Tarsem Singh is undoubtedly a director of great visual invention, but the question remains as to whether he can alloy that creative eye to a coherent story. Immortals, his third feature as director after a background in advertising, leaves that question a little up in the air, though he undoubtedly presents a more cohesive narrative than he has in the past. Although Tarsem seems far more preoccupied with dizzying set pieces, production design, costumes and background, the story does at least make sense, even if you have to pay more attention than you would normally expect to have to for a film of this type.
It is easy to dismiss Immortals as all style and no substance and despite the elements of revenge, destiny, identity and hatred being given far shorter shrift than in something like Gladiator, it is by no means a wholly superficial film. Henry Cavill seems a little out of his depth when the more hefty dramatic and emotional scenes come along and Mickey Rourke seems content to mumble, chew the scenery and look absurd in a weird clawed cowl, but the fight scenes make sense, the CGI does not leave the action seeming weightless and although there is a lot of green screen, it is not as extensive as in 300 and so there is good sense of time and place to most of the set pieces.
All of this is not to say that the film is without its detraction of course. A supposedly stirring speech by Theseus towards the end falls flat, more Orlando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven than Gerard Butler in 300, too many of the set pieces are truncated when they should be given room to breathe and it is rarely entirely clear who is who atop Mount Olympus. The film suffers, as suggested earlier, from the director’s pre-occupation with the look of the film, when more attention should have been given to characterisation, though it is clear from our forthcoming interview with Greg Bryk (who plays the supporting character of The Monk) that this was attributable in part to the studio heads, who were no doubt keen on the current vogue for rapid-fire editing and visual spectacle over engaging story-telling. Bryk suggests that a far better, longer director’s cut lies in here somewhere and it is tempting to agree.
Not a failure or a bad film by any means, but beset by Tarsem Singh’s historical shortcomings, which he will need to address with the upcoming Mirror Mirror.
Extras: “It’s no myth” documentary, looking at the roots of Greek myth and legend, an alternate opening scene, two alternate endings and a number of deleted scenes (all rightly so). For the Blu-ray, there will also be a selection of stills from the Immortals Comic Book (Gods & Heroes) and a number of featurettes looking at fighting training, the director’s vision, the score and other elements.