Rated R/110 Minutes
The Mighty Greek Gods have destroyed the most powerful of mortal enemies, Leonardo DiCaprio and Adam Sandler! So says the Hollywood press, which is buzzing over how “Immortals” came out of nowhere last week and slaughtered J. Edgar and Jack and Jill at the box office. Once you get a look at the movie, it’s no mystery why.
Henry Cavill stars as Theseus, a Greek warrior in an ongoing battle against King Hyperion (played by Mickey Rourke, looking beefier than an overstuffed Slim Jim). Theseus joins a group of warriors, protects a virgin Oracle (Freida Pinto) and finds his blood soaked battles occasionally interrupted by Greek Gods who drop down from the sky and knock everyone in sight to pieces.
The setting of the film is mostly on a steep cliff, as well as a castle in the sky where gods like Zeus and Poseidon have bird’s-eye views of the carnage below. Speaking of contrasts, the movie ends up somewhere between a guilty pleasure and a you-gotta-see-how-bad-this-is curiosity.
It survives a clunky start, though it never fully engages us with the details of the story or characters. For all the story set ups and character introductions, the plot can be summed up like this: Rourke kills Cavill’s mommy and Cavill spends the rest of the movie trying to kill Rourke.
Plot wise, it works best when focused on the revenge drama, with two well matched leads. Cavill is currently filming Man of Steel, starring as Superman in Zach Snyder’s lavish franchise reboot, but this is his first starring role; the jury’s out if he’s a good actor but he definitely has what it takes to be an action movie star.
Rourke croaks his lines with menace, playing a faithless, widowed, goateed warrior with Pegasus-sized chip on his shoulder. Pinto doesn’t have it so good: between this and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, she once again is used as window dressing in a movie that doesn’t know what to do with her. Her virgin oracle has a dubious character arch: if she sleeps with hunky Cavill, she loses her psychic powers. Oh no, what’s a girl to do?!
Prince Hyperion looks and acts like Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which shares this film’s costume designer, Eiko Ishioka, whose crazily original designs once again make a strong impression. The director, Tarsem Singh, made the visually stunning but stupid The Cell and the wonderful The Fall, which made my top 10 best list in 2008.
Unfortunately, this one is more like the former than the latter, though I’m grateful I saw Immortals for the action and wacko visuals, if for no other reason. Plus, in 3-D, you get blood, guts and Pinto’s butt thrust in your face. Take that, J. Edgar!
Many scenes early on feel unfinished, as if the filmmakers were rushing to get to the good stuff, though it picks up once a giant tidal wave kicks the action into gear. Most of all, the film is elevated by the go-for-broke grand finale, a huge battle so exciting, epic-sized and insanely violent, it makes 300 look like a Civil War reenactment. Tarsem has, for better or worse, made something far crazier and better than Troy or last year’s stinker Clash of the Titans remake.
How nutty is this movie? It has the Mother of All Whacks to the Groin, and if that sounds like something you need to see, this one’s for you. More a movie I’d dare you to see than recommend, but whenever the gods show up to give evil a smack in the face, you’ll be glad you went.