'Immortals' aims for Olympus, but falls short
By Mark Jenkins
Nov. 11, 2011
As the goriest movie ever to open with a quotation from Socrates, "Immortals" attempts to cover itself with a patina of classical culture. But this CGI-heavy bloodbath owes less to Greek myth than to "The Lord of the Rings," Hong Kong costume epics and American comic books. It's fitting that the hero, Theseus, is played by Henry Cavill, the side of British beefcake who's slated to become the new Superman in 2013's "Man of Steel."
Based very loosely on the primordial Greek hero -- there is an encounter with a sort of Minotaur -- Theseus is a small-town prole who cares only for his mother. Because of a rough childhood, he rejects the gods of Olympus as hokum.
His nemesis, batty King Hyperion (a typecast Mickey Rourke), believes in the gods but loathes them. He seeks the bow of Epirus, the only weapon that can free the Olympians' old rivals, the Titans, from their cell deep inside Mount Tartarus.
Hyperion's worldview is closer to, uh, reality. Theseus soon figures in the prophecies of the virgin oracle Phaedra ("Slumdog Millionaire"-ess Freida Pinto), and finds himself amid a war between the Titans and Olympians. It's hard to remain an atheist when Zeus (Luke Evans) and Athena (Isabel Lucas) keep dropping by.
The movie pays less attention to theology, however, than decapitations, castrations, eviscerations and the occasional parboiling alive of people inside a giant metal bull. The blood spurts in 3-D, although the third-dimension effects, added after the shoot, are not as striking as the general spirit of sadism.
Hyperion, who has a nifty collection of masks, leads a horde of demonic soldiers, also masked -- let's just call them Orcs. The Olympians, mostly blond and dressed in matching gold armor, are comparatively bland. As for Cavill, his over-pumped chest, blank delivery and puppy-dog eyes suggest that he'll do fine as the next Clark Kent.
As in his "The Fall," director Tarsem Singh's visual instincts overwhelm his storytelling finesse. With its images modeled on Renaissance paintings, "Immortals" looks shadowy and solemn, but its script is sometimes garbled and frequently silly.
The movie's self-importance is further inflated by the usual pseudo-Wagnerian score and occasional narration by John Hurt, playing Theseus's humble but secretly divine mentor. He, too, has the gift of foresight, and at the story's end, he delivers a chilling, if unsurprising, prophecy:
In the heavens above, he foresees a sequel.
Rated R for extreme violence and one sexual scene with nudity.