Immortals (2011)

(Cable TV, September 2012) The most dependable thing about director Tarsem Singh’s work is the astonishing visual polish of his work: From The Cell to The Fall to Immortals to Mirror, Mirror, the least one can say about his work is that it’s pretty to look at.  In terms of story, though, he doesn’t always pick the best scripts: His own writing on The Fall was intriguing, but his other films are disappointing to some degree.  Immortals is no exception to the rule: While it features a number of sequences that are pretty enough to work as classical paintings, its story veers between confusion, dullness and trite clichés.  Based on Greek mythology, Immortals is partly an excuse to produce a turbo-charged fantasy action film using top-notch special effects, and partly an excuse to play in the rarefied sphere of intensely operatic sword-and-sandal drama.  It works, but not completely: While the visuals are one-wow-a-minute, the story takes a long time to get going, and even then merely works in fragments.  Henry Cavill doesn’t have anything to regret in his performance as Theseus, while Freida Pinto perfectly plays the part of a reluctant oracle and Mickey Rourke brings some energy in the picture as the villainous King Hyperion.  Still, this isn’t an actor’s film: it’s really a directorial showpiece, and Immortals has a lot of visually memorable set-pieces.  The atmosphere may feel a bit claustrophobic (at time, it seems as if half the outdoors scenes are set on a cliff overlooking the sea), but the sequences are polished to such a degree that the entire film feels photo-shopped. (Immortals may feature some of the goriest slow-motion deaths in recent fantasy, but it’s so pretty that the only response is an astonished “oooh”.) Too bad the script hasn’t been re-worked to such degree: we’re left with a dull beginning, a muddled middle and a straightforward ending.  A blend of 300 aesthetics with Clash of the Titans mythology, Immortals works best as a plot-less eye candy.  Maybe, some day, Tarsem will manage to combine his superlative visuals with a good script.

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