FlixChatter Review: Immortals

Every once in a while, there’s a movie that comes along that’s critics-proof. This is one of those movies. I love swords and sandals genre and I went in with the expectation for Tarsem’s visuals and Henry Cavill’s performance to wow me and it delivered on both counts.

Apparently I’m not the only one who didn’t heed the critics as the Greek mythology visual feast reigned supreme at the box office with $32 million. Now, with that in mind, let me give you a rundown of what works and what doesn’t with this film.

The good

• Well obviously the visuals — the world Tarsem built is pure eye candy material. It’s artistic, bold, imaginative, which is what I had hoped from the first time I saw the first trailer. Given that this film shares the same producers as 300, the comparison is inevitable. At the same time, it’s got a pretty distinguished visual flair and style that’s entirely Tarsem’s. For one, Tarsem’s use of color is more vivid and rich, it’s like seeing a fine art painting, albeit a very bloody one, come to life.

There’s obviously painstaking details invested into building the sets and the costumes. The get-ups the gods wear as they watch mortals from way above the clouds are over the top but that’s the stuff of a fantasy flick. Apparently everyone has a Gold Gym membership up there in Zeus country.

• Henry Cavill’s on-screen charisma. Though I’ve followed his career for the past few years, this is the first time I’ve seen Henry carry a movie and I have to say he did a great job. It’s no doubt he looks the part as a peasant mortal chosen by Zeus to fight against the ruthless King Hyperion, but fortunately he’s got the confidence and gravitas to match those chiseled muscles.

• Mickey Rourke actually makes for a pretty brutal and vicious villain as Hyperion. The kind of enemy that makes your skin crawl with his sadistic shenanigans, especially to one traitor who comes to him and actually offered to help. He’s certainly more effective than Rodrigo Santoro’s Xerxes with all his gold body piercing. Hyperion is evil through and through and the relentless mano-a-mano fight between him and Theseus is quite rousing at the end.

• The special effects are definitely cool. Whenever the gods came down to earth, there’s a certain slo-mo technique used to illustrate just how much faster they move compared to humans, kind of like how in The Matrix, Neo is often shown as being able to move at lightning speed. I think it’s quite efficient and there are no annoying quick-cutting between scenes seemingly employed by every action directors. All the fight scenes involving Zeus and co. are incredibly bloody, but like 300, the stylized way they’re done makes ’em a bit more bearable to watch. I still cover my eyes a few times though.

The not-so-good

• The supporting cast is quite lame, to be honest. Even British thespian John Hurt wasn’t really given much to do, but my biggest quibble is with Stephen Dorff. He tried to be this wisecracking sidekick, but I find him to be irritating and silly. Kellan Lutz and Isabel Lucas barely had any lines or anything worth writing about. Compared to the compelling actors who fought alongside Gerry Butler in 300: Michael Fassbender, Vincent Regan, Dominic West, and David Wenham, these pretty young things just pale by comparison.

• Freida Pinto is beautiful but forgettable… she did have more to do here than in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but that’s not saying much. So yeah, she’s no Lena Heady. Even the sex scene is pretty ho-hum, it lacks passion and least of all, heart. Though guys surely remember Pinto’s body double’s derrière 😉

• Weak script — Tarsem’s story-telling skills doesn’t quite match his visual flair. The Fall was quite a disconcerting in terms of narrative, but there’s at least a strong connection between the two main characters. There’s not much going on between Theseus and Paedra, nor between him and any of the crews. Speaking of 300 again, the bond King Leo had with his soldiers make the nonstop battles mean more to the viewers than simply artistic amusements. I feel like there’s really not a whole lot at stake in Immortals. Of course the story tells us there is but we just didn’t feel it.

In my pal Scarlet Sp1der’s review, he mentioned that the stirring speech rounding up the troops pales in comparison to King Leo’s. I definitely agree with that, Butler’s certainly got that commanding presence that’s tough to beat. But to be fair, Leo has been a king for a long time, thus his troops were all ready to die for him, whilst Theseus is practically a stranger.

• Oh, and what’s with the Epirus Bow? I feel that for something so integral in the story, I find it odd that it somehow felt ‘forgotten’ by the end. The archery scenes are pretty cool though, I just wish they’d show more of those.

The Verdict?

Immortals is more style than substance, but at least Tarsem did deliver on his promise of Caravaggio meets Fight Club, complete with the ‘what the heck is going on’ ending. So yeah, despite the flaws I’ve mentioned, it’s still well worth-seeing for pure escapism’s sake. It’s a well-crafted production that’s sure to please anyone who appreciates fine workmanship and classic design. A quick note about the 3D: I saw this in 3D and though it didn’t really add much to it, it didn’t detract from it either. I’d say you probably won’t go wrong seeing this in 2D but the showtimes for those are much less than the 3D ones.

