Genre: Swords and Sandles
Watched: March 15, 2012
Summary: Gorgeous and oh so confusing
It’s a moral imperative for me to see all films set in the ancient world (although that descriptor is stretched by this historically adrift fantasy). How this strange piece ever got made is a mystery. My best bet is that the studio wanted a movie to compete with the execrable Clash of the Titans remake (and I’m a big fan of the original).
Both share certain “themes” and elements. Stylized visuals (although Immortals notches that up past 300 and beyond), sexy female seers, pseudo-wise mentors, titans, incomprehensible writing, and irrational hatred for the gods.
What is up with this theme? I totally don’t understand and it utterly ruined Clash for me. Why would an ancient people, particularly one with proof of divine presence, deeply resent this lightweight governance? While there are certainly atheistic writings in ancient times, few espouse a bitter hatred of divinity. Is this some sort of modern sentiment refocused? Or, more likely, a need studio producers have to expand the scale of the combat? In any case, Immortals is considerably better than Clash – but probably not by the standards of the mindless masses.
Let’s take it apart. Stylistically this film is pretty damn cool. It’s not “realistic” or accurate, but it does borrow heavily from traditional costume and such in a highly interesting way. For example, the red oracle costumes (partially shown above) were wonderfully evocative of north African and Anatolian women’s dress. Even the overdone costumes of the gods were interesting — although not totally to my taste. Ares (I think) with his huge spiky headdress, Poseidon with a giant conch on his head. Interesting. The temples were cool. The over-cliffy landscape. It’s even the second movie in the last few months to feature the Brazen Bull. Certainly this would seem obscure and the movie makes no effort to explain this horrific and anachronistic execution/torture device (the film is set in 1200BC and the bull was invented in 500BC).
Considering the script, the acting isn’t even that bad. But this brings us to the point: the script, which largely fails at both macro and micro levels. First of all, like most big effects movies these days, there is little or no arc and characterization is minimalist at best. Archetypes all: The warrior, the old man, the evil king. All conflict is external. The basic nature of the macro external objective throws good and bad guys together. But at the micro level, this film has scenes where you go, “what the hell just happened?” Partly this was due to inexplicably black cinematography. But mostly just due to lack of editing clarity. For example, Theseus is a slave at a watering hole and the virgin oracles, formerly in their temple just show up as vague captives. Why? How? No one explains. Then they stage a breakout, which devolves into some black figures fighting in a lightless room. Then both Theseus and the real oracle and a bunch of other slaves are free and outside, and the three other virgins captive. Again, no explanation — unless it happened in the dark.
Oh, well. This movie could have been so much more. Why can’t they take their subject a little seriously, and most importantly use some real writing? It’s gorgeous to look at, but I crave a movie about the gods and goddesses with some real substance. Perhaps even a universal moral theme? Like the evils of war or the fatal overextension of hubris? That might be in keeping with the source material and we couldn’t have that!