Friday, November 11, 2011

Review: Immortals

Non Spoiler Review:
Visionary director Tarsem Singh (The Cell) brings a spectacular interpretation of Greek mythology to the screen, with Henry Cavill (The Tudors, and future Superman: Man of Steel) getting star billing as Theseus, and Mickey Rourke as the sufficiently over-the-top antagonist, King Hyperion. Theseus is a bastard who must rise to the challenge of the invading Hyperion and his reign of terror across Greece. Hyperion seeks a legendary bow with which he plans to unleash the Titans and end the reign of the gods. While many mortals debate even the existence of the gods, they themselves are watching high above, and in disagreement on whether to interfere on Earth. This quest leads to the inevitable confrontation on the battlefield that allows Singh to unleash his creativity in a suitably stunning climax.

Taking some significant liberties with the Theseus legend, Singh has crafted a very riveting story—the pacing was quite effective, with quiet, character developing scenes mixing well with the action, and the plot moved briskly. The climax of the film is epic and breathless, with a conclusion that is quite satisfying, and one that avoids the cliches other movies (that's you, Clash of the Titans) have fallen victim to. 

Students of Greek mythology will undoubtedly cringe at some of the loose interpretations with the source material—the Titans don't appear to be the parents of the gods at all (there's not a female Titan to be seen), and their animalistic nature is a stark contrast to their supermodel progeny. There's also a rather sparse sampling of Olympians and very little screen time for all but a few. But the shear divine presence of Zeus and his family is evident with each appearance in the mortal world, and manages to capture their grandeur unlike any similar film (again, Clash of the Titans). 

I've enjoyed Henry Cavill since The Tudors, and I'm pleased to see he's finally getting the roles he deserves. He was a very believable epic hero, rising organically from his peasant status to inspiring the masses, with a likable and noble demeanour that never descended into caricature.

I'm not the biggest fan of Mickey Rourke, but he really excelled as the villain of the piece and avoided the usual two-dimensional style that so many tend to be. His motivations are quite simple and believable, and he oozed terror every moment on screen.

Supporting character Freida Pinto plays Phaedra, virgin oracle whose visions provide some of the drive to Theseus' quest. It's a thankless role, given one of the few female parts in a film such as this, but she rises equally to the task of ensuring her character doesn't blend into the background.

That's not necessarily true of the secondary characters in Theseus' company, as they receive very little development, aside from Stephen Dorff (Stavros) who provides some Han Solo-type quips. But they're not given enough time to step out from under Cavill and Pinto's shadow.

As for the gods, their immortal forms are perfection, quite a change from the usual wizened (and bearded) figures we see in other interpretations. Zeus is played by Luke Evans, and brother Poseidon by Kellan Lutz. Wise Athena is portrayed by Isabel Lucas, and the rest remain otherwise generic beefcake in the background. Singh is quite successful in distinguishing these immortals from their earthly subjects, and that's one of the strengths of the film.

Visually, Immortals lives up to all its trailer hype, and is really the perfect canvas for Singh to exercise his creativity. He paints a divine, starry Olympus that contrasts with the duller landscapes of Greece and implausible architecture. The colorful and intricate (but sometimes very simple) costuming was stunning (though once arrayed in their golden battle armor, most of the gods were impossible to tell apart).

It was also refreshing to get an adult version that doesn't shy away from violence and blood. And I've concluded Singh has some kind of equine issues, given horses die in a stunning fashion in all his movies.

My criticism of Immortals springs from just wanting more of it. I could easily have sat through another half hour of gods lounging around Olympus discussing what to do. And more of them. I wondered what all the rest were doing while such a crisis unfolded on Earth. However the minimalist approach to their appearances worked in their favor, because when Zeus and his family do descend to the mortal realm, it was impressive. Finally, the Titans never felt sufficiently equal to their progeny, and were rather easy to take down under the superior skills of the gods. Only shear force of numbers seemed to best their Olympian rivals.

The ending was suitably grand and very satisfying, avoiding a lot of other Hollywood-type heroic endings and fit the tone of the movie. The final scene raised some questions given what it implies, leaving one to wonder if Singh will return to this world or not. But it's likely just his own sense of closing the story with an epic signature.

I continue to criticize the 3D experience, given I really didn't see anything that wouldn't have translated just as well in regular viewing. The 3D advertisement prior to the movie had much more wow than any scene in the film itself.

Immortals is a keeper, and I'll definitely be picking up the blu ray to appreciate this visual masterpiece. I may even check it out again in the theatre. Any fan of Tarsem Singh will enjoy this, as I found it just as beautiful as The Cell (and certainly more so than his other film The Fall). Anyone who loves the Greek legends will also get a treat (as long as you're not a stickler when it comes to mythological accuracy), but the gods get their due treatment on screen at last. Definitely check this one out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...