11/28/11

IMMORTALS - REVIEW


Comparisons with Zack Snyder's 300 were unavoidable: the themes, the silly costumes, the crazy gold filters, the titan-ic budget...

This is not 300.

And as awful as Tarsem Singh's upcoming take on Snow White (Mirror Mirror) looks, his back catalogue has been pretty creative, especially visually. The Cell being probably the most OTT CSI episode ever, it looked great. There was a surrealism about The Fall and, indeed, The Cell which used special effects in an interesting, arty way and added a certain unique look to otherwise pretty bare stories. For Hollywood, it was a breath of fresh air. Tarsem, like Snyder, is very much a visual director but where Snyder's style feels overblown, bloated and predominantly cliched, Tarsem at least has the decency to throw odd, unlikely imagery at you and although that's not always necessary plot-wise it makes for an enjoyably eyebrow-raising watch.

With Immortals, he takes a stab at Greek mythology and, you know what? He was definitely the man for the job. I mean, what's more surreal and out there than Greek mythology? Dogs with three heads, men with bull faces, gods turning into cows... it's pretty nutty. So who better to direct than the guy who had a sliced-up living horse in one of his movies?

Immortals, strangely, is surprisingly restrained considering the subject matter. The minotaur being essentially a large dude with a barb-wire bull helmet rather than an actual part-man/part-animal hybrid being. Purists of the mythology will soon find that Immortals isn't quite as litteral as the stories suggest. For the better? Hard to say. Liberties are definitely taken with the material and it works very well, even if certain core details of the legends are sacrificed. It is frankly refreshing to not have an obvious, literal take on the genre for once. Yes, parts of the film are still incredibly silly: the bad-guy-eating-food cliche returns with Mickey Rourke's Hyperion never appearing without a mouthful of chestnuts, the obligatory sex scene is tasteful but unnecessary, the Oracle(s) feel very Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the terrific costumes are Flash Gordon camp.

Oh, and the bit with the Gods fighting each other in the sky... you can see their BALLS, come on!

All that said, the film looks incredible. Out of all of Tarsem's achievements, none look quite as impressive as this one. Forget 300, the effects here actually have texture, are quite skillful in how they're used and the whole film looks stylish in a good way. Even the 3D works great! The giant wave scene where Poseidon intervenes is particularly gorgeous but every set piece is worthy of mention. It's a creative and fresh approach to a very old genre and the promise of a sequel, for once, doesn't sound like a chore and could actually be a lot of fun.

Henry 'Man Of Steel' Cavill proves himself more than worthy as an action hero and strong support is offered by the ever-great John Hurt, Rourke and Freida Pinto.

Overall, Immortals is not perfect and a bit too camp to take completely seriously but its visuals, its characters and its take on a familiar genre all make for a very enjoyable, dark, exciting, surreal watch. It's not 300 and, you know what?

I love that about it.

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