Posted August 24, 2011 by Chris Patmore in Films
 
 

Immortals


When we talk about visionary filmmakers, names such as Terry Gilliam, Guillermo del Toro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro are always bound to appear because of the originality of their visual style. Indian filmmaker Tarsem Singh also needs to be included amongst them, in spite of some failings in his latest studio movie, Immortals.

When we talk about visionary filmmakers, names such as Terry
Gilliam, Guillermo del Toro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro are always bound
to appear because of the originality of their visual style. Indian filmmaker
Tarsem Singh also needs to be included amongst them, in spite of some failings
in his latest studio movie, Immortals.

Tarsem is probably
best known for his award-winning short films or, as they’re more commonly
known, his music videos for acts such as REM
and the commercials for Nike and Coke. On the strength of his
commercials success Tarsem got to direct his first feature film, the
psychological thriller The Cell
(2000), which starred Jennifer Lopez,
Vince Vaughn and Vincent D’Onofrio. Unfortunately, the
brilliant, surreal images proved too much for audiences looking for a more
straightforward police procedural and, while it didn’t bomb, it didn’t quite
get the recognition (or box office) it deserved.

As he continued
working in advertising and garnering awards, he was working on his own pet
project, The Fall, which was finally
released in the UK in 2008 having sat on a shelf somewhere for two years. It
met with critical acclaim but still failed to capture the imagination (or lack
of) of a mass audience. The film was filled with brilliant imagery that relied
more on locations, costumes and composition than on computer generated effects.
With The Fall, he had fully created the Tarsem style. With his pet project out
of the way he was ready to take on studio movies, and Immortals is his first
venture as a director for hire.

With the posters
for the film carrying the line, “from the producers of 300” (as if that was a good thing)
it was inevitable that it would draw comparisons with Zack Snyder‘s Spartan “epic”, although it owes just as
much to Clash of the Titans.

Set eons after the Greek Gods defeated and captured the Titans –
making for a stunning opening shot – the power-mad King Hyperion (a suitably
menacing and over-the-top Mickey Rourke)
declares war on humanity. Amassing a bloodthirsty army of soldiers
disfigured by his own hand, shown in gory and eye-watering detail, Hyperion
ravages Greece to find the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power
forged in the heavens by Ares. The owner of the bow is the only one that
can unleash the Titans, who have been imprisoned deep within the walls of Mount
Tartarus since the dawn of time and they are hungry for revenge. Should the
bow fall in Hyperion’s hands, it would rain destruction upon mankind and
annihilate the Gods, who are forbidden from intervening in man’s conflict to
stop Hyperion. However, before you can say Luke Skywalker, a peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill) comes forth as their only hope, complete with a
mentor played by an old English thesp (John
Hurt
). And so begins the hero’s journey that all great myths are made of.
And lots of battles against the odds.

The film has plenty of Tarem’s signature visual flourishes but they are
often overshadowed by excessive amounts of CGI creating scenes that would be
otherwise impossible, even to the point of being physically ridiculous, such as
the cliff-face dwellings. As this is fantasy/mythology it is much easier to be
forgiving of these things but spectacular scenes, epic battles and physically
perfect, archetypal heroes still don’t excuse the moments of weak script and
storytelling. As for the 3D, well, it could be said that it’s well done if you
don’t notice it, but if you don’t notice it, why go to all the bother with the
glasses and everything.

Overall, Immortals is something of a disappointment after The Fall
but one suspects a lot of the fault for that can’t be laid at the director’s
feet. If the stills from Mirror Mirror,
a new take on Snow White, are anything to go by, there is still hope for some
more real Tarsem magic.


Chris Patmore