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Immortals: Perpetual Problems with Man-Abs

By Pam Glazier · November 14, 2011

So I was assigned to review Immortals this week. Since I already saw the preview (and thus knew this film was going to be awful), I approached this viewing with a detached air. I would try and find things to like about this film. While my initial preview-based prognosis of suckage held true, there were a few things that weren’t terrible. Let’s take a look.

The opening scenes of Immortals were an attempt to quickly establish backstory in case the audience was rusty on their Greek mythology. The strangely bedecked virgin oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) awakes from a dream and tells the three other oracle sisters who sleep with her that the Epirus Bow of legend is in danger of being found by King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) to the detriment of mankind. Then the voice-over hits. It talks of gods and men and titans and myth and legend. Of course, we all know that voice over is one of the cardinal screenwriting 101 sins because it is normally just lazy exposition and takes the audience out of the film—which is exactly what occurred here. But beyond that, this voice-over did little to establish any sort of clarity, and I found myself sitting through the whole of it bored, confused, and waiting for the movie to start.

And then the movie finally did start. Mickey Rourke’s first scene was excellent, and it should have served as the opening of the film. It establishes him as a dangerous bad-ass who is extremely scary despite the over-the-top wardrobe decisions. He is just as bedecked as Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) was in 300, but he somehow manages to out-act the ridiculousness of it all. Next we travel to a remote village carved into the face of a cliff. There we find Theseus (Henry Cavill). Theseus is an expert fighter, and he has a huge chip on his shoulder because he was born a bastard after his mother was raped and the whole village has shunned them ever since.

Now I must take a moment here to personally thank the art direction department, the makeup department, and Henry Cavill’s trainers. I don’t think I have ever seen such beautiful man (and his abs) on screen before. I mean, seriously.

Anyway, back to the remote village. They are evacuating because there is a warning that the violent King Hyperion is on his way there, but all the peasants (including Theseus and his mom) must wait to travel because they are so gross and lowly. Of course, Hyperion takes the town before the peasants can leave and Theseus watches Hyperion personally slit his mother’s throat. And here’s the moment where Theseus’ destiny starts. Driven by vengeance he will somehow rise up and defeat this evil.

This is simple enough, but it took forever to get to. First there was the bad voice-over orientation that we didn’t need about gods and titans, then there was the side-story about how Theseus was favored by Zeus (John Hurt/Luke Evans), then there was the side-story about how Zeus orders his people not to interfere with the deeds of mortals because then it would be unfair even though he personally trained Theseus in the arts of war practically from birth… there’s just all these distractions that detract from a main singular focus or impetus that would have, if it had been there, made this movie infinitely more watchable. It seems kind of like TV plotting, but crammed into tight confines of a film. If there isn’t enough space, you have to cut.

Aside from this, there’s the illogical step of having Theseus be the bringer of the doom that he is destined to thwart. If he had just stayed miserable in Hyperion’s salt mines, the stupid magical bow would never have been found and the danger of releasing the titans would not have been an issue. Theseus is the one who finds it and then loses it to King Hyperion. That’s kind of annoying since there wasn’t an already established theme of “careful what choices you make,” or “passivism takes the most courage of all,” etc.

So to put it succinctly, the story was lacking. But there were moments beyond story that were slightly captivating. Stephen Dorff has returned from obscurity to grace us with his jovial smarm as the vague thiefy side-kick Stavros, and he does a decent job. And John Hurt adds an emotional gravitas to the relationship between Zeus and Theseus, thus making the interfering gods plot slightly more plausible even though it is still confusing and distracting. Also, the individual fight scenes were very impressively choreographed, and they were a joy to watch (plus, man-abs ladies, man-abs!). However, the crowd fight scenes seemed slow and awkwardly paced. I found myself wondering if the 3D format version of this film would have aided in making those scenes look cooler because the 2D version made them seem like the choreographed fight versions of white-guys dancing.

Other weirdities were the Olympians (i.e., Zeus’ posse). These guys seemed like a bunch of ripped Orlando Bloom clones stuffed into cheesy, gold-plated skirt-suits. They were like the Greek-God version of The Archies. And they barely took part in this movie, but when they did it was unforgettable because all of their scenes were in super-slo-mo with perfectly quaffed hair and makeup. Poseidon’s gold wire/seashell hat-cage was particularly disturbing to me. I would have rather had their roles more subtly introduced into this film as nuanced or inferred subplot instead of as a jarring side-plot that made everything else wait.

Also, the dialogue tended to be slow in general and the sex scene was boring. It seemed like it was put in there just to put it in there. It’s sad how “meh” it was considering how hot Theseus and the Virgin Oracle were.

Oh, and let’s not forget the genitals-crushed-with-mallet scene. Everyone in the theater was squealing in horror and even though it had its intended effect, I am pretty sure it went just a tad over the top and crossed the threshold of effecting vs. distracting.

So should you see the film? Probably not, unless you’re a 15-year-old boy, Mickey Rourke fan, or a fan of man-abs…hell, see it for the genital torture if that’s what you’re into. But by all means, don’t see it because you think it’s going to be good.