Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea in the Tarsem Age: Immortals

Director Tarsem Singh has established, over his first two features The Cell and The Fall, as well as numerous music videos and commercials, a reputation as a nonpareil visual stylist. This reputation is reinforced by Immortals, a tale of gods, heroes, and evil set in a little-known period in Mycenaean Greece called (according to the production notes) the Tarsem Age, where everyone except Mickey Rourke is absolutely gorgeous (not to mention Mickey Rourke is running a kingdom somewhere), everything’s lit like a Caravaggio painting, and the violence is awesome.

The script, by brothers Vlas and Charley Parlapinedes, contains recognizable elements from established Greek mythology — Theseus, Phaedra, gods, Hyperion, a fight involving a minotaur-like creature — but with fairly major variations. In Immortals, Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) rules over a rapacious, marauding kingdom that kills everyone, including Theseus’ (Henry Cavill) mother, though rather than kill Theseus, they enslave him. When Hyperion’s people capture virgin oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and her three acolytes, Phaedra realizes that Hyperion wants her to prophesy the location of the mythical Epirus Bow, and she convinces Theseus to escape with her, which he does, along with a couple of other slaves, including wise-cracking cynic Stavros (Stephen Dorff), because every quest needs a wise-cracking sidekick. Along the way, Theseus gradually realizes the gods in whom he’s always disbelieved are real, as they aid him in his quest for the Bow despite their resolute insistence on not meddling in human affairs. And, of course, everything builds to a battle between the forces of good and evil with the fate of all humankind in the balance, because what movie like this worth its salt doesn’t?

Immortals‘ story is silly but not excessively so, and it leaves plenty of room for Tarsem to strut his stuff visually. The movie is a bit of a landmark, in that it’s the first movie ever converted from 2D to 3D in post that doesn’t howlingly, screechingly, thuddingly suck. (Yes, post-converted 3D howls, screeches, thuds, and sucks. Simultaneously. Post-converted 3D, until this very point, has been one of the most worthless innovations in any artistic medium and now, sadly, lesser talents are going to keep doing it….) But enough negativity. This movie looks amazing. The action is shot in long enough takes that you can see exactly how awesome the heroes look putting villains to the sword (or ax, or chain, or hammer, or spear, or arrow), which is very. The violence is, though highly stylized, still quite forceful. And, when it comes time for the gods to enter the fray, some of the coolest action you’re ever going to see ensues. Being gods, they’re faster and more badass than humans, and they deal extremely stylish and conclusive death to any mortal foolish enough to challenge them.

The actors, for a movie where acting is not terribly important, aren’t bad at all. Stephen Dorff gets a few decent lines, and Mickey Rourke is terrific as King Mickeyrourkeus. The rest of the cast is primarily tasked with looking pretty, and there’s plenty of eye candy for all orientations (though, as is usually the case, the only full nudity is female, this courtesy of Freida Pinto’s body double). This should come as little surprise in a movie so in love with visual beauty, which Immortals most assuredly is.

That carries Immortals through a lot of the slow stretches when people are doing too much talking about things that are either obvious or don’t make any sense anyway. If not for the fact that the rest of the sound design that isn’t bad dialogue is so fun — the bass rattles windows and teeth — it would be a prime candidate to watch on mute, if it weren’t a movie that needs to be experienced on a big screen. For the audience willing and able to enjoy a movie with the above-listed caveats, Immortals is good fun, a summer blockbuster for a warmer-than-usual fall. 


Danny Bowes is a playwright, filmmaker and blogger. He is also a contributor to nytheatre.com and Premiere.com.

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