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Eons after the Gods won their mythic struggle against the Titans, a new evil threatens the land. Mad with power, King Hyperion has declared war against humanity. Amassing a bloodthirsty army of soldiers disfigured by his own hand, Hyperion has scorched Greece in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power forged in the heavens by Ares. Only he who possesses this bow can unleash the Titans, who have been imprisoned deep within the walls of Mount Tartaros since the dawn of time and thirst for revenge. In the king's hands, the bow would rain destruction upon mankind and annihilate the Gods. But ancient law dictates the Gods must not intervene in man's conflict. They remain powerless to stop Hyperion... until a peasant named Theseus comes forth as their only hope.
For more about Immortals and the Immortals Blu-ray release, see Immortals Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on March 5, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Kellan Lutz, Luke Evans
Director: Tarsem Singh
» See full cast & crew
Immortals Blu-ray Review
Vivid imagery, lousy mythology.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, March 5, 2012
A time-saving word of warning up front: If you're the sort of person who enjoys reading about or studying actual Greek mythology, Immortals will be infuriating. Director Tarsem Singh and screenwriters Vlas and Charley Parlapanides have no deference at all for the eons-old stories they've tried to adapt here, combining and compressing various elements of Greek myth until they're left with a narrative that's somehow both dumbed-down and incredibly convoluted. There's a reason, of course, that myths survive over vast stretches of time--they're damn good, almost irreducibly elegant stories--so it seems haphazard to tinker with them until they're nearly unrecognizable.
And tinker the filmmakers have, bowdlerizing the Greek pantheon, reducing the gods to buff, empty-headed super-beings, and giving the film's human hero--Theseus--a weirdly unheroic, inconsequential arc. This is one of the few movies in recent memory where the protagonist's presence in the story has, at best, a negligible effect on the outcome. For all his raging, Theseus really doesn't accomplish much, which makes you wonder why he's even worth immortalizing in this watered-down version of the tale, which substitutes admittedly gorgeous CGI spectacle for actual storytelling. Singh's last film, The Fall, was a step in the right direction, but Immortals reverts back to a lot of the style-over-substance deficiencies of his debut, 2000's The Cell. It's showy and quickly forgettable--the blockbuster equivalent of a shiny bauble.
In the film's prologue, we're introduced to a few seemingly key plot points that will later prove almost entirely meaningless. During the great War of the Gods, the Olympians--Zeus and his brood, basically--defeated the previous rulers of the heavens, The Titans, and locked them away in a gilded cube beneath Mount Tartarus, where they've been forced to gnash their teeth for ages on iron rods that look conspicuously like modern rebar. During the battle, the magical Epirus Bow--which shoots arrows made of light and apparently has unlimited ammo--was lost on Earth. Naturally, whoever finds it will be sitting pretty war-wise, in possession of the classical era's version of the A-bomb.
Enter Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), a crabby ruler who's so pissed at the gods for failing to protect his dead-of-disease family that he plans on finding the super-bow and using it to somehow in retribution to release the Titans. To this end, he kidnaps the virgin oracle Phaedra (the beautiful Frieda Pinto), hoping her visions will lead him to the bow's secret resting place. Bastard peasant Theseus (Henry Cavill), our supposed hero, gets drawn into this fracas when Hyperion ransacks his village, kills his mother, and hauls him off to mine the salt flats. (Before he slits mom's throat, Hyperion growls at Theseus, "Witness hell," which is Immortal's lame attempt at a "This...is...SPARTA!" one-liner.) Coincidentally, Phaedra is imprisoned in the same place as Theseus, and she quickly realizes that he's, you know, destined for greatness.
I'm not so convinced. The story is presumably about how Theseus earns a place among the gods, but with a few notable exceptions, he fails at just about everything he sets out to do. And despite the stern warnings by Zeus (Luke Evans) that the gods shouldn't meddle in human affairs unless the Titans are released, Theseus gets his sorry ass saved by the immortals more than once. He's the central character, but if you took him out of the story completely it would hardly matter. Escaping with Phaedra, he finds the Epirus Bow--the film's MacGuffin--and promptly loses it. He also fails to stop Hyperion from unleashing the Titans, necessitating a deus ex machina that renders futile everything he's done previously. He does kill the Minotaur--a dude wearing a bull's head made of barbed wire--but this is a non-sequitur that has little bearing on the story.
The film might've been better had the screenwriters focused more on the wacko lives of the gods, who are really running this show, and less on their puny human counterparts, who ultimately don't matter much. Apollo (Corey Sevier), Athena (Isabel Lucas), Ares (Daniel Sharman), and Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) all make merely perfunctory appearances--jaw dropping displays of godly power, typically--but for most of the runtime we stay frustratingly with Theseus and his do-little storyline. What's crazy is that in the original myths, Theseus is the badass future King of Athens who does a ton of cool stuff in his youth--like slaying monsters at the six entrances to the underworld--but here he's just a random guy who was touched by the gods but doesn't do much with his giftedness. His only real victory is the moral decision he makes not to side with Hyperion, who offers him a Darth Vader- ish proposal to rule the empire side-by-side. I don't know how you can make a character as dramatically fertile as Theseus boring, but the makers of Immortals have somehow done it. They've also consigned John Hurt to a rather thankless wizened-old-man role as Theseus' mentor, a part that gives him next to nothing to do, disappointingly.
In marketing the film, 20th Century Fox really pushed the "from the producers of 300 angle," hoping to attract fans of Zack Snyder's similarly violent sword-and-sandals epic. The problem is that Immortals is at once more highbrow--in superficial ways--and less dramatically satisfying than 300. The characters aren't as memorable, and the not-easily-followed story just doesn't have the same visceral impact. In fact, the whole enterprise feels redundant--a 300 redux without the mass appeal. The one thing Tarsem Singh has always brought to the table, however, from his music video origins with R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" onward, is a striking, lightly surreal visual style. Immortals is no different. Singh himself has described it as "Caravaggio meets Fight Club," and that's accurate for the most part, as much of the film consists of high-concept tableaux vivants of ripped ancients mincing each other to pieces in slo-mo. Renaissance painting-meets-comic strip would be another way of putting it, and I'll give Singh this: He's an extraordinary stylist who gets the best out of his production designers. The costumes in particular are fantastic, created by the recently deceased Eiko Ishioka, who's perhaps best know for her brilliant work on Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Unfortunately, eye-candy can't sweeten a bland story. That most famous of Greeks--Aristotle--knew that spectacle was the least important element of drama, but that's a lesson Hollywood has been slow to learn.
Immortals Blu-ray, Video Quality
Tomorrow, we'll have our review up of the Immortals 3D bundle--which also includes a copy of the standard Blu-ray disc--but those of you who aren't interested in the extra dimension will be pleased to know that the 2D picture is stellar. This film looks damn good on Blu-ray, to the extent that eye-candy-craving videophiles may want to check it out on that basis alone, lousy story or not. Tarsem Singh knows his way around an arresting image, and the film is filled with one immaculately composed shot after another, all gorgeously rendered in 1080p with an AVC encode. The film was shot digitally using the Panavision Genesis camera--and later converted to 3D in post--and the image is pristine, with very little noise and an exceptional level of clarity. The fine armor and fabric textures of the costumes; the pores, creases, and individually visible five-o'clock-shadow hairs of the actors' facial features; the resolution of the digitally-inserted backdrops--it all looks fantastic. Color is wonderfully vivid as well. Skin tones are perfectly bronzed, reds pop off the screen, the gold-plated outfits of the Olympians shimmer, and the picture is almost continuously sun-drenched in a warm yellow cast. If I have one niggling complaint about the picture, it's that the contrast is heavily shifted toward the shadows, creating black levels that sometimes obscure detail. This is partly intentional, I'm sure, but the image could stand to be a hair brighter in a few of the more impenetrably dark scenes. Otherwise, this is a stunning Blu-ray presentation, free of compression problems, encode issues--besides a few fleeting instances of moire--and other concerns.
Immortals Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The sound design? Even better. Immortals lands on Blu-ray with a maximalistic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that will rock your home theater system if you crank it up. And you'll want to. This is the kind of whiz-bang-clash-pow audio mix that makes all that money you invested in a beefy receiver and high-end speakers worth it. Immersiveness. Startling clarity. Room-shaking subwoofer engagement. Directional precision. All the audio buzzwords apply here. All 5.1 channels are utilized to create a continuously involving soundscape that complements the onscreen action perfectly. The front-and-center speakers output the expected wall of sound, and the rears supply ambient accompaniment--torrents of rain, crashing waves, screaming hawks--along with the pinpoint effects like clanging swords and rattling chains. And the explosions. Oh the explosions, with debris flying outward at you and concentric waves of LFE rumble. My bowels quake just thinking about it. If that weren't enough, the mix is filled out with a great brassy score by Trevor Morris. Dialogue can sound a bit low during a few scenes, but never to the point of distraction. (Or to the extent of docking an otherwise perfect score.) Voices are usually clean and clear, and for those who need or want them, the disc includes optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles, along with a lone Dolby Digital 5.1 French dub.
Immortals Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Immortals Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Style over substance is a charge Tarsem Singh has faced before--he directed The Cell--and it's fair to level the same accusation at him again for his latest film, Immortals, which botches Greek mythology and tries to cover up the mess with CGI gloss and 3D spectacle. (Our review of the 3D version will be up tomorrow.) The film has its share of cool visuals and cleverly choreographed fight sequences, but it just isn't entertaining otherwise. If you're in the mood for this kind of film--the revisionist mythological sword-and-sandal action epic--I'd just rewatch 300. Audio/video-quality enthusiasts may be won over the Blu-ray's stunning picture and explosive sound, but for most others this is a rental at best.
Immortals: Other Editions
Immortals Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, Mar. 5-11: Immortals Carves Out the Top Spot - March 15, 2012
Epic combat dominated the week ending on 03/11/2012; Twentieth Century Fox's action-adventure Immortals secured the top figures on both overall package media and Blu-ray-only sales charts. Last November, the picture saw modest success - not surprising, given Immortals' ...
• Immortals Blu-ray - January 10, 2012
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will bring Immortals to Blu-ray in March. This violent, heavily stylized adventure stars Henry Cavill (The Count of Monte Cristo) as Theseus, a young villager who leads the resistance against power-crazed King Hyperion ...
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