A year after Clash of the Titans proved to be a box office hit, it's not surprising that a copycat emerged to try and share in its glory. Also not surprising: its copycat, Immortals, from director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall), is a superior movie in every way.
Like Clash of the Titans, Immortals is about a peasant mortal who finds himself drawn into a conflict between the gods. But the similarities end there. Not based on previously created material, screenwriters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides have invented their own story, plucking from Greek folklore where it suits them. More importantly, with Singh at the helm, the movie is vastly more creative and visually enthralling.
Whereas Clash of the Titans was very routine and straightforward in its approach to action and storytelling, Immortals lives and breathes through its visuals. From the first scene, where the evil King Hyperion (played deliciously by Mickey Rourke) unleashes a horde of caged titans, Singh's style is on full display. The settings are surreal yet grounded, exaggerated but not outrageously slow. The result is a larger-than-life production that embraces its larger-than-life plot.
As beautiful as the film is, Singh's style really shines during the action sequences. Gritty and R-rated, Singh holds back in no way, unleashing waves of blood when necessary. A scene where one of the gods intervenes to save protagonist Theseus (Henry Cavill, who next year will become Superman) is breathtaking; Singh slows the scene down so the audience can see each poor soldier's head explode, a bloody but superbly choreographed opera. In another, Theseus and his followers clash with their rivals, ducking and diving in an orgy of organized chaos.
The action and visuals adequately gloss over the film's weaknesses, which are the same shortcomings so often found in movies like this. The script isn't a wreck but it isn't great, either, sticking to formulaic utterances and predictable plot developments. The movie drags in a few parts; action fans shouldn't be disappointed, but they might be surprised, to discover that Immortals isn't nonstop action. It's in the scenes where not much is happening, where the main characters discuss what's happening for the sake of character development, that the film struggles to maintain a consistent tone.
Still, Immortals is a visually rich and at times gripping action epic. It's fun, engaging and even mesmerizing at times. It's far from perfect, but it is a surprisingly decent movie where style over substance actually works.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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