To paraphrase 300’s sole survivor Dilios, I do what I was trained to do, what I was bred to do, what I was born to do. I review. Welcome to Cinemascape!
A tale of clashing titans with the vibe and visuals of the mighty 300, Greece is the word – Ancient that is – in this mythic, sweeping sword-and-sandaler with impeccably-pectoral heroes, ghastly, scarred villains, slow-motion blood spurts and supermodelled gods a-plenty. A dreamlike, near-surreal, big screen spectacle from director Tarsem Singh, whose earlier films – The Cell and The Fall – revealed his love of heavily stylised visuals above all else, Immortals is a vast improvement over those earlier efforts in that it tells a simpler story in a brisker fashion, has plenty of action to keep us interested and, earnest though it is, remains a good, fun watch.
Exquisitely crafted visuals designed to take your breath away do exactly that. Singh’s a perfect fit for this sort of movie, and given free reign to create a world of his imagining, delivers a glorious, graphic novel reality, in 3D no less, that he invites us to lose ourselves in. Given the heightened visuals, the grown-up fairytale feel, plus the larger-than-life quality of the characters, not to mention the performances of the actors who inhabit them, it’s perhaps no great surprise that the movie is liberally seasoned with cheese and pretension, yet somehow it works. Though this is the sort of film you could easily pick apart and leave for dead, I chose to embrace the madness and eagerly rolled with it.
The tale of a vengeful King (lustily played by Mickey Rourke to the nth degree) who plans to unleash the Titans (men not monsters) and kill the Gods, Immortals follows the heroes’ journey of the largely shirtless Theseus (Henry Cavill), unknowingly mentored by Zeus (John Hurt in human form, Luke Evans in celestial mode) to deliver the world from evil with help from a sexy seer (Freida Pinto), randy robber (Stephen Dorff) and magic bow. A heady brew of death and destiny with escalating action sequences and a pinch of shagging, Immortals certainly entertains.
Regarding the Cavill equation, I remain on the fence. Though he was fine as Henry’s best mate in The Tudors, honestly when that show came to an end I didn’t expect to see him again. Then he popped up in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, and I thought, ‘Oh look, it’s that bloke from The Tudors’. Then I hear he’s been cast as Superman in the upcoming Zack Snyder revamp, Man of Steel, and I wonder what’s going on. He’s certainly charming, but action hero material? I wasn’t sure. And now here he is in Immortals, all oily and ripped, hacking and slashing with abandon and delivering rousing monologues to anyone who’ll listen. And he’s fine. Perfectly decent in the role. Not entirely convincing in the way that Gerard Butler was in 300, hardly the man’s ultimate man, lacking perhaps the fire and steel required to totally own a movie like this, but certainly likeable and well spoken with slick slaying moves. So, I remain on the fence. Not entirely sold, but not put off either.
In a word, I’d describe Immortals as sumptuous. It’s not a word I use too often, but it seems to fit. Bloody too, wildly so in fact, with jets and sprays erupting from every other frame. Imperfect yes, and not a patch on Snyder’s 300, but then, nothing is. That movie set a near-impossible standard for comicbook stylisation, and though Immortals doesn’t quite reach such lofty heights, certainly it comes close enough to please those thirsty for similar.
Also at the Cinema…
A long and rambling road to nowhere is the journey and destination offered by The Rum Diary (15), an appropriately eccentric adaptation of Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-autobiographical tale of self-discovery in Sixties San Juan. Back in ’98 Johnny Depp played an amplified version of Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s hallucinatory Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and here he returns to the character, actually a younger version despite the actor’s advancing years, for a look at Hunter’s booze-fuelled formative years, courtesy of Withnail & I writer/director Bruce Robinson.
On the loose in Puerto Rico, rubbing shoulders with wealthy rotters (Aaron Eckhart) and penniless scumbags (Michael Rispoli, Giovanni Ribisi) alike, Depp’s character stumbles from incident to accident to rum-soaked happening for our decreasing pleasure. The dialogue crackles and the characters are spot-on, but without a plot the movie has little to no drive and quickly starts to drag. By the end of the movie, two hours long, it feels like you’ve been sitting for four.
Featuring the frankly grating vocal talents of current X-Man James McAvoy, Arthur Christmas (U) is a pleasant family offering from Aardman Animations, a computer generated adventure that blows the lid off Santa’s magical, mercurial gift delivery. Offering easy, seasonal fun for the kids, it’s certainly tolerable for their grown-ups but no more memorable than a cold turkey sarnie on Boxing Day… From Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold, of Fish Tank fame, comes a broody, bold and beautiful take on Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (15)… Finally, a haunting period horror starring the gifted and adorable Rebecca Hall, The Awakening (15) tells the chilling tale of a hoax exposer confronted by things that go bump in the night.