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Old November 11 2011, 09:43 PM   #1
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Location: Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
IMMORTALS (11/11/11) - Grading and Discussion Thread *SPOILERS*

Immortals has, based on the trailers, been pegged as a 300 knockoff with the gods present. There are certainly some similarities, but Singh's visual sense is ultimately much different than Zack Snyder's was (there's a lot more beauty and colour in this world, for starters, whereas Snyder's emphasized earth tones and grime.

As a story with characters, it's pretty minimal, but I imagine anyone going into it expected that. I will, nonetheless, comment on the plot in one aspect: in the past I've encountered films where the hero's only heroism was all about stopping an evil that they had accidentally caused, which often doesn't come across as especially heroic; Immortals, on the other hand, features a hero who fails to stop anything. Theseus would have to be considered the least successful action hero since Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (if Dr. Jones had gone on an extended vacation to Yugoslavia, would the ultimate result have been very different at all?) - in fact, you can build a pretty good case that if Theseus had done nothing at all things would have turned out better, since his only meaningful action was finding the Epirus Bow and then losing it so that Hyperion could use it to free the Titans. The gods defeat the Titans, and Theseus' killing of Hyperion is meaningless since the villain would have been killed along with his armies when Zeus collapsed the mountain. Sure, he was brave, but what did he actually accomplish in the grand scheme of things?

Henry Cavill is a credible hero, and has great pecs (certainly, he feels less over-the-top than did Gerard Butler in 300, perhaps because he has a lot less dialogue to chew the scenery with). Rourke is a menacing villain, aided by the director letting him do some memorably gory things to make an impression. Freida Pinto gets more to do here than in her last blockbuster, and I'd say she does fairly well with the movie's main female part (the movie never pretends that the petite Pinto is an action hero either, which I appreciated after too many movies featuring waifs with the combat skills of a Green Beret), though it's hardly a demanding role. Pinto is also, among the cast, the primary beneficiary of her director's aesthetic skill, as he finds many ways to showcase her beauty (a brief nude scene is not actually her, but there are many stunning images of her in a red dress).

Tarsem Singh is the real star of the proceedings, though, not the actors. He does some remarkable things with his camera, producing quite a few memorable images and setpieces. His use of colour stands out repeatedly, the red that Pinto wears (which does a great job of staying clean even in the midst of a typhoon of oil that coats everything else). His rendering of Mount Olympus is by far the best I've ever seen on film - there's not a trace of the simple fluffy clouds populated by people wearing bedsheets so often seen in older films; pure majesty. For all the inventive fight scenes, though, I don't understand how Zeus (Evans) could go the whole movie without using his thunderbolt even once.

As a story, this is lacking in numerous respects, but as a visual experience it's quite a marvel. I came away thinking that Singh could perhaps be a great director if would devote as much care to his stories as to the images used to tell them. As it is, we have a visually stunning mediocrity.
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