Muscular, scantily clad Greeks — some of them gods — engage in some high action, low point-having sword fights in Immortals, a nonsensical ancient action movie in the vein of 300.
And by “in the vein of 300” I mean I think someone involved in this movie saw a poster for 300 and had some of the movie described to them and from that crafted this sweaty little nothing, thinking that, hey, if that guy Scottish can play a Greek hero why not an English guy best known for a supporting role in The Tudors? This kind of thinking may actually be what is Wrong With America. If I ran for president, this and the unnecessariness of remaking movies less than 30 years old would be my platform.
Theseus (Henry Cavill) is just your average Joe in ancient Greece. He is fatherless, and he and his mother Aethra (Anne Day-Jones) don’t get a lot of respect. But Theseus has a friend in an old guy (John Hurt) in the neighborhood who has helped him learn how to fight with astounding skill. When a member of the army insults Aethra, Theseus delivers unto him such a butt-whooping that the head of the army asks Theseus to join in the forthcoming battle against King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). Theseus isn’t willing to hang with the snobby soldiers, though, even after the head of the army fires Lysander (Joseph Morgan), the guy who picked the fight with Theseus. (Lysander promptly heads to the enemy camp to offer them his services, which Hyperion accepts —but, because Lysander is a traitor, he also makes it painfully unlikely that Lysander will father any traitor descendants. Makes that whole “drop the deformed babies off a cliff” scene in 300 seem downright humane.)
Turns out the nice old guy wasn’t just an old guy but Zeus (Luke Evans) in disguise. He’ll keep an eye on Theseus but not interfere, not even when Zeus’ children (also gods, you’ll remember) urge him to. You see, Hyperion wants to find a magic bow that will shoot an arrow that will free the Titans, the ancient race of divine beings who can make war on Zeus and the other gods. The death of the gods will help Hyperion wipe out the Hellenic culture and make himself and his kind the dominant force on the known earth, which I’m guessing is roughly the size of Wisconsin. Also key to this plan is an oracle who can see the future named Phaedra (Freida Pinto), who actually seems to be fairly bad at prognostication but is — and I suspect this is her true purpose — hot.
Immortals does not have quite the lovely otherworldly glow of 300 but it looks awfully nice. It makes good use of color and the positioning of things such as, say, red-robe-clad oracles on white sand or gray cracked-looking Titans next to golden gods. Every time one such well-art-directed scene came into view, I found myself getting a little excited — like, “ooo, now it’s going to get good.” But it didn’t. Not one of those nice little displays of blood sprays against a dusty village or black oily sea against a pretty sky ever amounted, story-wise, to much. What I’ve given you here is the barest of plots — the movie also involves a hodge-podge of stuff about faith and becoming a leader and revenge and, for no particular reason, a loveable thief played by Stephen Dorff who has this odd cowboy accent.
And while some of its costuming isquite lovely, some of what Immortals dresses its characters in is just odd. It reminded me of those lesser 1950s sandal epics where all the men were just a hair too naked for common sense. Yes, OK, I get that they didn’t wear pants but would they really show that much leg? And it’s saying something that my reaction to this was not “whatever, yay!” but more “what?” — somehow even the normally-quite-appealing Cavill seemed just distractingly odd here. I wanted to be excited about all the shirtless dudes fighting each other, but the movie’s lack of coherent, compelling story and even moderately interesting characters kept me from even enjoying all the beefcake.
I felt like Immortals’ creators made it look like the fun movie that 300 is without bothering to build into it any of the things that made that movie fun. C
Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality. Directed by Tarsem Singh and written by Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides, Immortals is an hour and 50 minutes long and distributed by Relativity Media.