Review: Immortals (2011)

DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh Dhandwar.

CAST: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Luke Evans, Freida Pinto, Stephen Dorff, John Hurt, Joseph Morgan, Kellan Lutz, Anne Day-Jones, Isabel Lucas, Daniel Sharman, Alan Van Sprang, Greg Bryk, Peter Stebbings, Steve Byers, Gage Munro.

SYNOPSIS: Driven by greed, King Hyperion (Rourke) searches Ancient Greece for the Epirus Bow, a weapon forged in the heavens. In his possession it would cause unimaginable destruction and annihilate the Gods. Zeus (Evans) therefore secretly chooses the peasant Theseus to save his people – and the world – from Hyperion.

Tarsem. Tarsem Singh. Tarsem Singh Dhandwar. Whatever you decide to call him, there’s no denying the director’s incredible vision, passion and individuality. 2006’s The Fall is a deliciously sumptuous treat for the eyes and I’ve yet to see a film better suited to the Blu-Ray revolution. From his use of symmetry, stunning landscapes and glorious colour, precision is part of Tarsem’s signature approach. So it’s a shame that Immortals ends up being more about style than substance.

Set in Ancient Greece, the story is surprisingly easy to follow and introduces us to Theseus and his mother within their peasant village. Surprisingly, for all its costumes and impressive settings, Immortals has a definite contemporary feel to it and never drowns you in its history. It is a treat for those who appreciate mythology, with interesting changes and additions to the stories throughout. We get to see Theseus battle with a minotaur of sorts and Poseidon has his glorious trident, but these touches are never overcomplicated or confusing. The script involves a lot of rather natural exchanges, but this is Tarsem – people appreciate him for his art and flair. The fights are epic enough that those unaware of Tarsem’s style would probably happily sit through a bit of deeper narrative, but those that are big fans may feel a little disappointed, with no real feeling of being treated as an intelligent audience. This is the first big Hollywood script for Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, so it will be interesting to see what they throw themselves into next, but maybe Tarsem truly wanted the fighting to be the main source of entertainment in this film.

The cast seem to be a little confused, all of them apparently acting in different films. Stephen Dorff is self-assured and adds a touch of fun as Stavros, but the tone of his comedy is knocked completely out of whack by the odd little group he’s in, including a mute counterpart (Bryk) and Freida Pinto’s inability to carry the film on her acting alone. There’s no doubting her beauty and Phaedra is a stunning Oracle, but Pinto has absolutely no substance here and moments of terror and worry just aren’t followed through. Luckily, Cavill is both a feast for the eyes and the brain, chiselled to perfection and keeping us engaged throughout, even when the pace and lack of intriguing script threaten to pull us under.

These moments of terror come courtesy of Mickey Rourke’s King Hyperion, who always appears to be eating. The venus fly trap-esque hood he wears at one point is absolutely brilliant, but apart from his look and gravelly voice, Hyperion ends up a little generic and forgettable. Sure, Rourke’s size and general aura are impressive, but he just doesn’t have that little extra to make his King as exciting and menacing as he could have been. Luke Evans is fantastic, adding a real humanity to Zeus, while managing to keep an ever-present otherworldly and Godlike side to him, allowing him to assert himself and outshine Rourke. It’s also interesting to note just how much presence Kellan Lutz has as Poseidon when he only says a few words.

It truly is the breathtaking fight scenes that make this film worth watching, and it’s when the Gods descend from the heavens that things really heat up and get pretty darn spectacular. In a post-300 world, the action here is original and the mixture of slow motion, blood splattering and 3D add up to make it nothing short of downright epic. The 3D is utilised in an incredible way throughout (keep your eyes peeled for the massive sky battle), with the lush scenery and beautiful colour barely dampened to keep it token Tarsem.

Walking out of Immortals, it does leave you questioning quite what you just saw. It’s definitely impressive, but never quite reaches its full potential. With the time away from the battle scenes slow and mainly uninteresting, a more intelligent script would have filled these gaps perfectly and there is definitely the room and scope for it. The costumes are divine and visuals spellbinding, but it’s all show and no substance which, ultimately, will upset the big Tarsem fans. But don’t fear – Henry Cavill is undoubtedly our Superman.


8 responses to “Review: Immortals (2011)

  1. Thanks for this, the movie kept catching my eye on your news feed and I just wasnt sure as to whether it was something I would want to watch. I know my sister will be upset if it deviates from the true mythology as she loves it.

    But I will keep thinking about whether it is worth that rare visit to the cinema or if I should use it for something else…onto another review me thinks :o). I just dont get the time to see many films at all, especially when my local cinema is 30-40 minutes away.

