Action films sometimes have to make the distinction between going for an all-out assault on the audience’s sense of excitement or weaving a good story around some exciting set-pieces. Sadly, 2011 film Immortals chose another path – one that had no real ‘wow’ factor or a good story to write home about.
Immortals is a film set in ancient Greece, riffing off some mythological folklore to create a relatively complicated plot that isn’t particularly new or engaging. Years before the film, the immortals in Heaven fought a war that resulted in the winners being Gods and the losers, called Titans, being imprisoned under Mount Tartarus. This simple plot point is complicated by a weapon called the Epirus Bow, one with incredible power, being lost in the struggle and falling to Earth. Now, in the present day the evil Hyperion seeks the bow and the power that comes with it. He ransacks every village in the path of what he wants, including that of the hero of the film, Theseus. In doing so, Hyperion kills Theseus mother before him and our hero vows revenge. The Greek Gods are looking down upon this, and given Theseus’ many hardships he has had to endure in his life before now they decide to help him on his own quest. That’s where things start in Immortals and from there I think most people could guess the end.
The predictability of the film doesn’t necessarily run through the whole runtime, though. A lot of plot points of the film seem to be delivered “by chance” and it’s a lazy way of advancing the story. Theseus meets up with his love interest, Phaedra – the Virgin Oracle, in a seemingly random stopping point. Theseus finds the Epirus Bow, something no-one had managed in hundreds of years, by breaking a piece of rock for no apparent reason. It can be forgiven to an extent when you consider the characters are supernatural, but even for an action film the leaps of faith taken seem to break the suspension of disbelief.
The acting in the film typifies the sort of middle-of-the-road feel of the film. The film has got stars in it – Theseus is played by the new Superman Henry Cavill and Phaedra by Freida Pinto who shot to fame in Slumdog Millionaire – but they don’t deliver performances that are anything special. Theseus is okay, and does the job of hero well enough, but he’s not given any real points of emotion in which to score any points. Hyperion too, played by Mickey Rourke, isn’t vilified in the way he could be which undermines the audience’s support for Theseus. I’d blame the writing, as these actors can act when it’s required of them; but nothing special was needed for this film, and nothing special was given.
The most striking thing about the film is its style, which is a mixture of particularly dated CGI and a darker tone that comes naturally to films set in ancient Greece. In some scenes everything appears normal or even vaguely cinematic, but then it cuts to an overtly synthetic background or landscape that throws you out of the film completely. Honestly the most impressive feature of the film was the way in which the Gods’ combat scenes were done, with time appearing in slow-motion as they scythe and smash their way through their foes, crumbling them into dust or smattering them on a wall.
The film manages to be simple but complicated at the same time, but not in a good way. All-in-all, the film is really just a quest for Theseus to get revenge on Hyperion, which would also stop Hyperion from completing his “evil” quest. But adding in elements like the Gods deliberating on whether or not to intervene and the apparent dislike of Theseus by those in democratic charge at the gate seem to be there just to give some depth to the film.
If you haven’t seen it, there’s no real reason to go out of your way to watch Immortals. With a weak story, sub-par visual effects and bland acting it has definitely earned its place in the pantheon of generic action films.