Immortals (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Immortals (2011)

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Did you ever wish that 300 were really bland and featured a lot of awkward, pseudo-Christian messages tacked onto it? Then have I got the film for you!

Immortals carries on the Hollywood tradition of adapting a Greek myth by drawing the names of various Greek gods and heroes out of a hat and having them beat the crap out of each other. Theseus (Henry Cavill), a simple peasant, must uncover a lost weapon of the gods and fight off marauding King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) before he unleashed the titans and attempts to overthrow Mt. Olympus. The plot resembles God of War more than any actual Greek myth, but with Tarsem Singh at the helm, at least it'll be pretty even if the plot is lack luster, right?

Wait a minute, wasn't that thing black in the movie? Is the trailer actually prettier than this film?!

To a point, that's true. Mostly. The costume design was a bit inconsistent. I liked Hyperion's costume and I could believe him as a bandit-king. Similarly, I liked the outlandish designs for the gods' costumes. However, everyone else seemed like they were borrowing costumes left over from 300 or Clash of the Titans.

The same could be said for the sets. Mt. Olympus looked appropriately fantastic, and the little oasis guardhouse had a strange beauty to it. But most of the other sets looked like your generic fantasy fare. If you told me they were leftovers from any number of other films, I'd believe it.

Oh, and I should mention that once the gods themselves actually go to war, their costumes lost all imagination and looked like generic centurion armor spray-painted gold. You know, so you could tell them apart from the titans, who wore generic red armor.

Thief, Fighter, White Mage and, uh, guy who doesn't do anything?

The characters themselves are pretty bare-bones, which I understand is sort of in keeping with Greek myths, where the deeds and message are more important than the nuances of the characters. The problem with this is that the story isn't all that engaging. Our characters may as well have been called hero, oracle, thief, monk and Big King Zeus-hater and nothing would have been lost.

The most peculiar aspect of the film was this strange Judeo-Christian influence I noticed through out. Hyperion and the thief character either hate the gods for killing their family, or just don't believe in them because they never got what they prayed for. Similarly King Cassander (Stephen McHattie, I had to look up his name on IMDB just to figure out his character's name) discounts gods because logic, and reason, and diplomacy and blah, blah, blah. These characters felt like the standard strawman arguments used by Christian apologists to discount atheism/agnosticism.

This was further compounded by the gods themselves. Zeus warns the other gods that they cannot assist humans, that the humans must take care of their own problems. In fact, he goes so far as to kill one of the other gods when they break this commandment, then gets all mopey about it. I may be a bit rusty on my Greek mythology, but didn't the gods intervene in human affairs all the damn time? Weren't half of the ancient Greek heroes sired by Zeus himself?

Zeus 3:16

Look, I'm cool with the filmmakers wanting to use aspects of some Abrahamic myths to relate to Greek ones, but very human-like god like Zeus doesn't really match up with a “perfect” deity like Yahweh. It also doesn't work for the religion itself. Sure, in Judeo-Christian mythology, Jehovah is a distant presence that can only be found through faith an introspection. Conversely, in Greek myths the gods were jumping into people's lives (and beds) all the damn time.

I spent most of the film trying to figure out how they were going to resolve this problem of conflicting views of faith. Fortunately, the film abandoned this conflict with in favor of a 10 minute slow-mo fight sequences where the gods kill some titans, humans kill some orc...uh, I mean other humans, and Mickey and Henry have a fight sequence that's almost as long as Roddy Piper vs. Keith David in They Live, but without being interesting or entertaining.

And, of course, they obligatory set up for a sequel. I say play the God of War games instead. They're a lot more true to the source material, at least.

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Posted by Jacob

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. What kind of expectations did you have coming into this? I honestly thought it was really well done and I am getting that kind of urge to defend something that I feel is being treated harshly. It seems like you came into this expecting a 10 and getting an 8 was just a shock. I mean, I have some discerning tastes (I couldn’t stand the holy grail of action films The Expendables, I mean at least the dialogue in the Immortals was coherent) so I don’t feel I am just defending this as a knee jerk reaction.

    Here are some questions I have. What about the costume design was inconsistent? You seem to be upset that the movie was not just taken directly out of Greek mythology cannon, is that true? Were you familiar with the Theseus myth before coming into the movie? You actually found those set designs to be bland or uninspired? (okay loaded question, I thought they seemed freaking amazing)

    What seems to be your main complaint is this; you don’t like your foods to touch. From this review (and not my eighteen + year relationship with you) I feel that you wanted a cut and dry Greek myth story that stayed in its cafeteria-plate section and didn’t flow over into the mashed potatoes. Now this is not an Oscar worthy writing piece. But is it too far fetched to try and parallel two systems of beliefs that actually share a lot of the same stories? You complain about the detachment of Zeus and the other gods but could this be a result of something like the aftermath of the Trojan War where gods fought gods? Or maybe just a natural regression of the idea that the gods must take direct action in the affairs of man. Yes, there are a couple of moments the Judeo-Christian club whomps the audience up over the head but this isn’t some piece of evangelical propaganda. Coming from a man who willing has watched most of the Hellraiser series this just seemed overly critical. But I think it might be a result of watching Kevin Sorbo as Hercules on Saturday mornings. Adventures of Hercules/Xena this movie is not. But its not a bad film because of it.

    • Maybe I did come down too harshly on it, especially the set and costume design. If I think about it, I probably liked it more than I let on. I also forgot to mention that I liked the labyrinth battle between Theseus and the minotaur.

      I’d also really like to know: was the bow black or gold when you saw it? I saw it in 2-D and it was black, while in all the trailers it was gold. I know it’s a minor quibble, but it looked like an unfinished special effect and it kept bugging me.

      As for your/my main complaint, I guess I didn’t clarify myself enough. I didn’t mind the idea of them mixing Greek and Judeo-Christian mythology, I just didn’t think it worked particularly well. Instead of making Zues more sympathetic or caring or whatever they were going for, it just make him look more hypocritical. He kills Aries, but not Athena? Why? And then at the end he decides lead all the gods down to Earth, in the presence of mortals no less, to fight the titans.

      The worst part it is that there’s not resolution to the whole “pro-faith” subplot. Theseus never fights for the gods; he fights for himself and against Hyperion. So why is he rewarded at the end of the film by the gods? Why does Zeus tear down the mountain on top of the titans when he knows that it won’t kill them? I’m sorry, but the ending really feels like they wrote themselves into a corner and they just had to finish it off with a big fight sequence.

      Reading your comments and reevaluating the film has made me realized that I liked parts of it a lot more than I thought, and it was a good deal prettier than I earlier admitted to, but I honestly hated the plot and I wish there were some explanation of Zeus’ hypocrisy.

    • P.S. Hellraiser’s adoption of Christian themes is one of the reasons I dislike the later films, but that’s something I’ll go into more once I finally get the Hellraiser project written up.

  2. It’s probably one of the best-looking films of the whole year (yet, I still haven’t seen Tree of Life) and the action is awesome and in-you-face which is something I always like. The story dragged on a bit and I couldn’t help but think that if the writing was a tweaked a little better, this would have definitely been a very solid film. Instead it was just fun and pretty to look at. Good review Jacob.

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