Perhaps 10 years from now, someone will write a seminal, groundbreaking essay explaining why Tarsem Singh’s Hollywood blockbuster ‘Immortals’ is a masterpiece of New-Age cinema and cinema as art. Till then, we will have to be content with the fact that ‘Immortals’, though it looks breathtakingly beautiful, it is at best a missed opportunity. You wouldn’t even want to spend your time and energy talking about it, if it was not a Tarsem picture. This man is a genius when it comes to out of the box visuals (the way Guillermo Del Toro is a genius in giving traditional fairy tales a modern twist). This visual extravagance is more than evident on screen; you wish if grand scenarios were enough to make a film work. Unfortunately, it isn’t and in ‘Immortals’ there is nothing else. It just looks good.
I really, really wanted to love this film. I really did, for various reasons. After all, the director, Tarsem Singh, is of Indian origin, and in a world where everyone seems to follow the assembly line, this guy is brimming with original ideas. Most of all because I loved his previous film ‘The Fall’; the film was a colourful fever dream, a tableaux of wondrous events, and I wanted Tarsem to recreate similar effects in his retelling of the Greek mythology. All these, and also the fact that I love Greek mythology. Despite some people complaining that most of these Greek Gods and demigods are one dimensional, I believe, the Greek myths are a mine of stories that can be told and retold numerous times. That’s one of the reasons why Rick Riordan could transport the Greek Gods to modern American (with the Empire State Building being the modern equivalent of Mount Olympus) in the Percy Jackson series of books. I’m not talking the Hollywood film released a few years back, but the books are awesome. That’s why the new ‘Clash of the Titans’ is coming up with a sequel this year.
In this context, what does the screenwriters of ‘Immortals’ do? They squeeze out all the juicy bits from the story, mesh up several myths together and create a dumbed down version of the tale, which goes nowhere. Though the film has been marketed as a worthy follower of ‘300’, it is not so. Within it’s camp, comic book feel of ‘300’, there still was a plot, a source of potential conflict, something that audience could relate to.
Most of the actions in ‘Immortals’ take place in the precipice of rocky mountains (which are obviously created on computers), and like the scenes themselves, everything about ‘Immortals’ is far above the ground. There’s nothing for the audience to hold onto. There is nothing to care about. The hero doesn’t even get a decent chance to show his heroics, whereas the so called virgin oracle decides to lose are revered virginity the first chance she got, and there are other such shenanigans.
Oh, then, I must talk about Stephen Dorff. He looks unbelievably gorgeous, and he’s the only thing worth looking at in the entire film, not only his physic but also his presence. He is the only good thing about ‘Immortals’ and it’s not enough. And you wonder what Dorff was doing here after Sophia Coppola’s very cerebral ‘Somewhere’.