Starring Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke and Freida Pinto • Directed by Tarsem Singh • Age restriction: 16SV • Releases 11 November
Sometimes you just want to go to the movies to watch over-the-top fight sequences and see half-naked men and women in 3D. Sometimes, that's all you get.
Immortals, helmed by The Cell director Tarsem Singh, is visually one of the best movies of the year – but that does not redeem its weak story and the fact that it's pure fluff. This comes as no great surprise, considering Singh's past works, but it's something that must be borne in mind. Don't get overly concerned with trying to figure out the mythology here and working out who's connected where – scriptwriters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides have played fast and loose with the Greek myths, superimposing their own spin on already-established legends.
The plot - in a nutshell
The story is relatively simple – the bloodthirsty king Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) is out to get his revenge on the gods by releasing the Titans from their magical prison. The Titans – who themselves have got a score to settle with Zeus (The Three Musketeers' Luke Evans) and his sons and daughters – and will stop at nothing to destroy them. Theseus (Henry Cavill) is the bastard son of a woman who was raped – and so nobody knows who his father is and nobody wants anything to do with her or her son. He is a peasant, but is going through life quietly aided by Zeus – who knows that he is mankind's greatest hope. Hyperion attacks his village, searching desperately for the Epirus Bow – a magical weapon that will free the Titans from their golden cage – and will happily slaughter everybody on the way to finding it. Theseus' is captured after being forced to watch his mother die, and is about to give up hope. A chance meeting with the virgin Oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) sets him back on his path. Theseus teams up with Phaedra and fellow slave Stavros (Stephen Dorff) in a race to stop Hyperion from releasing the Titans. They have to go it alone – Zeus has banned his sons and daughters – which include Athena, Aries and Poseidon – from interfering with the fate of man.
Hands-down the best thing about this film is its visual appeal. It's very rich – the languid dark of the oil-rich sea, the dust in the desert, the costumes, the six packs – everything is hyper-visual. The film, which was converted into 3D post-production, makes surprisingly good use of the technology – although the novelty quickly wears off and you wonder if it would not have been better served to keep the films in brighter colours and 2D. The fight scenes and action sequences are incredibly well choreographed, slowed down at key points so that you can follow the action – meaning that it doesn't get totally lost in 3D.
Singh seems fascinated by Hyperion's extremely large arsenal of interesting torture devices – two extraordinarily memorable ones being a silver bull that functions as a people-baker and a very large mallet taken to a part of a man's body that made even me, a woman , cringe.
Immortals has a very strong graphic novel style – and there's no room for pure realism here. It's often seemingly played against backdrops over realistic sets, helping to play to its completely unrealistic feel. The costumes in the film are a blend of incredible ensembles and almost laughably plastic armour (I'm looking at you, gods of Olympus. You could've sprung for better armour – though I do dig the hats. Seriously, there's inspiration here for the next royal wedding).
Bring on the eye candy!
There is also a fantastic amount of eye candy – for both the guys and the girls - although in a movie filled with orgies of violence, there is surprisingly no nudity. Women can look forward to a topless Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff and Kellan Lutz among many, many others – and they all look like Men's Health cover models. The guys won't be disappointed either – Freida Pinto is exquisite, though her character is underused, and Isabel Lucas is luminescent as the goddess Athena.
Cavill is fast proving himself to be wonderful leading man material. He's positively magnetic on screen – and the dashing good looks, rippled abs and soulful eyes don't hurt – and it's easier to understand now why they chose him to be Superman in next year's Man of Steel. His English accent does tend to slip through in the heat of the moment – something that may cause problems for him playing an iconic American hero. Rourke is predictably gruff, growling his way through some pretty cringe-worthy lines ("A man's seed is his most powerful weapon") but he never seems to take himself too seriously.
The same cannot be said of the movie itself. Unlike 300, whose makers produced Immortals, there is very, very little comic relief. The closest comes into the sexual comments made by Stavros – but those quickly get beaten out of him by an oh-so-serious Theseus. Everything in this film is done with utter conviction – which at some point just becomes laughable instead of convincing.
The script is the film's weakest point – it's a heavy-handed B-movie level script where characters' motivations often get lost or shot past altogether. Sure, Theseus is sexy as hell – but Phaedra's decision to throw herself at him makes little sense. You're charging off to save the world, guys! Do you not think her visions will come in handy?
Immortals is loud, shiny, flashy and fun. It won't be at the top of your Oscar ballot by any means – but it's a great lad's night out and an entertaining popcorn-muncher.