'Immortals' is a visually stunning and well-acted film that ultimately collapses in on itself because of incoherent storytelling, slow plotting, and lack of clear stakes. The story begins with a nightmare. Phaedra (Freida Pinto) is an Oracle, who sees visions of the future, and this one is terrifying. The ruthless and destructive King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) is roaming the land destroying kingdoms in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, which was used by The Gods to defeat the Titans and lock them in the bowels of Mt. Tartarus. In Phaedra's dream, Hyperion succeeds and unleashes the Titans on humanity, dooming all.
Next, we meet Theseus (Henry Cavill), who is the bastard son of a poor woman everyone in the village hates. When word of Hyperion's advancing army comes to the village, the rich and non-bastard families evacuate to the "impenetrable" fortress at Mt. Tartarus while leaving the peasants, the sick, and that bastard Theseus and his mother, which really sucks because the next morning Theseus goes for a walk and is completely surprised to see Hyperion arrive and torch the city, killing and enslaving those who remain. Theseus makes a badass one-man stand against Hyperion's men, but they capture Theseus so he can watch Hyperion cut his Mother's throat. Luckily, Hyperion orders Theseus to be a slave so he can get all revengetastic later.
Hyperion moves on in his quest for the bow, marching toward Tartarus where he's going to kill all the… Greeks? I’m not really sure, I got confused. Let's say Greeks. Anyway, Rourke is actually fantastically evil in the role, with an over the top performance that manages to be grounded and terrifying. Hyperion is going to become Immortal by becoming a legend. He's going to take over the world, Genghis Kahn style, by raping his way into the bloodlines of all he conquers. He also has a lot of nice claw-inspired helmets, which only makes sense if you watch the alternate opening where his origin is explained (or, I suppose, if you've read Greek mythology).
Meanwhile, Theseus becomes a slave and nearly dies while crossing the desert, but escapes with Phaedra because they bump into each other, and she sees it is his destiny to fight Hyperion. Phaedra and a small group of slaves kill a bunch of guards that were doing a great job of not paying attention to all the people plotting against them, and save Theseus'. Now, Theseus wants to find Hyperion to get his revenge on, but Phaedra has a bunch of detours first… you know, for destiny's sake. They first go to the ocean where they get on a boat, avoid a tidal wave of oil, and then back to the village to bury Theseus' Mother, where low and behold, they find the Epirus Bow!
Theseus plans to find Hyperion at the Mt. Tartarus Fortress, but first he's also going to instantly fall in love with Phaedra in one scene (that's Freida Pinto's…side boob) and walk into an obvious trap (which he calls out as a trap) and loose the damn Epirus Bow to Hyperion's snarling pet Hyena. Now Theseus needs to get his ass to the fortress to lead the army of a bunch of guys who hate him because he's a bastard, but who instantly promote him to leader. And defeat the guy who has the most dangerous weapon ever!
Oh, and I almost forgot, The Gods aren't allowed to get involved with human endeavors, except Zeus has been pretending to be an old man all of Theseus' life to train him and get him ready for his destiny. And, all the Gods step in at all of the important moments, even though they get mad and kill each other for doing so. Or something. It looks awesome, whatever's going on.
I'm reading over the above paragraphs, and I have no idea if that makes sense. I'm sure I missed some details and I haven't read my Greek mythology in a while, but this movie is a mess. The principal actors are pretty great; Henry Cavill will hopefully make for an interesting Superman. I was generally affected by Theseus' outsider status and the crushing fear of trying to live up to a "save the world" destiny. But the story seems to skip around so much, it has no sense of pacing or flow. Hyperion has some amazing speeches, but after crossing vast amounts of land, seems to sit on his ass the whole movie talking to a spy that's not really any help. Also, there's no real reason why an entire army would suddenly follow Theseus into battle.
Then there are the movie-universe-rules issues. Gods are pretty hard to identify with as characters, especially when they have no scenes to explain who they are as people. There's no way to connect with them, and then they jump in and out of the action whenever they want. Theseus isn't a very successful character because he fails at everything -- which is certainly okay for a protagonist in his journey -- but after a few God experiences, there aren't anymore stakes. And, we don't really know why the Titans are evil (again, we're talking in context of the story) and what they are capable of.
I'm sorry to bash on the movie like this; I really wanted to like it. There's so much amazing art on display here, thanks to the visual effects and set design. Director Tarsem, who recently made the stunning and dreamlike 'The Fall', is a visual maestro and there seems to be a lot of complexity to the world he's building from the ground up. There are some similarities to '300' for sure, but no movie universe looks quite like a Tarsem film. It's really stunning, and not nearly as empty as the louder, dumber blockbusters have been churning out. I admire all the effort and intent here.
