Director : Tarsem Singh
Screenplay : Charles Parlapanides & Vlas Parlapanides
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2011
Stars : Henry Cavill (Theseus), Mickey Rourke (King Hyperion), Stephen Dorff (Stavros), Freida Pinto (Phaedra), Luke Evans (Zeus), John Hurt (Old Man), Joseph Morgan (Lysander), Anne Day-Jones (Aethra), Greg Bryk (The Monk), Alan Van Sprang (Dareios), Peter Stebbings (Helios), Daniel Sharman (Ares), Isabel Lucas (Athena), Kellan Lutz (Poseidon), Steve Byers (Heracles), Stephen McHattie (Cassander)
Like his previous films, The Cell (2000) and The Fall (2006), Tarsem Singh’s Immortals is an almost overwhelming aesthetic experience in which conventional storytelling and narrative logic frequently take a backseat to pure sensation. Unlike his previous films, though, Immortals is very much a product of the digital realm, and while it still reflects its singular filmmaker, it ultimately pales next to his previous films, whose impact derived from the alchemic transformation of physical reality into a phantasmagoric dreamscape. All the digital wizardry in Immortals has given Tarsem an entirely new and much expanded palette with which to work, and although he commands it with a bold sense of vision, much of it looks like what we’ve seen before in films like The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–2003) Troy (2004), and 300 (2007), all of which also used the wonders of 1’s and 0’s to reimagine mythology in a distinctly modern vernacular.
The screenplay by Charles Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides puts its own spin on Greek mythology, specifically the story of Theseus (Henry Cavill), who is here reimagined as a peasant who has been trained as a warrior by the god Zeus (Luke Evans) in the guise of an old man (John Hurt). Theseus is drawn into battle when the evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) amasses an army and wages a campaign of terror throughout ancient Greece while in search of the Epirus Bow, a mystical and powerful weapon that will allow him to unleash the long imprisoned titans, who were defeated by the gods ages ago and locked away inside a mountain. Theseus, who has a personal vendetta against Hyperion after his men killed his beloved mother, is aided in his hero’s journey by Stavros (Stephen Dorff), a wily thief who brings a much-needed sense of attitude to the film, and Phaedra (Freida Pinto), a beautiful oracle who has a terrible vision that Theseus will join forces with Hyperion, rather than defeat him.
The story is ultimately beside the point, as it does little other than supply a basic framework on which Tarsem and his various collaborators can construct their visionary images. For Tarsem, everything is a beautifully weird pop fantasia, whether it be the mind of a serial killer, a suicidal man’s fairy tale, or ancient Greece. Working with cinematographer Brendan Galvin (Veronica Guerin, Blood and Chocolate), production designer Tom Foden (a veteran of The Cell), and costume designer Eiko Ishioka (a veteran of both The Cell and The Fall, as well as Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Tarsem endeavors to create what Renaissance painters might have envisioned if they had had access to 3D and digital environments. Galvin’s cinematography ensures that every frame looks like it was dipped in gold and mercury, while Ishioka’s expectedly outlandish costume designs give even the most prosaic scenes a sense of otherworldly grandeur (Hyperion’s headgear, which resembles a Venus flytrap crossed with a pair of serrated shears, is most memorable). The film’s most impressive spectacle invokes the burnished palettes, muscular imagery, and dynamism of painters like Correggio, Botticelli, del Pollaiuolo, and Caravaggio, but with a decidedly modern spin.
Immortals is as much a celebration of youth and beauty as it is of determination and violence; rather than gray and bearded, Tarsem envisions the Greek gods as brawny, tanned Abercrombie models who, when they go into battle, don solid gold armor and headpieces that would make Cher proud, while the titans look as though their skin has been charred. In this regard, the film unabashedly associates good looks with virtue and ugliness with evil (all the members of Hyperion’s army have their faces slashed and scarred to ensure some form of hideousness), although it lacks the blatantly fascist imperative that made 300 feel so queasy. While everyone looks exceeding good on-screen, that visual aplomb rarely translates into memorable or meaningful characters. For all of his chin-jutting, clenched-teeth intensity, Henry Cavill’s Theseus is a rather blah hero (which doesn’t give me much confidence in Zack Snyder casting him as Superman in the upcoming Man of Steel), although Mickey Rourke sinks deep into the evil ambitions of Hyperion, using his baritone growl and hulking presence for all their worth.
Yet, despite the lack of compelling characters, Immortals still works as pure spectacle. And, while the battle scenes will be immediately familiar to those who have seen 300, the manner in which Tarsem frames his slow-motion horizontal tracking shots of Theseus dispatching enemy warriors with sword and spears so exquisitely and with such a baroque sense of visual flair makes them feel almost stunningly new. Bodies are eviscerated vertically and horizontally and many a head is lost, all in extreme slow motion that turns every geyser of gore into its own abstract work of art, and it works because the rest of the film is so relentlessly in tune with its own merging of the ancient and the modern.
|Immortals Blu-Ray 3D + Blu-Ray + Digital Copy Three-Disc Set|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||March 6, 2012|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Immortals looks absolutely stunning in its 1080p high-definition transfer on a dual-layer 50GB disc. The image is razor sharp and incredibly well defined, boasting excellent contrast and a stunning depth of detail. The film’s color palette, which tends to lean toward metallic and earth tones that give it the impression of being a moving painting, are beautifully realized. The 3D effects are also very well realized—definitely one of the most robust 3D Blu-Rays I have reviewed so far. The depth effects are quite impressive, although the image is compromised to some extent because so much of the already dark cinematography is further darkened by the glasses (although not nearly as bad as it could have been). The three-dimensionality of the image is almost exclusively in terms of depth into the frame, with very little actually popping out at you, which is consistent with the film’s overall aesthetic. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround soundtrack is, like the many bodies on-screen, incredibly muscular and powerful. Trevor Morris’s orchestral score is very nearly overwhelming at times, and the surround channels immerse you deep in the sounds of battle.|
|The disc includes two featurettes: “It’s No Myth” runs a little over 5 minutes and features several scholars who discuss Greek mythology and the film’s relation to it, while “Carvaggio Meets Fight Club: Tarsem’s Vision” is a relatively meaty 21-minute look at the film’s production. It is divided into four sections that focus on Tarsem’s vision for the film, the visual effects, the stunts, and the score, and it includes quite a bit of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Tarsem, writers Charles Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides, producers Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton, composer Trevor Morris, and several members of the cast. Also on the disc is an alternate opening and two alternate endings, as well as eight brief deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, and the entire Immortals: Gods & Heroes graphic novel.|
Copyright ©2012 James Kendrick
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
All images copyright © 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment