In which Alan and I review 2011’s Immortals because we are selfless sadists who enjoy torture and also fancy headwear. You’re welcome.
Also this is The Longest Review but I promise you it will be worth the read. And it will also be less painful than actually watching the film. Besides, what else do you have to do? Work? C'mon...
I'm going to start by saying that Immortals is nothing more and nothing less than hat porn. This movie is like Lady Gaga’s dreamscape closet. Maybe Haus of Gaga designed the headwear for this film. We will never know (because I am too lazy to care/look it up) but I will say this: Tarsem Singh knows from headwear. What he does NOT know is dialogue, pacing, narrative flow, and anything at all about classical mythology. I am hard-pressed to imagine any other creative re-imagining of mythology that makes so little goddamn sense. Which is saying something considering the myths weren't firmly rooted in logic to begin with. You have a lot of leeway when it comes to gods and demi-gods, I'd think. So how on earth does one lose the plot so utterly?
But honestly, back to the hats, Mickey Rourke is some kind of badass opposing warlord type of guy (I can't for the life of me remember who anybody is meant to actually be, character-wise) and at one point he wears this helmet that looks like a lobster and a shark mated on his head. It's a giant pokey golden lobster claw type of crown thing with a face-hugging helmet portion that looks like shark teeth. It is impractical and ridiculous but oh my god, it is so fabulous.
I am also baffled as to why the gods can be killed. I thought the movie was called immortals? Okay, I'd say "SPOILER" but you can't spoil something that has no discernable storyline so... yeah, the gods can be killed. I don't... get it? I also don't understand why Olympus is so boring. All they seem to do is stand around wearing insane hats while peering off the edge of their balcony down at earth. What about the nectar? And the orgies? And the inbreeding? And the rage thunderbolts? And so on?
Anyway, Alan, help me make sense of this thing for our readers. What actually was the plot?
I honestly believe that this movie was originally called Hats of the Gods, but that probably didn't test well with audiences. It would certainly be more accurate than Immortals, since no one in this film, god or otherwise, can make that claim. But, cruel creature of the night that you are, you asked me to dredge up the plot of this thing. Let's see, according to the opening narration, the gods were immortal until they figured out they weren't. I imagine this involved Bob the God tripping onto a pointy stick or something. The gods fought the titans, won, and then imprisoned said titans in a magic box under a mountain where they were all mounted with poles through their cheeks so that they look like the players on a giant 300 themed foosball table.
Somewhere in all of this, a magic bow that can fire magical arrows of magic was forged and then promptly lost. Sometime later, King Mickey Rourke is rampaging around Greece conquering everybody as he looks for the magical bow of magic. After entering the village of Theseus/Superman (henceforth known as Superman because this character has pretty much no relation to the mythological Theseus), he kills Superman's mom (Superman is Henry Cavill for those scoring at home. Actually, he's Clark Kent who is actually Kal-El, but you get the idea), but Superman had been watched over by Zeus, who was masquerading as John Hurt but normally looks like some decidedly non-King of the Gods-ish young dude. Wait. Saying that he'd been watched over by Zeus implies that this helped him somehow. It really didn't. Zeus isn't too big on helping out other than taking Burgess Meredith's place in a flashback Rocky-style training montage. Anyway, Superman gets mad, joins up with some other random people, including an Oracle (more on her later), finds the magical bow of magic in an incredibly lame labyrinth where he fights a guy in a minotaur hat (just so they can claim they're following part of the Theseus myth, I suppose), and then uses said bow exactly once before losing it to King Mickey. King Mickey uses it to free the titans, the gods show up, a lot of fighting happens. Superman fights King Mickey and, despite being ridiculously buff, hilariously gets his ass handed to him by the old man. Since it's a movie, he pulls out a victory in the end but is about to be crushed when Zeus drops a mountain on the titans. Zeus spirits him back to Olympus, though, where he apparently gets to spend eternity flying around the sky fighting even more titans.
I think that covers the high points...well, the points, at any rate. But let's talk about the Oracle character. I know we had a lot to say about her after we watched the movie (and during really). How badly am I overstating things by even referring to her as a character?
The Oracle is really very extremely pretty. The Oracle is played by Freida Pinto and she is so extremely pretty. She wears eyeliner very well and her face is serene and lovely and she is really never dirty even though everyone around her is really very dirty. And that is the character of the Oracle. As with all things Oracle-related, she can only see visions so long as she is untouched by man. Translation: she can't make the sex, okay? Oracles must always be very pretty virgins. Again, I am too lazy to look up whether this is historically true or just a fun Hollywood touch so that virginal deflowering can inevitably be shown. Let's pretend it's historically true so that Tarsem Singh can have one point in the 'pro' column that isn't hat related. One point for you, Tarsem! Look at you go.
Back to the Oracle. She is a pivotal character in the beginning of the movie because apparently she has visions of the magical bow of magic and where it is magically hidden (or lost, whatever) and related visions of what will happen if specific people find said magical bow. Bad things, I guess, though they're never explicitly explained because like everything else in this film the imagery is lush and full of nonsense. Anyway, said Oracle has three handmaidens who look nothing like her but who dress equally as lavishly who function as decoys (and besties) so that any marauding kidnappers or warlords won't know which girl is the Oracle and therefore won't be able to kidnap her and force her to reveal the location of the magical bow of magicness.
