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@MovieJay’s Review of the Immortals

Maybe it’s the release date that doesn’t favor Immortals since inexplicably it’s scoring half the approval rating at rottentomatoes.com that Thor got (that absolutely stupefying and desolate release from late spring). A movie can be an incoherent mess but win favor with critics as well as audiences going into the mindless summer season, but in the fall our senses sharpen and we sink a little deeper into our seats hoping every new release carries with it a chance we’ll discover a bonafide best picture nominee.

Sadly, Immortals is not a suitable candidate for that prize, but a critic’s got to be honest enough to admit when they feel a tingle for a movie, and holy-raging-iron-bull, Batman, I had a serious tingle running through me for awhile there until finally the weight of all it’s preposterousness kept me in like-but-not-love territory.

An astute young woman sitting close to me after the screening gave me a long checklist of assurances that Immortals was pulling a fast one on us. There were “historical inaccuracies” of its tale culled from Greek Mythology of Gods and earthly peasants, Oracles and heroes, searing visuals, and a dastardly King who literally chews up the scenery. So what? There are actually 12 Gods and not 6, as the movie would have us believe?! The horror!

To the degree that Immortals takes liberties, it’s hard to feel outraged because it’s having too much fun satiating our appetites for new and glorious images at the movies, and on that note it’s absolutely breathtaking to sit back and drink in.

It’s all so simple: King Hyperion is a big, bad, brooding menace of a man, the kinda guy who does everything out loud, not least of which his heavy breathing in between words he’s speaking while chewing on his cud and other things. He’s played with relish by Mickey Rourke who, together with his army of vast and faithful CGI compatriots, are about to take over Greece. Until the movie begins and he finds his plans are delayed because of a screenplay that requires him to fetch the hidden Epirus Bow, a weapon that is able to shoot arrows out of thin air. But in order to find it, he’ll need to find the Oracle Phaedra, played by Freida Pinto, and will have to fight off a plucky peasant in Theseus (Henry Cavill aka the next Superman), as well as a range of Gods who just can’t help themselves from making cameos when they just can’t take the suspense any longer.

Hyperion will exploit the Oracles, whose powers can be used to find the bow, and once it’s in his possession he’ll use it to unleash the Titans in a fight to kill the Gods. The Titans are a frustrated band of blue characters imprisoned in a sadistic state for the last few epochs. Or was it eons? Anyway, they look awfully unhappy at the predicament they’re in, and it’s a perfectly terrifying and hideous shot of them that tips us off at the beginning of the wild imagination of its director, Tarsem Singh, who made the equally breath-taking The Cell and the even-better The Fall, with Immortals ranking just behind those two.

Given a straightforward David & Goliath-type of swashbuckling adventure, this movie could have been great. Spartacus great. Braveheart great. But interrupting the story of the young, buff, clear-eyed peasant Theseus rallying his people with pure raw energy in a fight for civilization against Hyperion, the misstep here comes with the subplot focusing on the Gods, with Zeus (Luke Evans) making bold pronouncements about how the Gods may never interfere with humans, unless of course things get really bad for the humans, in which case the Gods come swooping down from on-high, an unfortunate place that appears to have no widescreen tv’s for them to see up-close what is going on down there. The Gods keep us from really caring about or investing ourselves in the characters on Earth because their appearances undercut the tension in the forward action of what is at times a powerful and gathering narrative with horrifying implications, brutal fight scenes, and one particular scene of pure evil involving what appears to be a great, big immobile metallic bull with smoke and screams emanating from its nostrils. The movie even gets the romance right, with a very well photographed and sexy scene of intimacy between Phaedra and Theseus, even if it is at least a minute too short.

See this movie for the performances of Mickey Rourke and the star-making vehicle for Henry Cavill and to drink in the beautiful imagery, but don’t expect a home run, just a ground-rule double.

Immortals *** out of 4