Immortals (2011) Review: “Story Structure Is Overrated”

So, as you can tell, we’re sitting on a plotline hanging loosely off the skeleton of your average “Hero’s Journey.” The characters themselves are defined by their costumes and “roles,” because not much else is given to shed any light on their personalities.

Take the thief, for example. He’s blunt and likes to steal things.

Or the monk who worships the oracle. He’s devout and contemplative – you know, like a monk.

Finally, take the nameless ally whose head is shaved. He’s dead.

And if you dare call that a spoiler, did you honestly think that they’d let the character who has nothing to say live toward the end? What? Wedge Antilles? I don’t even know what that is.

So, in essence, we now have a film that doesn’t have much to glom onto in terms of storytelling or identification. You see, the more interesting, or at the very least, the more human and believable a character is, the more we find ourselves rooting for them, and hoping they make it through their quest alive. We like seeing them overcome adversity because, hey, they’re our new friends, and friends cheer each other on, man.

And that’s where that “execution” thing I mentioned earlier comes in handy. Act 2 is universally the part of the film that gets the momentum going again, and gives us a neat surge of energy and tension come Act 3.

In this case, Act 2 is basically the soggy middle of an undercooked cake. You wish you could eat around it, but you can’t, because this is a film, and the analogy I just used doesn’t make any sense.

Immortals (2011)
Who needs personality when you can look this fabulous?

When you begin to develop the characters and try to get a feel for who they are, things kind of just run dry, because people in Immortals are flatter than pancakes. Human emotion = captivation. Around this point in the film, this problem becomes unnervingly clear. You might get bored and fall asleep, or you’ll just lose interest in the whole ordeal. When the climactic battle rolls around during the climax, you just won’t care. It really is a pity, because the final 30 minutes are positively epic, and in some cases, you may find yourself wishing that you could get into it more.

And yet, many of you probably won’t mind. Immortals is a visual feast, and if you’re not too high-maintenance, you’ll find yourself gorging on beauteous shot after shot. The whole thing looks like an honest depiction of an ancient Greek epic drama, whereas even the strongest of men could be deemed as “gorgeous.”

From the slummy-hole-in-wall village to the arid, smoky battlefields, Immortals hits us with fantastic usage of CGI a la Sin City or 300, better yet, it’s got plenty more variety than the latter, and better violence, to boot.

In fact, that’s where the whole “being raised on vanquishing your virtual enemies” comes in handy. Director Tarsem Singh must have downed a handful of amphetamines and marathoned the God of War series, because when the gods do show up, heads don’t roll, they explode from blunt force trauma.

Expect many giddy, inappropriate laughs from people just like you and me.

Though there’re plenty of splendid decapitations that grace the first half, things sort of burst into action as soon as Ares shows up. With a hammer in hand, and a lame helmet upon his head, he exhibits lightning fast speed and raw, boundless strength. Everyone he hits turns into giblets, and suddenly, any notions you had of this film being boring become forcefully challenged. Occasionally, the 3-D confounds things because of the awkward transition of characters leaping from the background to the foreground, but scenes like these are few and far between. The best portions of action are akin to the more fast-paced Hong-Kong cinema of the ’80s, except everybody’s made of plasticine.

Immortals (2011)
THIS IS SPARTAAA- whoa wait.

Now, I know what you’re thinking;

“Hey Norm, the hell you talkin’ about; violence is good? I thought you were deeper than that, man.”

Ah, how wrong you are, my stupid, stupid friend. You see, the usual pandering violence that we’ve chowed down on since Rambo hit it big is noticeably starting to get stale. It’s all the same type of insecurely machismo “biceps and guns” sort of thing. Take whatever flavor-of-the week action star you could find, which today would be Jason Statham, give him a pair of aviators, a gun, and a reason to go on a rampage, and you got yourself a movie. Usually it’s all done through quick cuts, shaky-cam and various other banalities.

Crank did a cool deconstruction of the trope. Then, 300 came along, injected it with a pre-modern science masculinity and decided to go to town.

Immortals is picking up where 300 left off, and my God, is it ever wonderful. People are lacerated, bisected, and crushed into a fine paste. It all brings new meaning to the term “godly.” It’s something that everyone should see, if not because of the whole video game thing, but just to see the steps that are being taken in terms of filmmaking.

Film is a visual medium, and you can do a lot with it. People like fighting, so why not see what you can do with that?

The Verdict: [rating:3]

Immortals is by no means perfect, and even the costumes can get a little iffy at times – romanticized cartoon headwear just doesn’t translate as well when it’s worn by real people. At its core, though, Immortals is more than just a commercialized attempt at eye candy. It represents an effort made to spur the imagination, to push things further in terms of just what we can have people experience when they go to the movies. Familiar settings and premises can be good, and they’re goddamn definite sellers, but sometimes, something new can have almost twice the impact – even if the execution isn’t anything more than “medium.”


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