Sadly, though, the film is a muddled mess, and somewhat boring because it spreads itself too thin with Gods subplots and forgets to ground the threats against humanity with emotion.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox has released two different 'Immortals' Blu-ray editions. Reviewed here is the 2D-only, two-disc edition, which includes one Region-A locked BD50 and one Digital Copy disc. There is also a three-disc release, which includes an additional 3D Blu-ray. Pre-Menu trailers include 'Haywire' and 'Machine Gun Preacher'.
'Immortals' debuts on Blu-ray (in two dimensions) with a shiny, highly detailed, but somewhat flawed AVC MPEG-4 encode that is framed in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
For a movie produced in a filmmaking style similar to '300', where HD footage is expanded with CGI backdrops, 'Immortals' has a lot to live up to in terms of its own potential. It generally succeeds. The film's bronze color palate sparkles and detail and texture are resplendent. Makeup and scar tissue effects are clear and realistic. Also, Tarsem and production designer Thom Foden's ornate set designs pop off the screen. Visual effects waffle between stylized and photo real, but unique designs (like the statues holding up Tartarus) are a visual feast and delicious in 1080p.
However, the overall picture seems to be washed out and flat. Black levels are strong at times (such as the scene where everyone is covered with oil after the tidal wave), but is generally a dark grey rather than a true black. This seems to wash out some colors and flattens the movie in some scenes. Further, scenes that take place at (what I'm assuming is) Mount Olympus are ripe with bad roto-scoping. Characters stand out like cardboard at odd angles, you can see thick black lines around their limbs. Lastly, and less of a problem, there are a few instances of banding and digital aliasing (around the dark holes Titans' "cage"). I wonder whether or not the 3D production has an overall effect on the 2D-only version of the film. It shouldn't, but the experience is much like another native-3D film, 'A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas', where my guess is that the 3D version of the film looks better than the 2D one.
Overall, despite its flaws, 'Immortals' is a winner on Blu-ray, with eye-popping visuals and bold colors.
The 'Immortals' 5.1 English DTS-HD MA soundtrack packs a powerful, guttural punch, delivering room shaking LFE fit for the Gods, but ultimately lacks the refinement and dynamic range of a 5-Star audio title.
'Immortals' is at its best when it’s a roaring maelstrom of deep bass and surround activity. I'm sure a few scenes -- like the tidal wave and the crushing climax, which features hordes of soldiers, fighting Gods, and an exploding mountain -- will end up as demo material for those who appreciated the film more than I did. Arrows fly and swords clash in all directions and when all six channels combine in one, those with the most capable systems may fall out of their chairs (literally, if you also have D-Box Motion Code seating).
Despite the film's power, and energy, it lacks dynamic range. This issue will mostly like affect some more than others; I'm rarely a self-defined audiophile, but my favorite tracks tend to be rich with detail all through the auditory spectrum. 'Immortals' is missing something, almost as if track is compressed. Further, the sound design itself seems a tad rough. One example of this is, when people get skewered and blood pops out, the "squish" sound effect is overtly loud and sounds more like an "effect" than an auditory representation (however stylized) of screen action. Lastly, Dialog is crystal clear throughout, but when volume is adjusted to hear it, music and effects levels are bombastic.
Overall, the audio is better than the video, but not quite as good as recent multichannel, lossless surround soundtracks.
'Immortals' comes with a nice collection of behind the scenes features and deleted scenes. While the cut material seems to have been tossed for good reason, wannabe filmmakers should find the variables in script and edition decisions informative. Fans will hopefully be delighted by the extra information, though a warning in advance: please lower your volume before watching the Alternate or Deleted Scenes. The audio is highly compressed and distorted.
'Immortals' is a visually stunning but flawed movie experience, one that I was unable to connect with on an emotional level. For those who enjoyed the film, the Blu-ray debut offers strong video and a powerful lossless surround sound experience, despite a few flaws, and a nice selection of behind-the-scenes supplements. If you're planning to buy the movie, but don't care for 3D, this is the edition for you. If you're into 3D, you'll probably want to pick up the three-disc Blu-ray 3D release. If you're wondering whether or not to check out 'Immortals' on Blu-ray for the first time, I would suggest giving it a rent before purchasing it blindly. Who knows, it might work better for you than it did for me.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.