'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 Home Entertainment unleashes 'Immortals' as a three-disc Blu-ray 3D combo pack. The first contains only the 3D version of the movie and none of the bonus material while the second is the same 2D version available day-and-date. Both are Region A locked, BD50 discs. The third is a standard-def Digital Copy. At startup, the 3D disc goes straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music "to pump you up!"
'Immortals' makes its way to the 3D Blu-ray arena with some rather disappointing results. Much of the visual, fantasy eye-candy from its 2D counterpart remains intact, with tons to look at and satisfying the wildest of imaginations. The highly-detailed, 1.85:1-framed picture reveals the smallest blemishes and pores on the faces of actors, especially during mid shots and close-ups. Mickey Rourke and John Hurt, in particular, show more wrinkles here than before. The architecture of the homes along side mountain cliffs is perfectly outlined against beautifully picturesque backdrops. We can clearly make-out every bit of grim and dirt on the costumes and outfits while the armor, peasant clothing and Hyperion's many masks remain distinct and sharply defined.
Where we start to detect some problems is in overall clarity. Being a rather dark film to begin with, the stylized photography of Brendan Galvin and the creative direction of Tarsem Singh are unfortunately squandered on the 3D technology, practically destroyed by the fact that viewers are made to wear what are essentially sunglasses. Simply put, the 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode is not at all vivid and generally lacks any vitality (made all the worse by a dull story). Contrast is terribly wanting although whites are surprisingly crisp. But brightness is right on the money except that black levels are so overwhelming that most all details within the shadows are completely lost. I had to lift my glasses often to get a better view and even make a few adjustments to my display. The color palette, which leans heavily to amber-golden yellows, isn't all that bad, but is still affected with bland, lackluster primaries throughout.
Much of this is likely the result of the post-conversion process and someone forgetting to make some added fine-tuning to the picture. As it stands, the 3D presentation is, for the most part satisfying, with a great deal of depth and a good sense of distance between foreground and background objects. There are times when actors appear to move within a three-dimensional space, and the few gimmicks used are decently convincing. The transfer should also be commended for showing almost no crosstalk whatsoever. However, since the movie was not natively filmed in 3D, the image also feels somewhat artificial during several sequences. By this, I mean there are times when items and actors look like cutouts, and a few scenes even show edge enhancement. There also some very mild, near-negligible aliasing, most noticeable at around the 1:07:30 mark when Hyperion gauges the eyes of his slave.
Overall, 'Immortals' debuts unto Blu-ray with a disappointing 3D presentation.
On the audio front, the mythological fantasy movie puts on a much better show. Personally, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn't quite deliver that knockout punch I'd expect from such explosive, imaginative visuals. The issue is with a lack of envelopment and a consistently immersive rear activity. Make no mistake, there are plenty of discrete effects occupying the surround speakers during action sequences, but they're only made available for the duration of those battles. And even then, they're not totally convincing or employed very well. When Zeus swings his whip upon Ares, I half-expected some sort of swoosh sound to move in the back, but it never happened. The rest of the time, the back of the room is noticeably silent and missing any atmospherics.
Aside from that, the lossless mix also seems as if it was made louder than normal, possibly to compensate for the little audio activity already present. The track never really pushes the upper frequencies to a large extent and noticeably clips when characters break out into ferocious clashes. There is a loss of clarity in these segments, which are evident every time metal hits upon metal or something simply explodes on screen. On the plus side, these same sequences don't distort and in fact, broaden the soundstage rather nicely. The low-end also offers a powerfully deep and palpable punch, penetrating into the far back of the room. The few bits of directionality and pans are actually smooth and flawless, and despite some difficulty in understanding Rourke's often mumbled dialogue, vocals are intelligible throughout.
Personal expectations and preferences aside, the design makes an otherwise excellent transition high-resolution audio which fans will very much enjoy.
This 3D Blu-ray edition of 'Immortals' comes with an exact copy of the 2D package, supplements and all.
As described by its director, Tarsem Singh, 'Immortals' is an attempt at "Caravaggio meets 'Fight Club'" and from a visual standpoint, it arguably succeeded. Story-wise, the movie is a mashup of Greek mythology that's ultimately dull and uninteresting with most if not all the emphasis placed on the stylish visuals. Fox Home Entertainment unleashes the film to 3D Blu-ray with a disappointing and very dark video presentation, but the audio offers a much better and entertaining two-hour distraction. Supplements are fairly small but decent to watch, making the overall package one which only fans will likely enjoy.
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.