Immortals is the third film from director Tarsem Singh, an auteur whose films are distinguished by their exceptional visual flair and creativity. Averaging an output of one film every five years, one imagines he must carefully craft each of his works with painstaking care and attention to detail, lavishing an exhaustive level of focus on costumes, set design and special effects.
…well, you can imagine he did that for his first three films at least. Incredibly, his next film is a Snow White remake which is releasing a mere four months after Immortals and at the same time as another Snow White remake which has the Twilight girl in it. But I digress.
Immortals is about a hero’s journey set in the world of Greek mythology. Some of the characters are directly taken from Greek myth such as Zeus the thunder god. Others are implied, such as Beast, a musclebound henchman that wears a helmet that gives him the appearance of a minotaur. He also hangs out in a labyrinth in case you couldn’t connect the dots.
Our hero is Theseus, a peasant bastard. That is more or less his identifying trait. Such is the way of life in these times. People rarely seem to take the time to ask for names. They just refer to people as The Monk, The Beast and That Peasant Bastard.
These are troubled times and King Hyperion a cruel and ambitious war-monger is scouring the lands, invading, pillaging and destroying all in his path. Theseus tries to escape Hyperion but his mother is not so fortunate. Her death at the hands of the King however is the catalyst that leads Theseus to go on adventure where he meets some other social outcasts, gets himself a girlfriend and fulfills his destiny to be the leader of the free people of Earth.
Immortals is one heck of a violent film. It’s kind of how I imagine a film adaptation of the video game franchise God of War would be. There is bloodshed, torture and malice in virtually every scene with King Hyperion. Sometimes it is implied with a cutaway shot and a squelchy sound effect. Other times, someone’s head is exploding in a spray of blood that splatters across the screen in slow motion. This is certainly not a film for the squeamish.
Having said that, it does still bear the trademarks of a Tarsem film. The film has some striking visuals right from the outset and the characters that populate Greek mythology are perfect for Tarsem to showcase his talents. A real highlight of the film for me was the artful showdown between the Gods and the Titans at the end of the film.
My criticisms of Tarsem’s films have always been that the style sometimes comes at the expense of substance. That said, I think this is his strongest film to date. I really like Henry Cavill as Thesius. He is bound for stardom when he takes on the role of Superman in 2013 but this film suggests he should be more than capable of carrying the mantle – he is convincing both as a softly spoken and humble commoner as well as a larger than life super hero.
The rest of the cast are entertaining too. Mickey Rourke terrifies as the mericless King Hyperion and its nice to see Freida Pinto continue to find prominent roles after Slumdog Millionaire and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
There’s a curious message at the end of Immortals. We see Thesius’ son gaze upon a statue and have a premonition that he will one day he too will be waging a war of Good versus Evil as a cog in a never ending cycle. I must admit, its not a terribly profound or particularly meaningful message. At least not in any way that I could interpret. But it certainly ends the film in a way that I did not quite expect.
Immortals, like Tarsem’s work before it, is slightly off kilter and esoteric enough that it never quite finds a mainstream audience. That said, I’ve grown to quite admire his work and this certainly lives up to stylistic standards he set in The Cell and The Fall.