1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
Come for the gore, stay for the headgear.
Following in the sandals of Zack Snyder’s 300 with a splash of story inspiration from Clash of the Titans, Immortals is a chest-thumping sword, sandal and CGI Greek mythology actioner for those who like their violence with a side of splatter.
But the hats! Not since Easter Parade has the screen seen such over-the-top millinery. Virgin (but not for long!) oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and her high priestess galpals wear scarlet lampshades dripping crystal beading. The gods of Olympus have all manner of huge, golden lid finery, although Poseidon’s (Kellan Lutz) earmuff seashells really take the biscuit.
But first prize has to go to baddie King Hyperion — Mickey Rourke in full evil crazy guy mode as the power-mad dude who has “declared war on all humanity.” You’d be cranky too if you had to wear a cross between a Venus flytrap and a crab claw on your head.
Produced by the team from 300, who presumably felt Snyder’s 2006 movie was a tad too subtle, Immortals is aimed squarely at the macho crowd, with the emphasis on heroics and bone-crunching violence in 3-D, with a splash of sexy time to lighten the mood and detract from the flaccid script.
Director Tarsem Singh, known for such visual outings as The Cell and who next takes on the Snow White myth onscreen, has created a stylish-looking fantasyland of villages clinging to cliffsides and mammoth battlefields filled with warriors.
The 3-D glasses make everything look muddy and dark, but the extensive use of bullet-time camerawork means we get the message when there’s some massacring to be done. While Singh’s vision of ancient Greece sears the eyeballs with visual trickery, the 3-D does nothing beyond making the battle scenes even gorier (and the wallet lighter), with blood arcing into the theatre and limbs and heads seeming to flip into the aisles.
It’s not just the swordplay that gets guts churning. A gelding scene involving a wooden mallet and a turncoat warrior is almost too much to watch.
Power-mad Hyperion has set himself up as a kind of god, demanding allegiance from his troops as they plow through Greece with the eventual goal of finding an all-powerful magic bow that can be used to release the imprisoned Titans, allowing Hyperion to take down the gods of Olympus.
Hyperion doesn’t count on peasant Theseus (the next Superman, Henry Cavill, suitably heroic here). Unknown to him — and Theseus for that matter — the humble warrior was tapped by Zeus long ago to save the world.
Theseus hooks up with Phaedra and recruits some other young bucks, including a buff hothead played by Stephen Dorff, to take down Hyperion.
With Hyperion saying things like “Welcome to hell,” which Theseus can tell isn’t meant as a gesture of hospitality, the script won’t win any prizes. But Immortals is about deeds, not words. The Greeks have to find a way to stop Hyperion while restoring peace and giving Theseus some personal time with Phaedra to help her get over that virginity thing.
Unable to just watch the fighting from their Club Med-like perch on Mount Olympus, Zeus (Luke Evans), Athena (Isabel Lucas), Aries (Daniel Sharman in another amazing hat) and the rest of the gods show up to make it a real royal rumble.
You don’t need to be an oracle to predict a sequel. Even the ill-advised Clash of the Titans has trod that path and it was recently announced Noam Murro will direct the 300 prequel, 300: Battle of Artemisia. We’re tempted to tell those who will push for Immortals II to put a lid on it.
Linda Barnard is a syndicated movie critic for the Toronto Star.