so brilliant in so many ways, and at the same time so convoluted and disinterested in explaining itself that you would think the action-adventure would hardly make up for it to Mr. and Mrs. 18-35 year old American. No offense.
Our story, in the round-a-bout and thoroughly drenched in goo and gore sense in which we have one, is that of Theseus (Henry Cavill) and the clash he is about to have with King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). We are in ancient Greece, and it turns out that the Gods (Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, etc.) really do exist. As it is explained to us at the beginning of the film, long before man, there was a race simply known as Immortals, and apparently they went about their business for however many eons, feeling flush in the knowledge that they were indeed Immortal. Then someone discovered that they could die, if they killed each other. Naturally, a war ensued, and the winners were deemed Gods, and the losers were imprisoned beneath a mountain, and from then on known as Titans.
As we meet Theseus, he is a simple man living in a small village in Greece that is built into the side of a cliff. He’s heard the stories of the Gods just as much as anyone else, and we are at a time (apparently) when people are split about equally between believing in the Gods, and believing the myths and legends are just so many more children’s stories.
Headed Theseus’ way, with a massive army at his back, is King Hyperion. Driven mad (perhaps) by the death of his wife and child, Hyperion is on a quest to destroy the Gods by releasing the Titans. The key to this mission is a magic bow that was lost during the war between the Gods and Titans. The only way to find that bow is by capitalizing on the abilities of a virgin oracle. Thus, Hyperion marches across Greece destroying everything in his path using the most vile means he can come up with.
The ins and outs of the story, as it plays out, aren’t really relevant, besides which, they come at you from a variety of angles, all at once, and at times seemingly at random. What’s most relevant really (I think), much like Singh’s The Fall, is to disabuse yourself of any preconceptions you may have about how films are “supposed” to work, and let the thing be what it is at you, and see what you think of that. Of course, that’s a tricky chore, but going into Immortals with the idea that you’re familiar with the structure and theories of how things are meant to happen is a lost cause. It goes about its effort far too differently than almost anything else, and with good reason. Above all, there is clearly a method to the madness.
What we are most after here is an updated version of Greek mythology, with a new, perhaps more “sci-fi” spin to them. For example, Theseus does fight a minotaur in a labyrinth, but in the “sort of” way that a myth might have some relation to real events.
One of the key points there is that the thing simply isn’t allowed to make a lick of sense. The questionable events here, and in the original versions of the mythology (indeed, in every mythology) are more numerous than the masked, unnamed figures in Hyperion’s horde. Why would the Gods not simply kill the Titans in the first place, rather than imprison them? (A possible hint to this answer may be revealed at the film’s end, but maybe not) Why would the Gods (well, Zeus) decide not to interfere in human affairs, especially with the caveat, “unless they release the Titans,” when we know damn well that it is infinitely likely that they are going to release them, and then we’re going to have one hell of a tough fight on our hands?
Down this road madness lies, and to set out on it in the first place is to misunderstand your medium. These are not stories to be approached from the viewpoint that we look for the sense within them, but rather we look to the sense we can apply to our own forward travels.
Immortals gives us subtle, and not at all subtle, allegories covering such topics as – family relations generally, man’s crimes against man, the choices that make us who we are, how to overcome the life we find ourselves in (by way of both Theseus and the Oracle), the role of belief in creating “truth,” both individually and at a societal level, and much more. All of it, though necessarily somewhat slipshod in its formation, on par with the stories the film, for lack of a better word, bastardizes.
Mythologies are a medium that are in fact gloriously nonsensical, filled as much with wonder and spectacle as they are with anything meant to be gleaned from them, and here is a film that does both efforts proud, and for a new world audience.
As much as our story is a nearly-perfect sort of extravagantly senseless, it comes to us by way of the most brilliantly managed visual sensibilities. The majority of directors approach filmcraft from the idea that “this is what I want them to see.” These are the largely interchangeable masses in the directing world. A step up (or, in fact, down, depending on the film theory you adhere to) from these are those guided by, “this I what I want to say.” Most of the films you really love are the product of people in this camp. The top-tier in this progression contains those directors who are incessantly asking of themselves, “what do I want them to hear (feel, experience).” Notice that, “this is what I want them to…,” is not it. Singh is such a director, as are virtually all others you recognize positively by name.
It is not so much that the film, and/or key sequences, looks beautiful, or that anything (fight sequences, of which there are an overabundance, included) looks believable, or in any sense “accurate.” It isn’t that sort of endeavor. There is an adjective mismatch at play here when compared to most other films, and thus, when mining the “film” mindset for them. CGI wackiness notwithstanding, Singh puts together visions using a vast arsenal of technique and methods, offering up strange angles, lighting, and general effects when it serves the overall goal, as opposed to merely because it is a neat trick. Thus, panoramas are not beautiful, but haunting, or majestic. Women are not beautiful, but angelic, or chilling. Settings are dreadful, unsettling, and claustrophobic far more than they are even rooms, passages, or homes.
Now add in wonderful performances, which are best as a result of viewing them in terms of their perfection of characters of mythology, by Rourke, Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, and Luke Evans, and the result is truly something to behold.
At worst, Immortals is on par with some world-renowned artwork which you don’t particularly care for. I’ve never liked, for example, The Scream, but it’s hard not to appreciate the genius within it.
Whatever else any particular viewer may take from Immortals, it is unquestionably the richest, most creative film of the year, and the one with the clearest claim to an effort toward unbridled, true craft. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
Check out the trailer, and a couple of very cool clips below – use the video selection feature to see them all within the same player.
DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh (The Fall, The Cell)
WRITERS: Charles Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides
CAST: Henry Cavill- THESEUS (Superman: Man of Steel)
Stephen Dorff- STAVROS (Somewhere)
Isabel Lucas- ATHENA (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
Freida Pinto- PHAEDRA (Slumdog Millionaire)
Luke Evans- ZEUS (The Raven, The Three Muskateers)
Kellan Lutz- POSEIDON (Twilight series)
John Hurt- OLD ZEUS (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2)
Mickey Rourke- KING HYPERION (The Wrestler)
PRODUCERS: Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Ryan Kavanaugh
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Tucker Tooley, Tommy Turtle, Jeff G. Waxman
Visionary director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) transports us in this epic tale of treachery, vengeance and destiny in Immortals, a stylish and visually spectacular 3D action adventure. As a power-hungry king razes ancient Greece in search of a legendary weapon, a heroic young villager rises up against him in a thrilling quest as timeless as it is powerful.
The brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and his murderous Heraklion army rampage across Greece in search of the long lost Bow of Epirus. With the invincible Bow, the king will be able to overthrow the Gods of Olympus and become the undisputed master of his world. With ruthless efficiency, Hyperion and his legions destroy everything in their wake, and it seems nothing will stop the evil king’s mission.
As village after village is obliterated, a stonemason named Theseus (Henry Cavill) vows to avenge his mother, who was killed in one of Hyperion’s brutal raids. When Theseus meets the Sybelline Oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto), her disturbing visions of the young man’s future convince her that he is the key to stopping the destruction. With her help, Theseus assembles a small band of followers and embraces his destiny in a final, desperate battle for the future of humanity. Immortals is produced by Gianni Nunnari (300), Mark Canton (300) and Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter).
- Immortals Super Prize Pack Giveaway! (areyouscreening.com)
- IMMORTALS – Hardcore Bloody Action-Packed Film Clip (geektyrant.com)
- Immortals (cinemablend.com)
- Interview: Henry Cavill And Luke Evans Talk ‘Immortals’ (screenrant.com)