IMMORTALS. Starring: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, Isabel Lucas, John Hurt, , and Freida Pinto. Directed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar. Rated MA 15+. Restricted. (Strong bloody violence and brief sex scene). 111 min.
This adventure, fantasy film begins in Greece in the year 1228 BC, and starts by showing up-front the explicit death by burning of an aged temple priest at the hands of King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), the Titan God of light.
Hyperion declares war on humanity in revenge for the defeat of the Titans at the hands of the Olympians. In a role that over-relishes nastiness, Hyperion leads his army across Greece in search of the lost Bow of Epirus, which will help him conquer the Gods of Olympus. On his march, Hyperion destroys and pillages everything in his wake. In one of the villages being ransacked, a lowly stonemason, Theseus (Henry Cavill), is chosen by Zeus (Luke Evans), King of the Gods, to stop him. John Hurt plays the role of Theseus’ mentor on earth.
Theseus is accompanied on his quest by Phaedra (Freida Pinto), the oracle priestess, and Stavros (Stephen Dorff), a surly slave. Their task is no less than to save the Olympians and human-kind. Zeus, however, nervously steps in to defend them, as does Athena (Isabel Lucas), the Goddess of warfare, battle strategies, wisdom and justice (who is his daughter), and the other Gods. In the quest, there are lots of bloody scenes, martial-arts combat battles, violent killings, massive blood-spurts, and some sex thrown in for good measure.
The movie extraordinarily departs from classical Greek mythology. Hyperion impersonates Minjos, King of Crete, which is not part of Greek mythology, and the film focuses on the rise, not fall, of Anti-Christ. The movie borrows liberally from the Bible, and other writings, and portrays Hyperion as a completely evil, sadistic person. In the movie, the hero (Theseus) is a human being, with supernatural fortitude. Willingly, he goes to bed with the Virgin Oracle (Phaedra), and on his death the Gods reward their union with a son.
Hollywood productions like this one are not designed or produced to reflect historical sources accurately, or convey any spiritual meaning at all. In essence, this is a movie that puts its own spin on content. It distorts Biblical ideas and cloaks them in the appearance of Greek mythology, and it charts its plot-line in an especially bloody way.
The film has some spectacular effects, that include distant shots of Hyperion’s army amassing to march, and unusual images of surreal-looking cliffs in Greece. The film is made explicitly for 3D and also released in a 2D version, but if bloody action shots are what one goes to this movie to see, the violence is just as real in 2D as in 3D, and 3D is not worth the extra charge. There are lots of moral platitudes spoken in the movie such as “the fight against evil never ends”, the souls of the worthy are “immortal and divine”, and one always fights for “honour, children, and family”. Everything, however, seems an excuse for pectoral muscle-displays, gory blood-letting, and images of men in skimpy tunics.
This is not a movie to go to see to be uplifted in any way. Its fantasy is based on a gross distortion of historical sources, it is excessively violent, and any sense of morality is a long way from the beating heart of any God.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Universal Pictures International.
Out November 24, 2011.