by Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
It’s aggressive action against dramatic landscapes in a new interpretation of Greek mythology, in 3D.
Yes, it’s the cartoonish, cast-of-thousands combat collage, Immortals. And if you plan on responding with anything other than your eyeballs, you may spend a good deal of your viewing time getting in touch with your own mortality.
“From the makers of ‘300’! ” boast the ads for Immortals. Well, let’s see. Great bowling score, terrific batting average, but just an okay movie.
So nobody’s promising anything impressive here: “300” was a blood-and-guts bonanza, a sword-and-sandals spectacle, a history lesson set in ancient Greece, and an admittedly eye-catching muscle marathon with the emotional involvement of a traffic-school slide show.
Immortals looks in on the meddling gods when they’re looking for a hero — and not the kind on an oblong roll.
Henry Cavill — the next big-screen Superman in Man of Steel — plays their best bet, Theseus, a buff peasant and anonymous mortal chosen by the Greek gods (because, according to ancient laws, they’re not allowed to take sides) to lead an uprising by a small group of warriors and save Mount Olympus and Greece from Hyperion, the power-hungry king played by Mickey Rourke in one-note, mustache-twirling mode.
Hyperion has been wreaking havoc throughout Greece in his search for a special weapon, the Epirus Bow, which could allow him to defeat the gods of Olympus and become the ruler of humankind.
And he might open a grocery store as well, just to have something to fall back on. (It’s tough to take this stuff seriously.)
Instead, he assembles a group of allies, including scheming thief Stavros (Stephen Dorff) and oracle priestess Phaedra (Freida Pinto), and proceeds on his epic journey into battle.
Director Tarsem Singh (The Fall, The Cell), a visual stylist first and a storyteller ninth if at all, plunges straight ahead, trying, despite the predominance of painterly vistas and CGI landscapes, not to let style overshadow if not overwhelm substance — as has been his wont — but still triggers far too much in the way of unintentional laughter along the way.
The director is, in the final analysis, so enamored of shots of artfully graphic carnage in sadistic, slo-mo 3-D (his particular favorite seems to be heads exploding like melons at an out-of-control carnival uprising) that you get the impression everything between those moments is just filler.
Yes, the battles are sometimes eye-popping, even if the 3-D element is unnecessary, but the sequences between incidents of physical conflict just lie there.
Last time we checked, making movies for the eyes only — even if carefully composed shot follows carefully composed shot follows carefully composed shot, suggesting paintings in a museum that do not intend to connect in the name of narrative continuity — does not qualify the moviemaker as a visionary.
Oh, and there’s a screenplay too. Almost forgot.
It was written by siblings Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, and carried the earlier titles Dawn of War and War of the Gods. Anachronistic references and expressions abound, especially from Dorff, and the narrative is a shallow, straightforward cavalcade of mucho macho posturing.
Of course, listening to the (at best) clunky dialogue, it’s difficult to criticize the actors for chewing the scenery. After all, why shouldn’t they? They certainly can’t make it much worse.
Perhaps they realized going in that no performer had a chance of giving a real performance or making any kind of impactful impression with Singh at the helm.
So we’ll attack 2 stars out of 4 for Immortals, a hit-or-myth, It’s-Greek-to-me action-adventure yarn.
Capsule review: visual flair, nothing else there.