Much has been made of the fact that Immortals is the new 300, the new Clash of the Titans and as such a joyless update of any old sword and sandal epic worth its green-screen. It’s true, just like its spiritual forebears, Immortals is almost uniformly devoid of recognisable pulse, expending disproportionately more effort on style and perfectly glistening sinew than it does on such elements as character and story. Essentially a mash-up of the most recognisable Greek myths (will someone please retire the poor Minotaur), Immortals may even boast the most derivative plot to date.
What most critics are downplaying, however, is just how striking Tarsem Singh’s film actually is. While a particularly impressive example of set design or gorgeously composed set piece might be little substitute for an involving story, some of Immortals’ imagery goes beyond petty window dressing. Without wishing to sound conceited, there were moments during Immortals that verged on visual poetry: taken out of context, the images of writhing titans and herculean struggle verge on artistry – accidentally (very clearly accidentally) drawing comparison to such formalist works as Sergei Paradjanov’s The Colour of Pomegranates – unceremoniously spoiled by the Hollywood necessity for stock characters, truncated subtext and a creaky, uninspiring plot.
Immortals is intended as a tent-pole movie, however, and it is in this vein that director Tarsem Singh fails unequivocally; while it may boast a commendably unabashed portrait of the gods, and a cinematography that goes beyond 300’s chroma key technique, it lacks the personality of the infinitely more enjoyable Thor. Henry Cavill is more muscle than man; Freida Pinto a love interest before she is an individual and Micky Rourke, well, Micky Rourke is Iron Man 2’s Ivan Vanko transposed to ancient Greece. For all the slow motion, stereoscopy and needless grew, this couldn’t be any less engaging if it tried. There are no stakes, nobody to invest in and nothing to distract you from the encroaching tedium.
This really is encapsulated in the final conflict, in which King Hyperion’s needlessly colossal army lines up outside the Hellenic stronghold, the bow in their grasp. As Freida Pinto heroically sits the ensuing battle out, leaving Theseus to give one of the least convincing speeches ever written by a professional writer, we are left to watch as an endless reel of extras massacre one another to absolutely no effect. Even when our heroes – Theseus and the suddenly active Olympians – do battle with Hyperion and the Titans respectively, the fight scenes are so lacking in stakes that you really don’t care that Heaven is apparently short of a few gods. It’s not exactly what myths are made of.
While Immortals is unfortunately guilty of just about every criticism you are likely to throw at it – the glacial pacing, the hand-carved performances and the general inconsequence of its ending – there is one thing which ultimately marks it out as more than simply 300-lite and Clash of the Titans reheated: a genuine degree of artistic merit. A Greecian statue writ large, Immortals is as beautiful as is it is lifelessly rendered in stone.