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Immortals is all slashing and no substance

Troy Mathew | Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In “Immortals,” director Tarsem Singh uses a mixture of real set and CG work to create a visually stunning film. Oh, and apparently there’s a plot too.

“Immortals” tells the story of Theseus, a mortal man chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against the ruthless King Hyperion. Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) scours the Greek countryside in order to find the Epirus Bow, a legendary and all-powerful weapon. Once Hyperion has the bow, he can unleash the Titans and wreak worldwide havoc. Theseus (Henry Cavill) uses the help of a gifted Virgin Oracle (Freida Pinto) to thwart Hyperion’s plan.

If the plot sounds convoluted, it’s because it is.

The producers of “Immortals” were the same behind “300,” and the films have drawn comparisons due to their undeniable similarities. “300,” however, is ultimately more successful because of its streamlined plot. In “Immortals,” Hyperion searches for the Virgin Oracle in order to get the Epirus Bow, in order to release the Titans and achieve worldwide domination. The plot loses focus in parts, and isn’t as captivating as the climactic final battle in “300.” The plot of “Immortals” drags, and could definitely benefit from paring down its 110 minutes.

Despite his character’s narrative shortcomings, Rourke is fantastic in “Immortals.” His gruff demeanor and hulking figure are perfect for the maniacal Hyperion. Hyperion is power-hungry and not afraid to castrate or behead a few hundred people to get to the top. Rourke commands nearly every scene he appears in, mostly because the audience is dreading seeing another one of the disgustingly violent punishments he inflicts on those who displease him.

Speaking of violence, “Immortals” has plenty. Several scenes in the movie are nauseating, even for the most desensitized audience members. The battle scenes feature a lot of stylized violence, similar to “300,” which means blood spatters in spectacular slow motion and every bone-crunch is audible.

The special effects in “Immortals” are what audiences came to see. The landscape and battle scenes are visually stunning, and do their best to distract audiences from the sub-par plot. Nevertheless, the plot keeps getting in the way.

The film takes too long to get to the climactic final battle because the characters spend a frustrating amount of time discussing fate, mortality and the burden of seeing the future. This discussion would be fine if it was well-written and significant, but it’s not. Instead, this dialogue detracts from what everyone wants — special effects and people getting their skulls crushed.

“Immortals” is not bad because it’s a campy, special-effect-laden gore-fest. It’s bad because it pretends that it’s not. Despite big names like Frieda Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame, the characters just don’t resonate and don’t hold interest when there’s no bloody action.

Despite its pretense and weak plot, “Immortals” is a solid addition to the Greek-mythology film canon, due entirely to its special effects. “300” fanatics will love “Immortals,” but anyone else who thinks they can stomach the violence should save their money and watch it when it’s out on DVD. Don’t go into it expecting profound dialogue, but do go into it anticipating some Mickey Rourke-induced nausea.