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It’s all about the hats: “Immortals”

December 12, 2011

That sound you hear is Edith Hamilton spinning in her grave, and if you don’t hear anything, well, the effects will be felt soon enough, because if in the afterlife she’s seen any of Immortals and its casual butchery of Greek myth, then she’s certainly whirling fast enough down there to create her own gravity well. Bastardizing mythology is nothing new for Hollywood—witness Clash of the Titans or its remake—but its seldom you find one this simultaneously silly and self-important. This is a movie that aims to bowl us over with an epic hero story, while asking us to take seriously actors wearing goofy wire-hats, playing Greek gods.

At the dawn of time, John Hurt helpfully tells us in voice over, the immortals learned they could kill each other. This contradiction in and of itself deserves to explanation, but we don’t get it—hey, we got impalings to get to. So they fought a war, and the victors called themselves gods and the losers were called titans and locked in Mount Tartarsauce (or something like that), where they must stand for eternity with bits in their mouths.  This seems kind of an over-the-top punishment (if Donald Rumsfeld has seen this film, he’s certainly kicking himself for not thinking implementing it at black sites all over the world). Alas, John Hurt’s disembodied voice warns us, the evil is on the rise again. So, I guess the titans were evil.

So, the evil King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke—the first guy that comes to mind when you think “ancient Greek king,”) from Crete is on the march to invade, um, everywhere, I guess.  But he’s really honked off at the gods for letting his wife and kids die of plague. Now, I would think the people in ancient times would probably be pretty used to losing loved ones to illness, but Hyperion is stuck on whatever the stage of grief “slay God” is, and he wants to free the titans. To do that he needs the Eprius Bow, a kind of magic bow that shoots phaser bolts, and can break the walls of the Mount Tartarsauce prison. The gods forged it and left on the Earth. You know, the same way the Bureau of Prisons hides keys to all the maximum security cells in the prison exercise yard—oh, wait, no, that would be totally retarded. Oh well, the Greek gods did drink a lot…

"I am here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I...Stop laughing!"

Hyperion captures a temple containing four oracles, one of whom, Phaedra (Freida Pinto), is a genuine seer, and tries to get them to tell him where the bow is. At the same time, his people sack a nearby village, where Zeus has been secretly helping to raise Theseus (Henry Cavill), a young firebrand and badass warrior, in whom Zeus sees the potential to lead the Hellenic armies against Hyperion. Unfortunately, Theseus is captured and sent to toil in the salt mines (literally, salt mines). There he hooks up with Phaedra and a wise-guy thief (Stephen Dorff—the most fun thing in the movie) and a couple other slaves that he leads in a prison revolt and escape.

For much of the middle third of the film, both sides basically race to find the bow. Theseus and his people try and interpret Phaedra’s visions, while Hyperion just tortures the holy living fuck out of everyone around him. Seriously. It’s actually very sadistic and disturbing. Eventually, Theseus finds the bow when he returns home to give his dead mother a decent burial (I…I don’t know, just go with it), and finds it in a wall. (Woo-hoo! Laziest storytelling ever!) But then they’re attacked by Hyperion’s soldiers and a dog snatches it and brings it back to Hyperion. Yes, you read that right: our hero lost the world-destroying weapon to a dog…a dog which carries for what must be miles to the other guy who wants it. I began to suspect the movie was just fucking with us at that point, but it still plays things pretty straight, so I’m not sure.

"The prop guy insists this isn't just made out of spray-painted pipe-cleaners, but I don't believe him."

While all this is happening, the gods watch from Mount Olympus with increasing alarm as Hyperion enacts his pogrom of wiping out the non-Cretians. Zeus, however, will not let them interfere, telling them that he has given humans free will and they must use it. The rest of them aren’t buying it, though, and are all like, “Um, but one of these dudes is doing some really bad shit with his free will.” So, every so often a couple of them get involved to rescue Theseus when he needs a dues ex machina.

Wow. Really cashing in that Academy Award nomination cred, aren't you Mickey?

Theseus and co. make their way to the Helenic Helms Deep the good guys have built by Mount Tartarsauce, and serves as Maginot Line where they confront Hyperion’s massive army. Unfortunately, the Hellenics (or whoever the good guys are—the geopolitics of this world isn’t made very clear), don’t have an army to rally, so Theseus tells the leaders to dig in and prepare for the attack. But this movie takes its political worldview from Michael Bay, and as such the civilian governor just dithers and says, “He’s not going to attack. No leader wants war, they only want to be taken seriously at the bargaining table.” Okay, guv’nor? You have hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers camped outside your keep, and you have, like, twenty guys. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need your validation at this point.

