If you've seen director Tarsem Singh's first two feature films — The Cell (2000) and The Fall (2006) — then you likely already know what you will love and hate about his latest, Immortals. "Stunning visuals," a phrase that, when you're talking about Singh, is such a hilarious understatement, tends to be the first thing people say about these films. The very next thing — that they are cheesy, perhaps, or take too many liberties with character, plot and other story elements we're used to parsing out in film reviews — takes some issue with the director's ability to create a narrative strong enough not to combust under the glare of his phenomenally brilliant visual imagination. After I saw the hyper-ambitious The Fall, I contracted myself to witness everything Singh had ever shot (which includes mainly music videos and commercials) and also to dispense with my usual hunger for a sound, character-driven story. In such a state I greeted Immortals as a flawless film.
Set in ancient Greece, where gods like Zeus and Poseidon watch from their Olympian throne the savagely bloody battles between tribes of men, Immortals bears obvious comparisons to 300, the blockbuster hit of 2006, and even shares a few producers. But as Singh has pointed out in an interview, 300 was based on a Frank Miller comic strip, whereas he intended Immortals to have the look and feel of "a painting coming to life" — an aesthetic challenge that he has passed with flying colors. Singh's right: 300 aroused viewers by making the smuttiness of fantasy comic book porn into moving image; Immortals, more opulent in its visual decadence, choreographs an arresting puppetry among realms tethered to our minds with chords of varying length, so that at any moment we might be tugged in or out of an idyllic past, a gilded paradise, an oracle's prophecy or the nightmare of a war-torn land.
In the same way that characters in our dreams belong to some mysteriously symbolic language (your fourth grade teacher is really your mother is really your inner anima), the actors in Immortals matter little, except as spectacular intersections of our desires and expectations. Mickey Rourke, Henry Cavill and Freida Pinto stand in as villain, hero and love-object, respectively. Luke Evans as Zeus was more seductive, I thought, than Cavill's bird-brained Theseus, but then one's a god and one's a man. Like the mighty Singh among too many of his contemporaries, that's not exactly a fair match.
Danielle Panabaker's Top Pop Picks
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