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The Gods Looked Down and Laughed

by Ann Morrow on November 16, 2011 · 1 comment

Directed by Tarsem Singh

You have to wonder, while watching Mickey Rourke mumble through his role as sadistic King Hyperion, if he ever got the giggles while wearing a giant crab claw on his head. But the outlandish headgear—the gods wear gold objets d’art on their heads—in Immortals isn’t the most ridiculous thing in this very expensive-looking attempt to outdo 300. The story is a shambles, and every conflict merely an excuse for gory carnage. Director Tarsem Singh seems especially fond of the slo-mo spattering-blood effect from 300, although he was apparently unconcerned that 300 also had a compelling, quasi-historical plot, in addition to its legions of beefcake warriors running around shirtless. Immortals purports to be about the Greek mythic hero Theseus (Henry Cavill), and though Theseus is admirably noble, and nimble in battle, it’s hard to care who actually defeats Hyperion, since the combatants don’t stand for anything other than who can kill the other guy with the most amount of photogenic savagery. One of the film’s biggest mysteries isn’t Theseus’ parentage—rumor has it he was fathered by Poseidon—but how Hyperion is able to raise a standing army, since most of the time he’s slaughtering his own generals.

Hyperion does, however, have a hidden weapon sure to achieve his quest of a leaving his “mark on the world” by destroying all of humanity and toppling the gods (Luke Evans as Zeus, Kellan Lutz as Poseidon, Isabel Lucas as Athena), and that weapon resides deep in the earth: a cage full of Titans just waiting to wreck revenge. Hyperion also needs the legendary Bow of Epirus, which shoots arrows of deadly light. Singh (The Fall, The Cell) definitely has a knack for beautifully hallucinatory visuals, and some of the landscapes and natural catastrophes are breathtaking, though ultimately not interesting. To find the bow, Hyperion must interrogate the Vestal Virgin Phaedra (Freida Pinto), but not if Theseus gets to her first. Which he does, in a token love scene that would’ve been an embarrassment to the seducer Cavill played in The Tudors. Theseus also gets the bow, by honoring the gods, and the priests and priestesses, and his comrades, and his murdered mother . . .

Greek-American newbie screenwriters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides toss in enough mythological tidbits to confuse a scholar, but none of it comes together into what could be called a plot, while the hackneyed dialogue, especially from a jarringly contemporary Stephen Dorff as Theseus’ battle buddy, distracts from every minuscule increase of momentum (the screenwriters apparently were unaware of the enthralling adventure quests of Mary Renault’s fictionalized biographies of Theseus, The King Must Die and The Bull From the Sea). Long before the sprawling CGI ending, Immortals resembles nothing so much as a bucket of blood dripping down a windowpane. With some crab shells stuck in the viscera.

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