Okay, are we done yet? No? Crud. Well, the big attack comes, and Theseus and the good guys catch Hyperion’s forces in a bottleneck. Meanwhile, Hyperion uses the bow to free the titans (which look a lot like the rock monsters William Shatner wanted for Star Trek V), but the gods show up and fight them off. Theseus and Hyperion have their mano-a-mano battle, while the gods slowly get picked off by the titans. Finally, Zeus brings all of Mount Tartarsauce down on the titans and Hyperion’s troops (because even in Ancient Greece, the hollowed-out mountain lair has a self-destruct button). Theseus kills Hyperion, but is mortally injured himself. Zeus takes him to Mount Olympus, and Theseus is remembered as a great hero.

The movie asks you to take this seriously. Good luck with that.

Getting a sense of how silly and derivative this movie is? Yeah, it’s an artier and ever gorier 300. But I gotta admit, what really annoys me about this movie is its director, Tarsem Singh. Singh, who goes by the pretentious mono-moniker Tarsem, is very good at putting overripe, surrealistic images on screen in the service of idiotic stories and then proclaiming himself a visionary. His first Hollywood feature was The Cell with Jennifer Lopez, wherein a serial killer has an underground torture lair that would have taken a team of urban-planners to build. In Immortals, we get the surrealism again, but it’s just goofy. And then boring. I mean, after you’ve seen a couple scenes of characters crushing each other’s skulls in slow motion, while wearing ridiculous headgear, it all wears thin.

Okay, I have to pause here and point out that this is a nasty, violent, viscous, gory, ugly, sadistic movie. It is relentlessly unpleasant, and the only fun that can be derived from it comes from mocking the many, many silly parts. Some examples:

* Tarsem claims that he called upon the art of Caravaggio for inspiration in designing his world of Ancient Greece. The result is that Ancient Greece looks like it was furnished by IKEA.

* Zeus’s belief that Theseus is the one to lead the army against Hyperion basically boils down to, “He loves his mom.” Uh…ever think of setting the bar a wee bit higher, Zeus?

* Theseus and company find themselves trapped and outnumbered while trying to hijack a boat to take them Mount Tartarsauce, so Poseidon secretly aids them by sending a massive wave that capsizes the boat! Um…thanks?

* Mom’s corpse—several weeks old by the time Theseus returns to bury it—hasn’t decomposed or been eaten by animals.

* Oh yeah, the minotaur is just a big dude in a wire ox mask. In one scene he emasculates a traitor by taking a massive mallet to his nutsack. It would be supremely unsettling if it wasn’t so unintentionally hilarious.

* Actual dialogue delivered by Mickey Rourke: “A man’s seed can be his most brutal weapon.” How much you wanna bet he’s now using this line on skanky chicks in bars?

* The treatment of the labyrinth and the minotaur is almost an afterthought in this movie.

* Best scene: a couple of Phaedra accuses Stephen Dorff’s character of lacking faith. “Heathen, “ one of their buddies says, staggering toward them. Dorff then launches into a story about his childhood when he lost faith in the gods and became a thief. “No,” the first guy gasps, “we’re surrounded by heathen!” And then he keels over to reveal several arrows in his back, and the bad guys get the drop on them. I mean, this is like a gag from a Naked Gun movie.

* Zeus and the gods show up to battle the titans: “Get out of here! This is our fight!” Yeah…yeah it is, Captain Let’s-Imprison-the-Immortal-Monsters-in-a-Mountain-and-Then-Dump-the-Key-That-Releases-Them-a-Couple-Miles-Away. This one’s all you.

* And to all those James Bond fanboys that have been making noise on the newsgroups about Henry Cavill taking over the 007 mantle from Daniel Craig: No, just fucking no. He’s a twerp that looks perpetually confused.

* Theseus gets stabbed a couple times in the abdomen by Hyperion, but can still best him in a fistfight, and doesn’t even bleed that much.

*Everyone looks ridiculous in this movie.

*Except Freida Pinto, who now has a place on my “Chicks I Want to Live on My Island and Bear My UberChildren” list (watch your back, Mila Jovavich).

3 comments

  1. I just watched this on Netflix this evening.. I have to say I felt like I grew dumber for having watched it. It was so awful. I found your blog because I googled “Immortals movie stupid hats” because I refused to believe that anyone, anywhere had been able to watch this film and not hate the shit out of those hats.

    I really don’t know who approved the wardrobe for the film, but they dropped the ball.

    Thanks for an entertaining read, that was far far more enjoyable than the actual movie it was reviewing! 😀


  2. Thanks. Glad I could ease the pain.


  3. haven’t seen the movie, never intend to see it. Loved your review! Mythology corrupted & humiliated by wire hats – God have mercy on the idiots among us.



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