Thursday, November 10, 2011

Immortals [2011]

Director: Tarsem
Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, John Hurt
Genre: Mythology/Fantasy/Epic
Rating: Adult
Excerpt: "It's bleak, unapologetic, violent, and many other things a movie about Greek mythology should be..."

Bitter and filled with rage at the gods, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) declares war on the gods and humans alike. He embarks on a quest to find the legendary weapon forged by Ares, the god of war himself, a weapon called the Epirus Bow. Bound by the divine law, the gods can only stand by and watch as the world beneath them gets consumed by chaos. But all is not lost, for the Olympians have chosen for themselves a champion amongst the humans, a peasant who goes by the name of Theseus (Henry Cavill). Although he doesn't know it yet, Theseus is the key to the survival of the world as they know it.

What to Expect
1. To love it, or hate it
2. Poetry in motion
3. A simple storyline
4. Tarsem's distinctive visual style
5. Badass gods
6. Merciless cuts by the Censorship Board (Malaysia)

What NOT to Expect
1. A faithful adaptation of the Greek mythology in general
2. An action movie approach to the story
3. Character development
A masterpiece in its own merits. (At least for me)
Before I proceed with the review, I thought I should let you know that Immortals had been one of my most anticipated movies of the year for two reasons; One because I have a lifelong fascination with the Greek mythology. Even though I'm not the most well-versed scholar (?) out there, I love the genre enough to not miss any offerings to ever come out from Tinseltown.

Two, because I'm a fan of the director, Tarsem. Now, it's very important to keep that in mind because the name 'Tarsem Singh' will immediately result in two very divided opinions. I expect Immortals to get that exact same treatment, just like Tarsem's previous works. You will either really love it, or really really hate it.

Where do I stand? Well I guess it's pretty obvious by now, isn't it? So be prepared to take everything I say here as an opinion rather than an iron-clad statement.

Or I'll choke-slam you like a muthafucka...
Forget about 300 [2007]. Forget about Clash of the Titans [2010]. This is a Tarsem movie, and that means it is stuck somewhere in the gray area between mainstream and arthouse, even bordering on self-indulgent, just like the man himself. But it really worked for me because it was very refreshing in the sense that it didn't take the brainless action movie route. Wait, oh okay... Maybe it was just a little bit brainless. But if you know anything about Greek mythology, you would know that things were never really civilised even among gods.

For the most part this movie ended up being exactly what Tarsem sought out to do, and that is bringing what we saw in Renaissance paintings to life.

And what a beautiful movie it was. Every scene and all the mise-en-scene was set up in such a way that it was almost like you're browsing through a really awesome museum. Never once I doubted that Tarsem could pull off a period piece like this, acknowledging the fact that he was the one who directed that very memorable Pepsi commercial with Beyonce, Britney Spears and Pink as gladiators. But I must say he really topped himself, and this is coming from me who went in with expectations already sky high.

Now, when I mentioned that Tarsem has that distinctive visual style, it goes beyond what we usually recognise from other directors like Zack Snyder or Michael Bay, whose styles are immediately recognisable, but it's not always easy to distinguish between the two. With Tarsem, it's a lot more than just camera movements, ramping and the use of the slow-motion technique.

It's the whole damn thing. You can just tell that the guy is a stickler for details when you look at all the elaborate costumes, and various other things in the background that we tend to take for granted. It's not something you will realise as you watch it, but it registers in your brain in such a way that at no point will the screen feel 'empty', bland, or overly-familiar. Bottom line, it's going to feel like you're watching a very surreal and otherworldly movie, just like how a movie that deals with Greek mythology should.

So if you find yourself not liking the movie, that's because you're missing the point. Just like how there are people who complained how Game of Thrones sucks because there aren't many sword fights.

But of course, the movie was marketed as a straightforward hack-and-slash movie, therefore it's understandable if you approach it that way, and you're going to find a lot to complain about. So I'm not going to lie to you. I had my imaginary friend sitting beside me throughout the movie, and we kind of bounced ideas with each other. I approached it as what Tarsem intended it to be, while she looked at it as a straightforward action/epic movie. Certain things about it, which can be considered as flaw(s), did stand out.

For instance, the plot was pretty simplistic, consisting of three acts and very little development to make us feel the journey the characters went through. As a result, anyone except for Theseus could have died and nobody would give a rat's anus. Looking at it that way, it did appear that there was a lot of unfulfilled potential.

However only an idiot would complain about the Olympians. Those guys were certified badasses!
There is one thing I bet we can all agree on. We would have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more if only those at the Censorship Board didn't do some hacking and slashing themselves! I remember getting so frustrated in the hall, I buried my face in my hands when I saw how crudely the cuts were made.

I can only thank Nuffnang for the free passes otherwise I would have played Zeus myself and shoot some lightning on their asses. I mean, c'mon! Seriously? Like my man Mark Twain once said, censorship is like telling a man he can't have a steak, just because a baby couldn't chew it.

But at the end of the day, Immortals will go down (to me) as one of the best adaptations of Greek mythology ever made. It's not all that heavy or philosophical, but the mere aesthetics of it was so visually-arresting, I forgot all about the substance and actually felt okay about it for once. Worse case scenario, if you were never the kind to appreciate Renaissance paintings, and you tend to favour testosterone-fuelled epics like 300, then I would say that the fight scenes and action sequences in this movie alone are worth the admission price (had it not been butchered).

That much I guarantee.


Isaac Tan said...

nice meeting you at the movies :) It was a nice movie for me too, not awesome though as the storyline is really weak.

asrap virtuoso said...

I think I can't see your ranking in the Mamumeter... looking forward to catch the movie back-to-back along with Adventures Of Tintin today... shame the movie 11-11-11 isn't coming out here (I think)... it would have been perfect for tomorrow

PerangFilem said...

Dah tengok ke? arghhh....

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

Nice meeting you too, Isaac. Another time we can sit down before the movie and have a chat :)

Asrap, it totally maxes out on the Mamumeter. Red bar all the way up! :D

PerangFilem, yeah I got lucky... Hehehehe

FiSh said...

aww it sounds nice but it's just not my type ><


ripgal said...

I guess I approached the film with some kind of expectation - that it'd give me a good if not at least decent story? But ultimately, it only banked on visuals and unnecessary(over-glossily done) action scenes to get its point across.

Substance is what I look for in a film, and this film didn't have any. You can look grand, poise and all, but ultimately it is the innards that sell. And don't even get me started with the acting. *total flail*

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

Perfectly understandable. Tarsem Singh had always been like that, you'll either love his work, or hate it. Just like I said in the review.

I agree to disagree with everyone else on this.

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