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Swords, Sandals and Rourke: Immortals is what theaters were invented for 

Immortals is pure cinematic eye candy.

click to enlarge immortals_2.jpg
I'm probably breaking every rule in the critic handbook here, but I have to recommend Immortals, even though it misses the boat on some things "good" movies should contain. I could moan about subtext and character motivations until the cows come home, but if you've seen the trailer for Immortals, then you know exactly what you're getting into: It's Clash of the Titans (the original) for the 300 crowd. If you're looking for something deeper than that, then I'm sure J. Edgar will top off your "grown-up" movie tank, but if you shell out the dollars for this, then expect to feel like a little kid again.

I think the reason for the lack of subtext and motivation is due to the fact that the story itself is boilerplate hero's journey stuff. Boy leads simple life, Boy's simple life is destroyed by all powerful evil, Boy goes on journey to find mystical artifact to destroy said evil, Boy meets girl who will probably be held hostage by evil, Boy finds artifact and faces his destiny against evil and might possibly win if his heart is pure, his aim is true and his muscles are all greased up and flexed. When the remake of Clash of the Titans tried to pull off the hero's journey it failed because of three main flaws: 1) The hero was Sam Worthington, who is a black hole of charisma, 2) The script was written by people who should have their pencils taken away and 3) It was directed with such a lack of vision and style that it felt like a sad facsimile of something that could be awesome.

The reason why Immortals mostly nails the hero's journey is also threefold: 1) The hero is Henry Cavil (our future Superman), who has an actual surplus of charisma (seriously, he could give some to Worthington, Chris O'Donnell and Keanu Reeves, while still having enough to make me want to have his babies, 2) The villain is Mickey Rourke, who brings so much pathos and weight to the role that you forget he's underwritten and 3) Director Tarsem is an absolute visionary who creates images in his movies that become seared into your retinas. I mean, shit, he's good enough to only have one name, like Madonna or Gallagher.

Tarsem fills his frames with such texture and color that it feels like you've opened a portal into a painter's mind in order to watch him dream. The muted color palette (standard in fantasy and superhero movies of the last decade) is cast off here without ceremony. There's still a healthy amount of grays and blacks, but when contrasted by the silver and gold of the gods and the burnt orange hue of the women, the film feels more visually alive than any of the dull and dreary fantasy epics of the last few years. Then to fill these incredibly colorful and imaginative vistas with some of the best action scenes of the past decade almost makes the film too good to be true. It's enough to make the fairly rote script invisible at times as you struggle to catch your breath while marveling at things you've never seen before come alive in front of you.

So maybe I'll have to burn my critic's credentials and unlearn the secret critic handshake, but I don't care. I loved the Immortals for most of its running time. Yes, it sags in the middle and the lead female character is useless for the final half of the film, but oh my god is this movie pretty. If you go to the theater to be transported to another place and are able to turn your brain halfway off, then you'll get to experience a visual work of art that only wants to service your pleasure nodes. But if you get hung up on things like logic, reason and structure (like I'm supposed to) then you'll probably just sit there, pick apart its flaws and miss out on getting swept away by a wildly unique vision of a hero's journey. I should really try to be more of a snob, but I'm too busy giggling and remembering what it felt like to just enjoy something for what it is instead of what it's supposed to be.


3 and 12 Stars

Starring Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Luke Evans, Frieda Pinto, Stephen Dorff and Isabel Lucas

Directed by Tarsem

Rated R


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