    • No problem Sarah! As I said, it’s not heavy in mythology, but you’re still able to appreciate the contemporary references.

      There’s so much good stuff coming out at Christmas – save your trips until then!

  2. It’s probably one of the best-looking films of the whole year (yet, I still haven’t seen Tree of Life) and the action is awesome and in-you-face which is something I always like. The story dragged on a bit and I couldn’t help but think that if the writing was a tweaked a little better, this would have definitely been a very solid film. Instead it was just fun and pretty to look at. Good review.

  3. Hmmmm…..I think you are being far too generous with this movie.
    While I did love “The Fall” I think this is Tarsem’s weakest film, it was extremely unoriginal, several segments/sequences were lifted from other fantasy movies we all love (and prefer) and the script was terrible! Which was such a shame given the source material.

    I know everyone has banged on about the action…BUT!! If I may….the sequences involving humans were too identical to Zack Snyder’s now signature style of speed up / slo-mo camera work – so no points for originality there. The action involving the Gods was impressive, because ironically Senor Synder’s style lends itself well to thatsort of fantasy – but then again, the fighting style and choreography was lifted straight from a video game series entitled “God of War”, which led me to state on our podcast that Tarsem would have done a better job directing the movie adaptation of that game!

    If I was Tarsem I would hang my head in shame for this bit of plagiarism: The first sequence when we see Theseus rescue his companions with 4 magical arrows shot from a distance was a straight copy from Zhang Yimou’s House of Flying Daggers – a great movie btw if you haven’t yet seen it!
    have a look :

    go to 1m54 secs of the Immortals trailer here for a reminder

    Keep up the good work on your blog! I enjoy reading it.

    • Thanks for this comment – really means a lot!!

      Yeah, I really do feel the same about the script – had so much potential!

      I put my little 300 reference in, but should have been a little more specific here, I guess. As you say, it really is all about those fights when the Gods come down. And THANK YOU for that point about House Of Flying Daggers. I absolutely love that films and knew I was having a sense of deja vu when seeing Theseus do exactly what you just mentioned. That’s been bugging me since I saw it, so thanks for clearing that up for me!

      Thanks for reading – I need to find my swing with my reviews and I want to find positives in everything and not be scathing and cruel for the sake of it. I never want to lose my appreciation for film, but I need to learn to be a little more upfront and honest, I guess!!

      Cheers buddy 🙂

  4. I enjoyed immortals for what it was. I liked it for the action, and for the visual appeal. The lead actor did a pretty good job with what he had to work with, but I felt that the story just didn’t come together like I was hoping. But the movie ended up being just what I expected.

    I went in to the movie expecting to see some good action scenes. After seeing the trailer around ten times or more I knew I would enjoy the action, the slow motion sequences and the visual style in general. My friend told me that the lead actor was actually the boy in the count of monte cristo with jim caviezel. I found that bit of trivia interesting.

    I thought mickey rourke did well in his portrayal as the bad guy but I must admit there wasn’t a lot of depth to him(not mickey rourke’s fault). He played the ruthless tough bad guy pretty good I thought, with plenty of grunts and gruesome acts. So the build up to his show down with theseyus was pretty fun to watch. But for much of the movie he’s sitting around trying to extract information from people or giving orders to underlings.

    Now the gods from olympus I found very interesting. They have special powers of course and look down on events from mount olympus. In my opinion if the movie focused on the gods and their intervention into human affairs it would make for a much more interesting movie. Especially considering how zeus responds to certain actions that made by others in this movie.

    In my opinion if you want to see some pretty cool looking action sequences, especially during the end then go see this movie. But be warned this is not an epic war movie in the vain of 300, troy or even something like kingdom of heaven. This movie will slow down, sometimes agonizingly slow. But if you like seeing movies with greek mythology(or greek mythology like elements) than you will probably enjoy this movie.

    Hopefully someone will come along and build off of the things that immortals and clash of the titans does right, then we will truly be in for something special.

    • I think you’re right – it didn’t outdo what we were expecting as an audience, but we still wanted that little something more.

      Rourke definitely has the right qualities to be your archetypal bad guy, but just needs that perfect role to come along for him to set his teeth into.

      But I do love what you said about focusing on the Gods, as that would have made for a much more interesting movie – especially latching onto what you mentioned about Zeus’ responses to certain actions. Would love to have known more about these choices, and I genuinely really enjoy watching Luke Evans.

      Let’s hope for that something special that builds off 300, Immortals and Clash!!

      Thank you for commenting 🙂

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