Grade: C –
Who Should See It: Adults and some teens whose parents are comfortable with graphic violence in battle scenes.
Rating: R for strong bloody violence and a sexual scene (brief, but showing nudity and sex, obscured by shadows)
Bottom Line: No one can deny the stunning visuals of the film, but the storyline is weak and confusing and some of the scenes are downright ridiculous. And not in a good way.
Full review after the jump.
Those Greeks could sure write a story. Presumably with plenty of time on their hands after a full day of philosophizing and toga-wearing, they weren’t afraid to get complicated with the stories. They didn’t chintz on characters, either. With a J.K. Rowing-esque tendency to populate their tales with dozens of personalities, they filled up the roster with gods, demigods, titans, horrid kings, oracles, and ordinary mortals.
And that was just getting started.
For our short attention spanned world, however, the Greek tales can be a bit of a doozy. This is one reason why “Immortals,” opening today, feels like a richly drawn, beautiful punch to the head. Based loosely – very loosely – on Greek myths, the film has too many characters to track with not enough common storyline to help us internet addicts make sense of it all.
Theseus (Henry Cavill) is a burly young bastard living with his disgraced mother in a vaguely Greekish city carved into a cliff on the ocean. As the minions of evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) approach, the Greeks are slaughtered. Hyperion ravages not just the population, but their priests, seeking a sacred bow that has the power to wake the Titans. These semidivine beings have been imprisoned for all time beneath a mountain, but Hyperion knows that, if freed, they will make war with the gods of Olympus, leaving him free to dominate earth.
Meanwhile, a beautiful virgin oracle (Freida Pinto) sees visions of Theseus and Hyperion and the bow and all sorts of wacky things. Thrown together with burly Theseus and his companions, she joins them in their quest to stop Hyperion. The gods occasionally drop in to help as well, although they’ve been sternly warned by Zeus to leave humans the gosh-darn alone.
The reason – the only reason – to see this movie is for the stylized direction of Tarsem Singh. He pays attention to each frame, crafting the images with color, symmetry, and visual punch. The sets, the costumes, and the choreography of the warriors are all maximised for visual effect. It plays like an especially gorgeous comic book come to life.
Except when it doesn’t.
The problem with being highly stylized is that you have to come up with creative new images. Sometimes this works, as when a god (I never quite figured out who he was) kills several of Hyperion’s minions with fast-paced shots to the neck and head, while the one dude he threw across the room sails over everyone’s head in slow motion. It’s very cool and is the epitome of why audiences came to see the film.
Other times, the stylization is a huge fail, as with Singh’s strange fascination with headwear. It starts with a local priest who wears a sort of cage fashioned from an old wire hanger. It pops up from his head and holds a little bowl with a lighted flame. Kind of a bummer, one supposes, if the priest needs to bend to tie the strap of his sandal. He might just end up a human torch. The Greek gods all wear golden, outrageous hats, one inspired by a mohawk, apparently, and another by Princess Leia’s cinnamon bun hairdo. The best, however, is when the four oracles appear draped in elaborate red costumes, heavily embroidered and bejeweled veils that cover their bodies. They are beautiful, right until you see they’re topped with lamp shades Singh probably picked up at Bed Bath and Beyond for $14.99. They even have little beads around the edges.
Perhaps the movie is an elaborate ploy to be invited to the next royal wedding, or at least provide the head coverings.
The slowness and confusion of the plot, along with ridiculous headgear, keep the movie from being excellent. Rated R, it glories in gore. The first part of the movie proves the evil nature of Hyperion with scene after scene of torture. One, in which he assures a character will never father a child, will have men wincing. Kill shots include blood spurting from mouths, from necks, from heads, heads being hacked off, people burning, impaled…you name it, it pretty much happens, except people dying of old age in their beds. The violence is stylized, but very graphic. The sex scene, while brief, includes nudity of Freida Pinto’s backside (actually her body double), and some shadowy shots of breasts, as well as movement that leaves little to the imagination.
The film is very hit and miss, which may work for fantasy battle fans, but makes it a no for the rest of us. Skip it and watch “300” again.