Bored and sandal
With Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto, Stephen Dorff, John Hurt; Running Time: 110 minutes; Written by Charles Parlapanides & Vlas Parlapanides; Directed by Tarsem Singh; Rated R (for sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality)
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could take a bunch of characters out of Greek mythology, totally ignore most of the details, and turn them into a video game? That, in a nutshell, is what is going on with IMMORTALS, a mash-up of ancient myth and CGI that often looks very impressive, but doesn’t make a lot of sense. Seeing it in 3D doesn’t make it any more coherent.
Theseus (Henry Cavill) is just a regular guy who’s handy with sword and spear, and is willing to use them to defend those he loves. Unfortunately, the evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) is after the famous and magical Epirus Bow so that he can free the Titans, overthrow the gods and achieve some immortality for himself. Hyperion is conquering various towns in search of the wonder bow, and slaughtering or enslaving most of the inhabitants. For Theseus, this means he gets to watch Hyperion slit his mother’s throat before being taken as a slave.
From that description you should have a good idea where this has to go. The Titans, long imprisoned by the gods, will have to be freed so they can duke it out again. The bow has to be found with its power used for good and ill. And, of course, Theseus and Hyperion have to cross paths before a climactic and decisive battle between the two of them. So how do the filmmakers pad this out into a feature-length movie?
First, there is Phaedra (Freida Pinto), a virgin oracle who can get visions of the future so long as she remains pure. When she and Theseus escape together – what with both of them being hotties – it’s only a matter of time before her powers are at risk. Then there are the gods, led by Zeus (Luke Evans), who have a mighty unusual take on ancient Greek theology. Instead of being capricious and powerful figures who use humans as playthings, they sit around doing nothing asking only that humans have faith in them.
As if that’s not enough, Zeus announces that the gods are to do nothing to interfere with the humans, who possess “free will,” and that he has faith in them as he hopes they have faith in him. Back on Earth, it is those who refuse to believe in these gods who are denounced as heathens. It’s as if the screenwriters, knowing nothing about mythology, decided that all religions are alike so let’s assume it’s no different from a modern Judeo-Christian view.
That is only a distraction, though, because what the movie is really about is the CGI battles. Heads get chopped off, a tongue is cut out, people have their throats slit or are run through with swords or have their heads smashed by a godly hammer or are simply ripped apart by a chain-wielding Zeus. The blood flows in slow motion, just like when you kill a zombie or whatever in a video game. For people who want to get off on the battle scenes, all the rest is commentary.
“Immortals” looks impressive, which is not surprising coming from Tarsem Singh, the director of “The Cell” and “The Fall.” One can only hope that someday he’ll get a script that’s worthy of his visual talents. With his twisted take on Snow White, “Mirror, Mirror,” set for 2012 release, perhaps it will be sooner than we might think.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.