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Anybody else seen this one? Do share your thoughts on Immortals in the comments.

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53 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Immortals

  1. Fine review of this one, Ruth. I’d agree with much you have to say about it. Although, I liked Stephen Dorff’s Starvos character. For me, he was a bit of fresh air among the proper British accents (like Mickey Rourke’s villainy). Still, you’re right that there is a drop-off in the supporting cast (outside of those who got most of the face-time and the lines). Ms. Pinto was gorgeous in this, but not given much to do here compared with her ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ role.

    My pet peeve was with the Epirus Bow, but not about how it was used as plot device. As a former archer, having a modern bow masking as an ancient weapon of Greek Gods kinda stands out (the prop guy, no matter how much he dressed it up, should be shot by the thing at minimum). Some of the old mythology movies and miniseries at least used contemporary recurves (and not some latter-day takedown bow). I’ll get off my soapbox now ;-).

    Thanks, Ruth.

    1. Thanks Michael, a bit too long I think but there’s a lot to cover. Ha..ha.. well I’m glad someone likes Dorff, maybe I’m just too harsh on him. Rourke was good though, he was also the best thing in Expendables IMO.

      You’re a former archer?? Cool! Well as I have no idea what an ancient bow looks like, I guess I only think of it in terms of the story, but I can see how you’d have your own quibbles about it. Yet no matter how cool this bow is, it’s not very helpful in hand-on-hand combat isn’t it? 🙂

      1. Strictly amateur archer (before my life was ruined by golf, that is ;-)). Still, the experience makes me always note the use of archery equipment in film.

        Rourke was good though, he was also the best thing in Expendables IMO.

        I very much agree! I wanted more of him in that film. Thanks, Ruth.

        1. That’s awesome, I hope you’ll never lose that. Rourke was truly the ONLY saving grace in that ABOMINABLE of a film, that’s what it should’ve been called, ahah.

  2. Ted S.

    I wasn’t as impress with Tarsem’s visual as you were, maybe because I saw it in 3D and everything looked dark and flat, which is kind of ironic because 3D supposed to make the picture look more vibrant and striking. But enough about my distaste for 3D.

    I love the fight scenes in this film, a lot better than 300, what I can’t stand about 300’s action scenes were the constant slo-mo. In this film, the action were brutal and exciting. Unfortunately, the script was so weak that a lot people giggled at some of the dialogues, I actually tried hard to not laugh out loud. Hopefully Tarsem can find a better script for his next big action movie.

    1. I might be easy to please but I actually don’t have issues w/ the 3D. I probably would be fine seeing this on 2D as well but at the same time the 3D didn’t bother me. I still think Tarsem’s use of colors are pretty neat.

      Yeah, I’m so with you about the fight scenes. There are only a couple of battle scenes in 300 that I love (especially the one of King Leo vs. a bunch of Xerxes’ army) but the constant slo-mo get to be too much. In this one, there are quite a variety of styles that make it interesting. Ha.ha.. yeah, some of the dialog are lame, especially spoken by some of the young gods. I think Tarsem is more of a visual guy, let’s face it… I don’t see him working with someone like David Mamet anytime soon 🙂

  3. Stephen Dorff has never really impressed me much which is why I think we don’t see him in more stuff. I’ve been curious about Cavill ever since he got the Superman nod. I think an actor needs charisma to play the man of steel and it sounds like he’s got it. This is a film I initially scoffed at, but I’m curious now.

    1. I really want to like Dorff in Somewhere but that movie bored me to tears!! One thing for sure Henry never need to worry about being out-shined by him in this movie. Give it a shot, Markus, you might enjoy this one.

  4. Good review Ruth. We pretty much agree on everything. 300 was a more visceral experience and it did a good job of portraying the comradeship between the soldiers. Here there was nothing of that, just fun visuals to look at. It’s decidedly just a nice spectacle, nothing more.

    1. Thanks Cas. I think it remains to be seen whether this will get a ‘cult’ status like 300. The camaraderie in 300 is just as compelling to watch as the spectacle, it’s far more quotable, too 🙂

  5. a great review my friend. Thank you for the link, too. Definitely more style than substance, but a great film to watch. Glad you brought out the lameness of the additional cast! I really like your review!

  6. Great review! I enjoy the Good/Bad breakdown here. I’ve been debating seeing this one since I really adore Tarsem’s visual style but I’m not that into sword and sandal movies and I’ve heard the script isn’t that great. Based on your thoughts it sounds like the visuals and lead actors will make it worthwhile for me!

