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Sunday, March 4, 2012

IMMORTALS -- DVD review by porfle

"From the producers of 300" say the ads, but it looks more like they got together with the producers of CLASH OF THE TITANS (the Harryhausen version, that is--I haven't seen the remake) and the producers of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy to create the gleefully bombastic IMMORTALS (2011).  It's one of those cheesy but rousing sword 'n' sandal epics in which gods tinker with the fate of mankind from the lofty heights of Mt. Olympus while mortals slice each other up in the mud and the crud and the blood.

Mickey Rourke, SIN CITY's ever-popular "Marv", is an inspired choice to play surly bad-ass King Hyperion, whose goal is to find the mythical Epirus Bow and use it to let loose the Titans on the Hellenic people of ancient Greece.  These fearsome figures, the remnants of a pre-history battle with Zeus and the other Greek gods, are now imprisoned deep within Mount Tartaros and waiting to be released by someone crazy enough to do it. 

Cue Rourke's ruthless, anti-social warrior king, who makes the Spartans look like Mr. Rogers as he kills his way through various holy temples in search of both the magic bow and a beautiful virgin oracle named Phaedra (Frieda Pinto) who may know where it is.  Only the sword-slinging peasant Theseus (Henry Cavill), trained from boyhood by Zeus in the guise of an old man (John Hurt), can stop Hyperion's hordes with the help of Phaedra, the irreverent soldier Stavros (Stephen Dorff), and the people of a great walled city built at the foot of Mount Tartaros. 

From the first scenes, IMMORTALS takes itself very seriously and tries to huff and puff itself up into epic proportions at every turn.  Most of the time it succeeds at this in a comic-book kind of way that makes its classical pretensions more fun than off-putting.  Aided in no small part by an abundance of sweeping CGI panoramas and the kind of speed-up/slow-down battle scenes typical of 300 and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand", with hulking bodies alternately floating through the air and smashing into each other amidst showers of bullet-time blood, it's the sort of big, dumb entertainment that revels in its own melodramatic excesses. 

The trouble is, we're so used to this kind of thing by now that it no longer impresses the way it once did back when THE TWO TOWERS' "Battle of Helm's Deep" seemed so amazing.  Seeing a million warriors in formation or mixing it up with a million other warriors just makes us think "Huh...look at all the CGI." 

Still, Hyperion's army storming the walled city and clashing with the forces defending it does manage to generate a good deal of excitement, especially in the close combat shots with real actors and stuntmen going at it hot and heavy.  (The final death duel between Cavill and Rourke is a highlight.)  Even in the later sequence in which the gods battle the Titans, who for the most part resemble a bunch of souped-up digital Orcs, the CGI is meticulously well-rendered enough to keep us involved. 

Speaking of gods, they really burst through the dark, somber tone of IMMORTALS whenever they show up onscreen.  Forbidden by Zeus to intercede directly in favor of Theseus and our other heroes, these glittering gold-garbed "beautiful people" of Mt. Olympus can't resist beaming down into the middle of certain conflicts and raising holy hell with the bad guys. 

Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) does a Superman swan dive into the ocean to create a tidal wave when Theseus' men are surrounded on a ship; later, Zeus (Luke Evans) himself and the rest of the gods, including the lovely Athena (Isabel Lucas), wade into the Titans in their gilded battle armor like a band of super-cool superheroes.

The DVD from 20th-Century Fox Home Entertainment is in 1.85:1 widescreen with English 5.1 Dolby Digital and French Dolby Surround sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of a featurette ("It's No Myth"), deleted scenes, and a trailer.  Features listed for the Blu-Ray are:

--Alternate Opening
--–    Young Theseus
--Two Alternate Endings
--–    This Is Our Last Embrace
--–    Theseus Kills Hyperion
--Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes
--–    It’s No Myth
--–    Caravaggio Meets Fight Club: Tarsem’s Vision
--Deleted Scenes
--Immortals: Gods & Heroes (Graphic Novel)

Although it takes awhile to build up enough of a head of steam to start being the epic it wants to be, IMMORTALS eventually reaches the sort of heights that a hokey gods-and-warriors flick can aspire to.  In that way, it comes close to being a successor to the old Harryhausen mythology tales, updated with ultra-violence, a somewhat more adult sensibility, and hot-and-cold running CGI. 

Buy it at
3D Blu-Ray
Blu-Ray Triple-Play


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