Greek mythology stirs the soul with gods bickering, heroes defeating monstrous beasts, and rich stories explaining the cosmos. Perhaps as much myth has been lost to us as that which has survived to the present day. With advances in CGI and other cinematic effects, more films have explored these fantasical stories. Yet many stray from the path.
Released on 11-11-11 in movie theaters, Immortals debuts on Blu-ray and Dvd today! Henry Cavill (soon to portray Superman) stars as Theseus, the bastard son of…well, we never really do find out in this film. In legend, he was the son of King Atreus of Athens, slayer of the Minotaur, seducer of the Amazon queen Hippolyta, and one of the greatest of the Ancient Greek’s legendary heroes. In Immortals, much of this is lost.
As an action fantasy movie, the film will likely appeal to fans of 300 or 2010’s Clash of the Titans or even Troy (2004). The story pushes forward at an even pace, never quite slowing down, leading up to a final battle that more than satisfies.
As a mythology movie, however, it doesn’t hold muster, although your mileage may vary. Hints of the underlying legend are present. There is a labyrinth and a minotaur. But much of the mythological elements are missing. The treacherous journey to Athens, the near poisoning by Medea, the despot Midas, his daughter Ariadne who falls in love with Theseus and helps him navigate the cruel labyrinth, and our hero’s later abandonment of her and his folly in not hoisting the white sail. Really, you must read the original legend.
Yes, there are Immortals in the film. Zeus is very well played by Luke Evans (getting an upgrade from playing Apollo in Clash of the Titans), and Kellan Lutz (of Twilight fame) appears as Poseidon (the one with the trident). He’s never named in the movie, and one deleted scene, a confrontation between Zeus and Poseidon, should have been left in. Of the other gods, only Athena is named. The viewer is left to guess at the rest…Ares, Apollo, Hercules, and Icarus. The last two are an oddity since they aren’t gods in the original Greek pantheon.
Not that it matters much here. The story really isn’t about them. Much is made of mankind, how men must choose their destinies, and how “all men’s souls are immortal.” An experiment in free will, perhaps?
Blaming the gods for the death of his wife and son, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) seeks the Epirus bow, a mighty artifact that will allow him to unleash the Titans, incarcerated in Mount Tartarus, upon the gods. Along the way, he conquers and enslaves all those in his path. Theseus—his seaside village betrayed to Hyperion by a renegade soldier—watches helplessly as his mother is slain by Hyperion and then he is sent to the salt mines as a slave.
Now, you might think I didn’t like this movie, but I did. On its own merits. While I am again disappointed that a movie inspired by Greek mythology doesn’t follow them more closely, I did find this one interesting. I honestly don’t mind re-interpretations or re-imaginings of myth. I’d rather have the opportunity to read such stories or watch such movies then not at all. Some do work better than others.
Cavill is a compelling hero struggling to avenge his mother and end Hyperion’s tyrany. It’s refreshing that he isn’t Herculean nor are tasks completed with relative ease. Theseus literally eeks by and in some cases suceeds with divine intervention. Again, this is a harsh, cruel world, and Rourke as Hyperion is one of the most brutal villains to appear on screen in some time.
Ultimately, Immortals is worth whiling away an afternoon. By no means is the film perfect, but it’s certainly entertaining.
According to a pre-release review in Entertainment Weekly (November 11, 2011), director Tarsem Singh “makes movies for the eyes.” This is indeed true. Though much of the movie’s landscape is bleak, its textures, depth and lighting–reminiscent of a Caravaggio painting, are eye catching. Tarsem’s next project is the forthcoming, Mirror Mirror, a Snow White movie starring Julia Roberts as the evil queen.
Also of note, Blu-ray editions include one alternate beginning and two alternate endings. Not surprisingly the—rather long—alternate beginning features young Theseus (much better glimpsed in the course of the movie’s final cut). Of the two endings, I prefer “This Is Our Last Embrace” over “Theseus Kills Hyperion,” but the original ending does suit the film best.
Looks like the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films has nominated Immortals for a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film of 2011. Other nominees include: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Muppets and Thor. Hmm…it would be interesting to see who wins. The award will be announced at a ceremony in Burbank, CA, on June 20th.