    1. I think it’s worth seeing on the big screen, Alex. The visuals really pop and in this case, it made up for the not-so-stellar script. If you like manly perfection, you’d appreciate Mr. Cavill as well 😉

  7. Great write up my friend, but would we expect anything else?

    I am still not convinced on seeing this. And if I am honest I WILL PROBABLY WAIT FOR A BLU RAY. I JUST HAVEN’T GOT THE TIME. oops caps!1 Sorry

    Have a good weekend matey, and don’t forget to check my FRC Cine-City diary.

    Mucho love

    S

    1. I think this would look terrific in Blu-ray, I’ll be sure to rent it again when it comes out. I just left you a few comments matey, great coverage! Enjoy your weekend, too!

  8. Good review Ruth, I was wondering what the verdict would be knowing what a big fan you are of Henry…it sounds like he delivered!

    It’s interesting to read that the visual effects didn’t take away from the film itself, which is what I felt about 300, after awhile I kind of wished they hurried up…

    I’d be interested in checking it out but as you said I think I will probably see it in 2D if 3D doesn’t add much to it.

    1. Yeah, it’s nice when an actor you’ve been plugging actually deliver the goods! The combo of his screen presence and Tarsem’s visual really made this worthwhile for me. Yeah, 2D is fine I’m sure, save your money 🙂 Thanks Russell!

  9. As much as I enjoy Tarsem’s ‘The Fall’, I think I’m going to take a pass on this. I wasn’t a huge fan of ‘300’ and this sadly looks like a carbon-copy. I’m glad you still enjoyed it though. Thanks for the review.

    1. No this is NOT a carbon-copy of 300, I think I mentioned that early in my review. Tarsem’s visual style and special effects are entirely his, not copying from Zack Snyder. The comparison is more because of the genre and the fact that these 2 movies share the same producers.

  10. Hi, Ruth and company:

    Excellent critique and photos!

    ‘The Immortals’ looks and sounds a lot like ‘300’ on steroids. Of which of I am a huge fan.

    Very pleased that Mickey Rourke gets to play a malevolent, memorable bad guy.

    I may not dash wildly to the theater to watch, but patiently wait for ‘The Immortals’ to come out on DVD.

    1. Ha..ha.. 300 on steroids, well I guess in terms of the action and buff guys fighting relentlessly, you could say that. But as I said to Max, this film looks different from 300, but if you enjoyed that one, you’ll likely have fun with this too, Jack. Rourke was good here, definitely memorable.

  11. i left a comment about this last night, but it seems to have disappeared!

    At any rate, I had similar feelings about the film, thought i’d give it another 1/2 star, for all the references to fine art. Caravaggio was certainly in there, but i thought I saw some influences from other painters as well. And the gods’ costumes actually reminded me of a book I loved as a kid and still love today, D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

    I too felt there was something missing in the narrative, but I chalked it up to my being completely exhausted. But the rest of the film is pretty darn good.

    1. Hey, I’m glad you’ve seen this one and enjoyed it. Yeah, the fine art influence in Tarsem’s style is quite obvious, that’s what made this film unique. I still think it’s pretty darn entertaining despite the weak narrative, especially w/ Henry as the lead 🙂

      1. Hmm…interesting question re: genre. I don’t think this is one of my favourite genres but then, having said that, I do love the Harryhausen epics such as Clash of the Titans.

        But I’m not fond of Conan and its ilk.

        1. Y’know, the Harryhausen version of ‘Clash’ is actually more enjoyable than the new one. At least there’s a good story and great cameos from Olivier, etc. The new one is crap.

  12. Great review, Ruth, I like how you’ve laid it out 😀

    ‘More style than substance’ was what I was expecting to be honest. I think I still will see it, though, as I’m a big fan of 300 and Mickey Rourke and sometimes pure escapism is what you want from a movie!

    Hope you’re having a lovely weekend 🙂

    1. If you like 300, you’ll likely to enjoy this Claire. Plenty of um, eye candy on this one as well 🙂

      Hope you’re enjoying your weekend, too!

  13. I knew ever since I first saw the trailer that the only two things worth watching this movie for were the visuals and Henry Cavill- and I still stand by my opinion! I will probably catch it on DVD! Thanks Ruth, great review, as usual!

    1. Well those two things are indeed what makes this worthwhile for me. The visuals look smashing on the big screen. I like Tarsem’s The Fall and I wish I had seen that in the theater so I didn’t want to miss out on this one.

  14. Oh I cannot wait to see this! Loved Tarsem’s The Cell, and have The Fall on order from Amazon, and the trailer for this makes me glad I have the sense of sight.

    I hope I agree with you!

    1. If you love Tarsem’s work you’ll likely to enjoy this one, Rodney. Visually it looks quite different from The Fall but it has his ‘signature’ all over it, if you know what I mean. I still have yet to see The Cell, will do so at some point. Thanks for stopping by!

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