Movie Commentary: 'Immortals'

Michael O. Varhola

Immortals, the stunning epic fantasy that opens today, 11-11-11, is perhaps one of the most terrific fantasy films of the last decade. In part this is because of its non-stop action but it goes beyond this in a number of key ways. This movie follows the struggle of heroic Theseus (Henry Cavill) and his companions (Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto) to obtain a magic bow and defeat the depraved villain King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). Seeing the film in the "Real 3D" format only makes it more striking. 
 
The first thing that will likely appeal to many viewers, if only on a subconscious level, is that the land where the story takes place bears no resemblance to New Zealand or South Africa, stunningly beautiful locales to be sure, but overused as the backdrop for fantasy worlds. The scenery also does not look that much like Greece, either, but then no one is pretending that this is historic fiction or a documentary. The art and architecture presented in the film is also strikingly unique, drawing upon elements that run the gamut from the Romantic-era art of Lawrence Alma-Tadema to post industrialism (although I found the latter somewhat distracting). 
 
One refreshing change from other films that draw upon classical mythology is the characterization of the Olympian gods, who are generally portrayed as peevish fops with togas and British accents who squabble amongst themselves. In Immortals they are powerful, active characters, who are unified in their struggle against the demonic Titans. 
 
While Immortals is a great film it falls short of perfection in a number of minor ways. The most significant of these is the theme of Theseus being a despised "peasant" who must struggle to prove himself to the snobbish elite of his community, blah, blah, blah; this is so tired and overdone and smacks of nothing but formulaic script writing.
 
It also bears mentioning that the Theseus of mythology was first prince and then king of Athens, and the movie thus draws upon his story cycle but does not follow it in any substantive way. That is OK with me, and there is no canon in classical mythology so it would be OK with the ancient storytellers as well, but some purists might end up being disappointed on that account. The classical story this film comes much closer to telling is that of the Titanomachy, the battle between Gods and Titans described in Hesiod'sTheogony
 
I am admitedly, however, splitting hairs here, and most people will probably not even notice the flaws I am describing and will instead simply enjoy the heroic adventure and action that are the lifeblood of Immortals
 
Comments are welcome, especially from anyone who has seen this film and has an opinion about it one way or the other!