Review of the highly stylized action epic Immortals starring Henry Cavill, Luke Evans and Mickey Rourke
Dir: Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall)
Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, Freida Pinto, Isabel Lucas, Kellan Lutz, John Hurt, Joesph Morgan, Daniel Sharman
Seen: November 15, 2011 at Scotiabank in 3D
Reason to see: It's on my list of Most Anticipated Films of 2011 (#14)
I was really looking forward to Tarsem's foray into the epic sword & sandal as I love the genre and I enjoyed his previous films The Cell and The Fall; both which had interesting stories and were set highly stylized & adeptly realized environments. Immortals continues the trend of highly stylized and visually stunning films, but I did not connect to the story or characters anywhere near as much as I had hoped. The film follows Theseus (Henry Cavill of 'The Tudors'), whom is an outsider in his home village but maintains strong relationships with both his mother and a wise old man (John Hurt), who trains him in the ways of a warrior. His fighting skills certainly are believable but aren’t appreciated or wanted when the tides turn and the fearsome King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) sets his sites on releases the Titans to create a war among the Gods. Who will stand up for the mortals? Who will they place their faith in? That is a really good question, because it really doesn’t seem to be….Theseus.
That brings us to one key piece missing from Immortals and one thing I often look forward to in a sword & sandals film: a hero. Theseus is many things including a great fighter, a dedicated son, a man who persisted through challenges, extremely fit & capable but he is NOT a hero. They even talk about what a hero is in the film - and he doesn't meet that on any level, especially when it comes to believing people would follow him. It’s a very much fend-for-yourself mentality of individuals which seems completely at odds with the principle of the story trying to rally folks together either through faith, on by fear. Another elements I would have loved to have seen but sadly weren’t used include that the film didn’t have a sense of adventure (travelling vast distances/solving puzzles/looking for treasure), there is no moral question, there are no grey areas; it's just brutality and oppression in contrast with action and beauty.
Now, looking at it from the perspective of action and beauty alone, it does provide both in abundance. Immortals fits snugly in the 18A high-gore, brutal-violence camp that has been growing all year and although the action wasn’t quite my cup of tea (slow-mo, amp’d up, 3D-centric, etc), it was well done and entertaining. There were some great fights and monsterous characters, which brings me to the art direction and styling which I have to commend on all levels. The costumes and characters are fully realized; they are deeply a part of each and every character and often push the envelope to new levels. The art direction and visual stylings they are formidable in both the gruesome and beauty beds, but in particular the costuming & armouring of King Hyperion's army is fantastically hideous. I also was impressed by the performances of Joesph Morgan as Lysander, Luke Evans as Zeus and it was also cool to spot Robert Maillet (Monster Brawl, Sherlock Holmes) as one of the baddies.
I did wish there was more alignment to the things we know the gods as to their fighting styles implemented into the action, but I can see the reasoning behind going with something different. I did love the visual depiction of the Titans, although didn’t love the energy that came with them. And I was really disappointed in Athena's character - for the goddess of war she ended up being a Daddy's girl and that just ain't right.
The easy quip would be to say its style over substance, but it isn’t. The truth is I liked style, but didn’t like the substance which is a strong revenge tale with hints at ideas on the gods, faith, disbelievers, diplomacy and power. Sadly, although it’s gorgeous to see the style of the film I didn’t enjoy spending that much time with characters who aren't interested in helping anyone but themselves.
Shannon's Overall View:
I wanted to enjoyed it
I'd watch it again for the gorgeous art direction
I'd recommend it to fans of action films that are heavy on brutality
Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed, Most Anticipated Films of 2011, and All Film Reviews
© Shannon Ridler, 2011