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Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Not since the 1998 “Godzilla” monstrosity has a movie so brazenly promised a sequel that everyone immediately knows will absolutely not come to fruition. I loved “The Fall,” and at least appreciated “The Cell,” but Tarsem Singh’s latest film, “Immortals,” exhausted all my goodwill within ten minutes. And for the remaining hundred minutes in the auditorium, I found myself counting the virtues of this film’s spiritual predecessors: “Troy” and “300.” These last two films rank among my guilty-pleasures and I would have freely admitted as much for “Immortals” but, frankly, this may be a film with no redeeming qualities and, worse, no earnestly enjoyable moments.

While Tarsem’s previous endeavors--including this one--have shouldered generally weak reviews, nearly every critic will applaud the visual flare and craftsmanship. But “Immortals” will get no such cudos from me. The most memorable visual motif would be the ham-fisted, CGI-heavy, scene transitions. The last shot of one scene focuses on a helmet that fade-dissolves into a boat of ridiculously similar proportions. Such transitions are manufactured with the grace and purpose of me transitioning an armpit “fart” sound into an actual fart.

And woe to those who think the CGI butchery ends there. The fight scenes featured revel in decapitations and amputations, each squirting blood effects copy-and-pasted from Wesley Snipes’ “Blade” films. Every time brightly-rendered blood drifted past the screen in slow motion, I was reminded that no stunt men were harmed in the making of this film—if they were even used at all. “300” had grace. “Troy” had emotion. “The Matrix” had originality. “Immortals” had last month’s leftovers, unevenly reheated.

Ever since “The Wrestler,” there has existed the false notion that Mickey Rouke is a good actor and the evidence may only now be tilting against him. Given the exact same motivation as Nero from “Star Trek,” Rouke exhales every one of his lines with unearned exhaustion. If you close your eyes, he almost sounds like Edward James Olmos after just running a half-marathon. This brooding technique is empty and stagnant two scenes in; nor is it helped when Rouke’s King Hyperion seems to just keep talking, hoping to find interesting dialogue eventually.

Opposite of Rouke’s species, is the endless beautiful Freida Pinto—who I’ve just begun to feel sorry for at this point. From playing a virgin prostitute in “Slumdog Millionaire” to a virgin veterinarian in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to now a virgin oracle, Pinto has barely completed one line of character-building dialogue in three combined movies. Given the abysmal “girlfriend” characters she’s played, I can’t say whether she’s a good actress with any more authority than saying whether if she is a good bowler. She makes broad, thematic summaries of the protagonists’ tribulations and then unexplainably loves said protagonist by getting PG-13 naked.

The hero of the film, or at least the guy I wanted to punch the most often, is played by Henry Cavill—whose primary contribution to the world of cinema is staring in the next Superman movie. Muscular nothing, this guy has straight-up boobs. Very, very weird boobs. Incredibly though, it’s actually his sidekick who seems to be wearing a leather bra for half of the movie.
If only the rest of the movie was getting the same level of support as Stephen Dorff.

Worse than the vexing wardrobe, the characters solve their dilemma at around the 70-minute mark but then decide to go to war because, hell, it’s not like people ever really needed reasons to go to war. This, of course, is not even an sliver of commentary in the movie as Cavil and Pinto just finished talking about dead parents and boning (worst foreplay ever?) and the best reason I ever heard for a guy going to war was right after some girl broke his heart. As is, characters do and say things in some strange obligation that almost breaks the fourth wall.

Worthwhile conversations, or even reactions, are substituted for platitudes on faith, pain and, get this, immortality. Characters barely listen to one another as each of them are unstoppable in pouring our their next, ultra-prepared, soon-to-be-inscribed-on-a-tombstone, aphorism. The script reads like a cheap quote book and each line dropped like a sack of oranges.

Also, because this deserves mention, why are there no less than five movies coming out about CIA agents going rogue? Trailers for “Ghost Protocol,” “Safe House” and “Haywire” literally played back-to-back-to-back. When there was finally a trailer for “War Horse” I actually cried out, “Is that horse going rogue!?!” Indeed, the horse does go rogue and had I strangled myself right then and there I would have had a more pleasant experience than staying regrettably conscious for the next two hours. Almost to mock me, the last scene of “Immortals” explicitly recaps the major plot points of the movie just in case anybody had flat-lined for a few scenes at any point but wanted to get a Spark Notes version of the story before trudging out of the auditorium.

Even after leaving the theater, I again wanted to escape to deadening oblivion as I heard fellow moviegoers critique the inaccuracy of Greek mythology in movies, such as “Immortals.” Inaccuracy? Inaccuracy?! It’s mythology! Since when did Greek mythology become this fashionable subculture that deserves to be treated with unparalleled and impeachable reverence? I have friends who have dedicated literally weeks to studying Greek mythology so that they could be outraged at the seeming desecration of their adopted individuality. Have no fear, I tell them, for “Immortals” will not contribution to any forthcoming popularization of Greek iconography.

Personally, my favorite Greek god is Thor but I guess that’s just my burden.

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