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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/6/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/12/2012
Like many critics, I often question why Hollywood can't tap into more original ideas for their movies. There a lot of original scripts out there, and there's no reason to keep recycling the same movie over and over again. Having said that, there are plenty of classic tales which can serve as inspirations for movies, and none is more fruitful than Greek mythology. These ancient tales feature abundant characters and intricate stories which provide both action and drama. They have served as the basis for many movies in the past, but there's no reason why there can't be another mythology-based movie, right? Well, if Immortals is any indication, the Greek mythology movie is dead.
Set in Ancient Greece, Immortals opens by telling us the story of a war between the gods and the titans. The gods were triumphant and the titans were sealed away inside of Mt. Tartarus. Only the Epirus Bow could free the titans from their prison. The mad King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) is determined is find this lost relic, as he wants to see the gods overthrown. He kidnaps Phaedra (Freida Pinto), a "virgin oracle" who may know the location of the bow. We then meet Theseus (Henry Cavill), a peasant who lives in a small mountain village. Having been trained by an old man (John Hurt), Theseus is a great fighter. However, being a peasant, he is not a soldier and when Hyperion's army marches on the village, Theseus is captured. Joined by fellow slave Stavros (Stephen Dorff), Theseus escapes from his captors, along with Phaedra. Now, Theseus finds himself on a mission to stop Hyperion and save the world.
As mentioned above, there have been other movies based on Greek mythology. The two which immediately come to mind areClash of the Titans (the original) and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The former treated the material with reverence, presenting a sober, yet exciting view of this world. The latter took the old tales and placed them in a modern setting, creating a new, vibrant take on the genre. Immortals attempts to meld these two ideas -- setting the story in the past, but adding a modern flare -- and the result is a huge mess.
Immortals comes from director Tarsem Singh (who simply goes by Tarsem), who made a name for himself over two decades ago with the music video for R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion". Since that time, he's made The Cell (2000) and The Fall (2006), and he's gained a reputation for having a great visual sense. He brings that style to Immortals, but it all backfires. For starters (and there will be more on this in the technical portion of the review), this movie is far too dark. I can't even begin to imagine how this looked in 3D in theaters, but here, there are many shots which are nearly completely black. This is combined with the fact that Tarsem has chosen to populate the movie with Earth-tones, blacks, and grays. The whole thing looks like newspaper pulp and there's nothing visually appealing about the color scheme here. I have to assume that Tarsem had an impact on the production design and costumes as well...which are ridiculous. The oracles wear hats which look like lampshades from a vintage store. Hyperion sports a helmet which resembles a shark's mouth, but with bunny ears on top. Is that supposed to be intimidating?
So, if Tarsem can't succeed in the visual department, can this movie do anything right? Not really. The story of Theseus and Hyperion is an interesting one, but the screenplay by Charley and Vlas Parlapanides muddies things quite a bit. We get a lot of characters thrown at us, but we learn little of their motivations. If you look at the plot, it's very simple and it's clear that they went out of their ways to make it more complex, but this only made it confounding. Some of the early action scenes are interesting, but it soon becomes clear that Tarsem is a one-trick pony who goes back to the slow-motion trough one too many times. (Zack Snyder called. He's jealous.) The most mind-numbing part of the film comes when the titans are revealed. I'm not giving anything by saying that Hyperion is able to free the titans -- it wouldn't be much of a movie if this didn't happen. But, when he does, we learn that the titans are simply normal-sized humans with gray skin. Perhaps we've been spoiled by monsters like The Kraken, but this was definitely a letdown. And, for some reason, this part of the film gets ultra-violent, as the titans explode in a blood mess when they are struck.
Immortals is so bad that it's makes 2010'sClash of the Titans look good. The movie is dark, ugly, and pointless. And Mickey Rourke mumbling his way through his role while constantly eating fruit certainly doesn't do the movie any favors. With Wrath of the Titans debuting in a few weeks and a Percy Jackson sequels supposedly underway, it looks like we'll be getting more Greek mythology movies and they can only go up from here.
Immortals teaches us how to lose our psychic abilities on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. As mentioned above, this transfer is too dark. In fact, this is by far the darkest transfer from a major studio that I've ever seen. I immediately became convinced that my TV was dying, that's how dark it is. There were several shots where I literally couldn't make out what was happening. If you must watch this, watch it in a room with no lights whatsoever. The brighter scenes show that the image is sharp and clear, showing only a trace amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. The level of detail is good and the depth is excellent in some shots. But, it's hard to get past the fact that nothing could be seen at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. This track is the complete opposite of the visuals, as it's very impressive. The stereo effects are well-done, bringing to life sounds happening to the left and right of the screen. The surround channels are very active during the action scenes, and we certainly feel like we are in the middle of the action. Subwoofer effects are wall-shaking good, driving home each punch.
The Immortals Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. "It's No Myth" (5 minutes) combines comments on mythology from experts on the subject which are intercut with scenes from the movie. While they are mentioning things like Theseus, Zeus, and titans, it doesn't feel like they are saying anything that has to do with the movie. There's a lot of talking here, but not much information. "Caravaggio Meets Fight Club: Tarsem's Vision" (20 minutes) is a making-of featurette which focuses specifically on Tarsem's work on the movie. We see how the visual effects and stunts were brought together to work in Tarsem's look. This also looks at the score from Trevor Morris. We get an ALTERNTAE OPENING (12 minutes), which goes into more detail in setting up the film's central story, and two ALTERNATE ENDINGS, one 9-minutes, which isn't that different from the in the movie, and the other 4-minutes, which has the same outcome, but done in a different way. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. Obviously, these are all brief. "Immortals: Gods & Heroes" gives us a look at a comic book adaptation. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long