Actually, “Immortals” is kind of a misnomer for this loosely-based on Greek mythology sandals-and-swords epic. It refers to the race of super-charged, but captured warriors who are imprisoned indefinitely inside a mountain, because they were defeated by the gods of Mount Olympus , and now only a silver arrow from a hidden magic bow can free them.
Who would want to unleash their pent-up fury? Why, King Hyperion, played with marvelous menace by Mickey Rourke (“The Wrestler”), who looks imposing even if he isn’t as buff as, say, Theseus (Henry Cavill), the peasant who’s an atheist, and an angry one, after Hyperion and his horde of destruction slaughters his innocent mother and imprisons him to the salt mines.
But like the scriptural Joseph, it was while in prison that our unfortunate hero finds his mojo, and learns that he has special powers from above. Except here, of course, there is a whole pantheon of gods, but Zeus has specifically forbidden any of them to interfere in the affairs of mortals, even though he hopes for Theseus to lead the fight against the evil Hyperion. It seems that the power of seeing the future, granted to the biblical Joseph through dream interpretation, belongs not to Theseus, but to the virgin oracle Phaedra, played by the stunning beauty Freida Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”). And she will retain her clairvoyant powers until she decides to succumb to the desires of the flesh, which is a stronger temptation once the evil Hyperion cooks her sisterhood of vestal virgins in the fire of Baal. (OK, they don’t call it that, but it sure looks like the reputed golden calf of the Philistines.)
This film is rated “R” with good reason because of the numerous decapitations during the battle scenes, which themselves look as staged as the set where the deities hang around Mount Olympus like the local soda shoppe, gazing out at the world with a kind of jaundiced arrogance that knows it can change anything and everything, anytime. But probably not now. And maybe not ever. (Oh, and there’s one sex scene, but it’s more about voyeurism than carnality, anyway, as if the goal for either gender is to get the shirt off, and after that we’re not sure what to do, except stare for a moment, so after we do that we just fade to the next scene.)
Ah, but once Hyperion does the universe the favor of freeing the banshee-like Immortals, all heaven breaks loose. The gods whoosh down to earth spoiling for a fight, and it turns out that when they take human form they are not only vulnerable, but suddenly mortal. And here, we thought they died for lack of adherents.
Yes, it all seemed a bit stiff and overly-dramatized, as if everyone takes themselves a little too seriously, and we wonder if anyone anywhere has a sense of humor, or if that only happened after a few legends about golden fleecings. They assume we know a whole lot about Greek mythology, or else figure it’s so complicated that there’s no explaining it, anyway, and you just let Poseidon carry a trident and see if anyone makes the connection. Yes, the dialogue is stilted, as if we’re back in the old Hercules/Conan the Barbarian swagger-sagas, muscle-bound heroes whose verbal acumen makes it painfully apparent that they can’t wait to quit talking and start fighting, and after hearing them ponderously pontificate, neither can we.
And yet, there are some cool special effects, and the whole scenario kind of fires the imagination despite its obvious limitations.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas