Movie Review: Immortals (Nov 11, 2011)

I believe, until I start making enough money to pay bills AND feel comfortable, I will not be able to review anything new or freshly released. I’ll most likely review Dark Knight Rises sometime next April. haha

Immortals was a movie that I approached with much trepidation: I had seen a lot of the movies post-300 as knockoffs trying to re-create the movie with different stories, like superheroes being remade. I saw Hyperion’s ridiculous helmet and thought it would be the kind of movie I yawned at halfway through.

I didn’t know the director before watching, but have since done some research. Indian-born Tarsem Singh is known for The Cell and The Fall, two brilliant movies (in my opinion) with great visuals and story.

Quick overview of the movie: Evil King Hyperion (played by Mickey Rourke) wants to free the Titans to restart a war on the Olympians. He has no sympathy for humanity, and seeks the Epirus bow, some legendary weapon that can break the Titans’ bonds. Theseus, a peasant (in the movie) chosen by Zeus to be a champion, must find his inner fire to resist Hyperion, and with the help of a thief and an oracle that sees the future, he wages war in spite of everyone’s resistance to him due to his being a “peasant.”

First off–and this is something a lot of reviewers don’t understand–this is a retelling. From a mythological point of view, everything’s wrong with this movie. (spoilers) Zeus doesn’t kill other gods. Theseus wasn’t a peasant, or a bastard son. Phaedra, the oracle, was a princess in the original text.

This is a Greek myth told through an Indian’s eyes. Just like The Fall was an Epic Quest retold through an Indian’s eyes. Much like watching five Hulk remakes (where’s Edward Norton? Why can’t he jump ten miles high? Blasphemy!), two Batman remakes (This doesn’t feel like a comic book! Blasphemy!), two Spiderman remakes (Spiderman wasn’t a high school kid! He shot his own webs! He wasn’t some emo little kid! Blasphemy!), watching an ancient Greek myth being retold through Eastern (and, possibly, Hindu) eyes is absolutely brilliant. The script-writers were American, so I’ll expend some critique to their lack of research and continuity (Stravos is, apparently, a Christian name. It shouldn’t exist 1800 years before Christ).

Anyone who’s read anything from the Bhagavad-Gita will see parallels. The myths in the Gita and Greek myths are so similar, when I saw the end of this movie, I started laughing so hard it hurt. Why? Tarsem painted Greek gods exactly as Hindu gods are painted. Perfectly. Now, I’m not saying he didn’t screw up a lot of Western mythology. He did. But he did it to tie the two beliefs together. Yet, everyone (who reviewed) missed it. If you’re a history buff and obsessed with continuity/adherence to canon, this is not the movie for you (especially since most of the weapons/armor/tools used and names of people/places didn’t exist until 500-2000 years after this Bronze Age film took place), just like Hulk remakes, Batman Remakes, etc., etc., etc. aren’t for you. The interpretation was loose. If you’re interested in a brilliantly creative movie that sheds light on an alternative culture’s perspective, I invite you to invest some time in this.

On to other elements: plot is slow, although due to the visual elements of the movie, I never found myself bored. Like looking at a series of Dali paintings, if this movie moved any faster, details would be lost, and the awe of the environment would have paled. Every scene was epic, complex, symbolic. It pulled meaning from everything.

The only issue I had with plot was near the end (spoiler), when Theseus gives his “riling” speech to his army before Hyperion’s men attacked. It was forced and obligatory, as if someone above Tarsem told him he was required to write one in. It didn’t fit. It didn’t feel believable. Perhaps it was the way the speech was spoken, or how the army reacted, or whatever. It seemed too easy. Theseus didn’t spill his guts, metaphorically.

The visuals make this movie memorable. Acting was strong, especially the character of Mickey Rourke, who delivered his trademark, badass self. Costumes were complex. Character interactions were simplified, though expected for this kind of movie.

Finally, I want to talk about the Olympians and the Titans. Another major issue that broke the movie for many “History” buffs was the way the Immortals were portrayed: Olympians in golden armor and vibrant headdresses, and Titans as bloodthirsty, primal creatures with incredible skill as warriors. Reviewers say Titans were intelligent, while these portrayed weren’t–I differ in my assessment. The way they fought was brilliant, swift, strong, like pack animals taking down larger prey. Every loss the Titans incurred, they learned from. I couldn’t imagine the alternative being any more intelligent, and I don’t know what the negative reviewers expected: conversation between Titan and Olympian? Titans trying to actually escape instead of attacking the Olympians? Titans cowering in fear of the Olympians? They were exactly as I hoped an older race of immortals to be: great hunters that killed in sheer numbers instead of dancing around and hiding. Furthermore, there’s a reason they were imprisoned in the first place, and the reason was clear in the fight.

I give this movie 4.5 out of 5; it would be 5 if Theseus’s speech didn’t make me cringe so bad.

And, as a postscript, I’m getting tired of this American perspective that everything should be through an American’s eyes. This movie was brilliant for its melding of cultures, its complications. Saying Titans weren’t like this or Phaedra wasn’t Indian or Olympians shouldn’t have been so effiminate… That’s an American perspective talking. Since nobody has a clue what the people looked like back then, and the fact that Olympians and Titans were fantasy elements, Tarsem can retell his story as he pleases. Thank God for culturally aware directors who aren’t dedicated to punching out cookie-cutter movies for the semi-educated masses to nod sagely at and say, “Mmm. T’was alright.” This world needs more movies like this.

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