Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Immortals (2011)

     I was on the fence about whether or not a should hate Immortals (2011), Tarsem Singh's re-imagining of the legend of Theseus.  It isn't that I am wholly against rewriting old stories.  I just think that if one is going to mess with something that has endured for more than twenty five centuries (and at least five distinct languages) by the time a writer or writers sits down to work the magic and change the details, those changes need to make marked improvements that won't leave anyone familiar with the tale sitting there thinking, who is responsible for this sacrilege? – or at least must make the story relatable to a modern audience without gutting the essence of the original.
     Immortals fails in that regard.  Instead of having Theseus (which, incidentally, should be pronounced THAY-soos) be the half-god who battle's with King Minos' beast in the Labyrinth and who founds the city of Athens – you know, perhaps the most important city in the history of Western culture – writers Charley and Vlas Parlapanides cast him as an angry iconoclast (intentionally and unintentionally) who thinks primarily only of himself and has a last minute conversion to the typical Ancient Greek concept of immortality being capable only through performing deeds that were certain to be remembered.  For some reason, this Theseus needs to be not only thoroughly uninteresting but still the center of attention for all the other characters.  Just as baffling was the notion of the Ancient Greek gods having a 'no interference' rule with humanity in general, and specifically with the heroes. 
     Let us also consider that the Parlapanides place the action in the 13th Century BCE and refer to the assembled 'peoples' as Hellenics.  Not Hellenes, which would be appropriate, at least after the Greeks came to see themselves as sharing a common culture and heritage.  They also imagine Ancient Greece as a cross between Arrakis and a post-apocalyptic Dover.  There are no signs of life other than the people.  The single body of water we see is thick with an oil that would preclude the chance of finding any life there.  Theseus comes from a cliffside village that is built up in a pseudo-Pueblo style, where the only activity seems to be either getting ready to be a warrior (though not being one) or hanging out in the temple.  The stark nothingness over which these non-characters fight only highlights the lifelessness of the whole enterprise.
Hank and his bow.
     All of that wasn't enough to make me hate the movie.  It was bad, sure, but not without a few moments.  Putting Hank's bow from theDungeons & Dragons cartoon (1983-85) sure stretched the credulity of the film, but it is nice to know that it would look good in a major motion picture.  The torture bulls were an effort to get something right, and they worked in spite of the ridiculousness with they were employed.  Henry Cavill (Theseus) has all the right moves for an action movie, even one set in the ancient world, and Stephen Dorff gave a good turn as the rapscallion lieutenant and ally of Theseus.  Even the movie having the worst lighting I have seen in years wasn't enough to make me despise it. 
     No, that came from making the mistake watching one of the extras where so-called experts argued that since the Ancient Greeks changed their mythology (this was more the result of the different regions and city states having different takes on the same stories or replacing characters from one story with their own heroes or city-sponsoring deity), it was fair game to change the story.  Kellan Lutz, an alum of the Twilight film franchise, challenged why people expect to see Poseidon as an older man with flowing white hair and beard.  'Because you saw that in some movie?' he asks.  No, jackass.  Because the Ancient Greeks presented him that way.  Always.  Without fail.  Because, as a people whose lives revolved around the sea, they saw the need to have the master of the waves – and the guy who gifted them with horses – appear as an authority figure.  I see Immortals as being in step with Lutz's lack of understanding.  Too stupid to actually do research on the people and gods being portrayed, and too in love with big budget effects to notice that there wasn't much of a story put into the works.


  1. Really? You hated it for its innacuracy? I hated it for everything else.

  2. I was just going to dislike it, but the attitude that there was no need to even understand the original story pushed me into the realm of hatred.