Immortals is a breezy rewrite of Greek mythology. The names are old but the plot is new, and the movie, from the same producers who amassed 300, motors along like the solid commercial vehicle it is.
Solid yet hardly sensational, no luxury sedan but a good compact – fairly efficient in its operation, typically clean in look, and guaranteed to reach its destination with a minimum of fuss. Thrills are in short supply, but so are annoyances. This is a maintenance-free ride.
That's a bit of a surprise coming from director Tarsem Singh who, in The Cell, built a reputation as a flashy stylist. Here, he's almost restrained, and since restraint is hardly the watchword in these Olympian epics, it makes for a welcome change.
That's all the more impressive given that Mickey Rourke is in the cast as the principal baddie. Of course, no one can wrangle Rourke completely, but give Singh his due – he does manage to tether him a tad.
Mickey, his right cheek branded like a prize steer, turns up as Hyperion, a ferocious king leading his army on a rampage across Greece in search of the WMD of its day: a magic bow whose explosive powers will allow him "to unleash the titans and end the reign of gods." As arrowed weapons go, its mechanical logic is a little fuzzy but there's no missing the point.
Meanwhile, in a small village photogenically perched atop a steep cliff, muscular young Theseus (Henry Cavill) is doing his best to stay neutral in these proceedings. But apparently, when one's beloved mommy gets her throat slit by Hyperion himself, neutrality is no longer an option. Luckily, Theseus has been tutored in the martial arts by a god-in-disguise, and (since it's not the liberal arts) his education is about to pay big dividends.
Banished to the salt mines, Theseus meets a quartet of Virgin Oracles who, tall and thin and entirely draped in muslin topped by colourful headgear, bear an uncanny resemblance to standing lamps with ornate shades. All are virgins but only one is the real oracular deal. That would be Phaedra (Freida Pinto), offering dark visions of the plot turns to come.
Pretty soon, she and Theseus are on the lam together. Not much later, the former, courtesy of the latter, is enjoying "the touch of human flesh," putting a smile on her face but somewhat truncating her Virgin Oracle status.
From there, as always, matters turn bellicose. Way up on Mount Olympus, a quorum of callow-looking gods are, much like us, watching the ensuing mayhem with a modicum of interest. Zeus is a strict non-interventionist, hewing to the dangerous belief that "we must allow humans to use their own free will."
So liberated, the mortals get down to their usual business of gruesomely doing each other in. Singh has the blood spurting in lyrical slo-mo, lays on the CGI to credible effect, darkens the frames like a wannabe Caravaggio, and, most important, keeps the action relatively uncluttered – his killing fields don't suffer from overkill.
Barely noticeable, the 3-D looks like an afterthought and, indeed, it is – the extra D was tacked on in post-production. Happily, since the gods get off their thrones long enough to join the fray, the ultimate battle unfolds rather impressively on three fronts at once. You got the divines, the semi-divines and the hoi polloi, fighting for turf that stretches from the bowels of Olympus right to the tippy-top.
As for that magic bow, the thing lights up and sparkles like a cheap Vegas prop. Sorry but, after all the fuss, it comes as an anti-climax – then again, searches for WMDs often do.
- Directed by Tarsem Singh
- Written by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides
- Starring Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke
- Classification: 18A