The Gods Must Be Crazier Than We Thought

Immortals: written by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides; directed by Tarsem Singh; starring Henry Cavill (Theseus), Mickey Rourke (King Hyperion), Stephen Dorff (Stavros), Freida Pinto (Phaedra), John Hurt (Old Man), and Luke Evans (Zeus) (2011): Depending on your POV, Tarsem Singh (The Cell) is either a visionary filmmaker who conjures up striking visuals or a guy who can turn any movie into a Chanel Number 5 advertisement. I think he’s sorta both.

There are striking moments in Immortals, and there are moments of pure hooey from a visual standpoint. Note that I don’t talk about characterization or plot. While the story makes marginally more sense than the remake of Clash of the Titans, the emphasis is on ‘marginally.’ And God help you if you try to learn Greek mythology from this movie, much less Greek history.

Theseus (Henry Cavill, practicing to play Superman in next year’s Man of Steel) gets charged by Zeus with saving humanity (or maybe just Greece) from King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, hilariously miscast in a period piece). There’s a magic bow with which Hyperion can raise the Titans, who will then destroy the gods and humanity both. Or something. Why someone didn’t just destroy this bow (or destroy the Titans, for that matter) is one of those questions that will occur to you as you watch the film. There won’t be an answer.

The Titans are caged under Mount Tartarus, the interior of which seems to have been designed by the people who brought you Gotham City in Batman Returns. Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) plays Phaedra, a virgin Oracle who’s seen a terrible future. At one point, Phaedra and her fellow oracles dress in what appear to lampshades. Mickey Rourke chews the scenery. The battle between Theseus and the Minotaur — the one that pretty much defines him in actual mythology — is treated here as something of a throwaway. So why call him Theseus? I don’t know.

Nothing bears much relation to actual mythology, and the gods wear some pretty funny-looking hats. There’s violence and some nudity. There’s slow-motion fighting. I don’t think this is in any way a good movie, but I stayed interested most of the time, for all its absurdities and missteps. Lightly recommended.

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