Thursday, November 24, 2011
I love Greek mythology. Ever since freshmen English were we had a section devoted to the study of Zeus, Hades, and the extended pantheon of superhuman deities my imagination was captured by these magnificient, otherworldly beings who wield almost unlimited cosmic power and yet are still mired by the same unsavory inclinations toward greed, pettiness, and depravity that ensnare much of humanity. It is this inescapable human condition and the fireworks that ensue on a colossal scale that makes them so interesting to study and read about.
There have been quite a few films that have taken a crack at depicting the Greek gods in all of their overwhealming splendor, more often than not with quite underwhealming results. (Hercules in New York anyone?) The latest of these is "Immortals," a truly ambitious film that has a great deal in common with contemporary films of the same vein like 300 (yah!) and Clash of the Titans (meh) while still managing to be quite unique its own art-house, surrealist kind of way
The story centeres around a young man named Theseus who lives a quiet life with his mother in a coastal village and wants no part in a brewing conflict with the vicious sado masochistic mask wearing Heraklion army led by the ruthless and bloodthirsty king Hyperion. But it does not take long for this simple man of the land to convert to full on Rambo mode as Thesus's village is razed by the sadistic tyrant and his mother is killed in the slaughter. After escaping from slavery with the help of a virgin oracle whom he in turn helps "un-virgianize" Theseus vows to do whatever it takes to stop Hyperion in the rulars relentless quest to a acquire the mythical Epirus Bow, a weapon with the power to kill a god with which he intends to slay the immortals of Olympus themselves.
Meanwhile, the Greeks gods watch the drama unfold from above on an immaculate citadel resting in the clouds. Zeus, who, disguised as an old man, has secretly been mentoring Theseus since he was a small boy expressly forbids the other members of his heavenly host to interfere in the affairs of men but Hermes, Poseidon, etc. are beginning to get antsy at the thought of having their immortality threatened by humans and do not heed their paragon's ruling for long.
This movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The filmakers dynamic use bold colors and epic landscapes amplify the film's surreal like quality and makes one feel as if they are witnessing actual mythology unfold on screen. I really wish the overall story had measured up to the sheer awesomness displayed in the visuals but unfortunately the movie is brought down a few pegs by a flimsy, generic and cliche' ridden narrative lacking in subtance or moral ambiguety. Henry Cavill and Micky Rourke both do a fine job of portraying the film's central characters of Thesesus and King Hyperion but neither really manages to add much in the way of dimensionality to their standard, typical action piece character molds of selfless hero and megalomaniacal villain. In fact, Thesus's character arc is almost exactly like that of the main character in Clash of the Titans from his humble upbringing, to being spurned to action by the death of a loved one, initially rejecting the gods before later accepting their influence on his life. Oh, and getting the girl.
In closing, even though Immortals leaves something to be desired in terms of storytelling and characterization, the movie is worth seeing for its breathtaking depiction of the ancient world in all its savage beauty.