November 11, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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IMMORTALSWatch It At Home – Brainless, Violent and Weirdly Spectacular


There’s no question that the director Tarsem Singh has an eye.  Singh started as a director of commercials and music videos–his most famous is probably REM’s “Losing My Religion”–and his features The Cell and The Fall both had striking, memorable visuals.  Both also shared idiotic, barely comprehensible screenplays, and that brings us to his new film IMMORTALS.

Immortals is no more, and often quite a bit less, than a rip-off of 300, complete with CG sets, nominally heterosexual heroes (who caress each other’s mostly bare bodies with their eyes when they’re not chopping them apart), and R-rated levels of flying, bloody heads as well as other body parts.  (This time in 3D!)  300, though, had some narrative punch, a few actors who knew what they were doing (Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West), and a relatively simple narrative point.  Immortals seems to have been written (the script is credited to Charles and Vlas Parlapanides) on the back of the same packet that contained designer hallucinogenics ingested by the director and his designers.

Immortals does have a clearly identifiable hero and villain.  The former is Theseus (Henry Cavil, soon to be seen as Zach Snyder’s Superman), a humble but extremely buff peasant who is apparently only able to function with his shirt off.  His opponent, sort of Ancient Greece’s Blofeld, is King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, chewing scenery like it’s 15 minutes before closing time in a Vegas buffet), who gains possession of some kind of magic bow that can shoot an infinite number of phony-looking CG cartoon arrows into an infinite number of computer-generated extras.  With this weapon, he plans to take over not just the world, but also the realm of the gods, here portrayed as a group of extremely bad actors  (Luke Evans, Isabel Lucas, Kellan Lutz, Steve Byers, Corey Sevier), who look down at the earthly goings-on while acting like aristocrats in a collectivist propaganda video, occasionally unleashing their own fake-looking CG powers to help humanity out.  Also, there’s Frieda Pinto as a seer who can tell the future only as long as she remains a virgin, and you don’t have to watch Henry Cavil carve up bad guys with his shirt off for long to figure out how that’s going to end up.


Once you forget about Immortals making any sense at all, and the flood of blood and hacked-up bodies stops registering, there is a loony pleasure to be had from the movie.  Singh is no storyteller, and little things like “credibility” mean little to him, but he sure as hell knows how to create an image.  Working with cinematographer Brendan Galvin, production designer Tom Foden, costume designer Eiko Ishioka, and an enormous visual effects team, Singh creates a universe of precipitous cliffs, endless tunnels, impossible magic prisons and outfits that look like Halloween in West Hollywood.  None of it is in any way believable or real, but it’s often quite gorgeous to look at.

Actors performing on digital sets need special care from their director, since they don’t have the usual ability to know what will be sharing the frame with them.  Clearly Singh has little interest in such matters; the stars are merely figures moving in his digital landscapes and wearing his outrageous costumes.  So it’s unfair to put too much weight on the performances on view or lack thereof, but we can say that neither Cavil nor Pinto seems to be a self-starter when it comes to their acttng abilities, and that the cast members playing the gods were hopefully well paid.

Immortals is ultimately boring, as any work of abstract art is likely to be after staring at it for 110 minutes.  Viewed in short bursts, however, when flicking through cable channels, its sometimes dazzling style could be seen to best advantage.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."