First: the Oracle-and-handmaidens plotline is very Padme Amidala, no? I'm just saying. Second: the Oracle-and-handmaidens costuming is very Plavalaguna from The Fifth Element. It's all towering head-wraps/hats that obscure faces and red drapery and so on. Third: having three decoy Oracles doesn't stop Mickey Rourke because instead of kidnapping one girl he just goes ahead and kidnaps all four. Freida Pinto the Real Oracle then escapes with Stephen Dorff (WHY IS STEPHEN DORFF IN THIS MOVIE??) and Superman and then Stephen Dorff tries to have sexy times with her and she's all "I mustn't for my visions will stop" even though she's only had the one on repeat for what feels like forever. Things happen that are boring and unexplained and then two exciting things happen. One that is unpredictable and gross and one that is SO GODDAMN PREDICTABLE it becomes grotesque. One: the three handmaidens who did not escape are cooked to death inside a golden bull by Mickey Rourke. That is a thing that happens. It is awesome and gross. Two: the Oracle has sex with Superman.
So now we have a once-pivotal character basically rendered totally and utterly pointless halfway through the movie because a) once the magical bow of magic is found her visions become useless since she's only had the one, and b) once she gets the sexy on with Superman she herself becomes useless because she can no longer have even the one now-useless vision. Omigod, this movie... I can't go on... Alan, take it from here. We still have to cover the "battle scene". And the scarab-shield-boat transition moment.
From a screenwriting standpoint, the Oracle amazed me. She's set up as a main character, but then she sleeps with Superman barely halfway through the film with almost no motivation whatsoever beyond feeling that her visions are a burden. Okay. Fine. But you know that your three besties are still in King Mickey's clutches (I don't think she knew they'd been bull-b-qued at this point), and the entire world you know is under threat. Maybe you might want to hold onto those visions until things are a bit better? No? Superman's abs are just too much for you to take? Okay. I guess we'll find something else for you to do in this movie...or not.
For the rest of the film SHE DOES NOTHING! Well, the epilogue reveals that she did get knocked up from their one night together, after which she bore Superman a son that he'll never know because he's too busy fighting titans through the clouds. Meanwhile, I'm sure she was faithful to the memory of her dear departed love that she spent one night with and never loved another man again. BLARRGGGH.
The Oracle was not a character. She's eye candy and as much of a plot macguffin as the magical bow of magic. Less even, because her visions don't actually lead Superman to the magical bow of magic. Well, they kind of do, but it's the generically vague kind of help that movies like this love to use. She tells him to go bury his mom in his village's burial labyrinth, and while he's in there, he happens to stumble across the bow just before he's attacked by the guy in the minotaur hat.
I suppose I'd be more irritated if anyone else in the movie had anything resembling a fully-developed character. I think King Mickey may be the closest to that. But it is amazing how thoroughly she is cast aside once she's had her nude scene and let Superman deflower and depower her.
But we must talk about the battle. So the good Greeks have a very thick wall that has been put up beside the mountain where the titans are imprisoned. The wall has one gate which leads to a very long narrow tunnel going to the other side. Of course the good Greeks are hideously outnumbered by King Mickey's forces, and King Mickey has the magical bow of magic that his dog swiped from Superman while Superman was otherwise distracted. In all fairness to Superman, Zeus had appeared and smacked either Apollo or Ares (You watch the movie and tell me if you can tell any of the gods apart) so hard that he was embedded into a stone wall and killed. Zeus then took this section of wall and turned it into what appeared to be a decorative coffee table on the Olympus balcony where the rest of the gods all lounge around watching the humans below.
Back to the battle, King Mickey is able to use the magical bow of magic to blast open the gates, but then he puts it away because why should he bother just decimating everyone from a safe distance when he can send in his troops instead. In a battle scenario with anything resembling logic, this would have been a fatal mistake on his part. The tunnel acts as a fantastic choke point, limiting the number of King Mickey's forces that can get in at one time. The good Greeks could just sit at the other end with their own bows and mow down King Mickey's men until the whole tunnel is clogged with corpses. Or they could booby-trap it. Blockade it all the way along. Pour oil throughout and light it on fire. There are many tactics they could employ. Instead, they opt for running into the tunnel themselves, Superman at the front, and engaging with King Mickey's men man-to-man.
At least all of this will still prevent King Mickey from taking the magical bow of magic and getting up to the temple on top of the wall that guards the mountain prison of the titans. Oh wait. There's a staircase at the end of the tunnel closest to the gate that leads right up there. Of course there is. King Mickey is able to stroll right up there. The good Greek's leader, who is unarmed and useless, tries to talk to him, but King Mickey just kills him and keeps on walking. He doesn't even bother with the Oracle, who is even more uselessly praying in the temple. He's quickly able to get to the box-o-titans and blast it open with the magical bow of magic, which he then drops. Outside of Stephen Dorff, who is instantly killed, no one else touches this incredibly powerful weapon for the rest of the movie. Instead Zeus shows up with four other gods, and movie-title-disproving mayhem ensues between them and the titans. This leads me to a few more questions: there were all of about 25 titans in the box-o-titans, but at the end there seem to be thousands fighting against Zeus and thousands of his god buddies. Where did the rest all come from? And if there were that many, why did Zeus only show up with four other gods when King Mickey opened the box? And what exactly did bringing down the mountain accomplish, since it apparently didn't stop thousands of titans from taking to the skies?
Moving onto the scarab-shield-boat transition, I have decided that sequence explains the entire film. It's pretty, but pointless just like Immortals.
I am 98.9% sure that the giant wall with the single tunnel opening is the same wall used for Helm's Deep in LOTR: The Two Towers. Remember? When Aragorn and Theoden's forces are all but defeated (in spirit anyway) until the horn sounds and Haldir (my most DARLING Craig Parker) shows up at the head of an army of Elves sent by Elrond and Galadriel to "honor the alliance that once existed between Elves and Men"? Yes, and that single sentence just contained more plot and logic than the entirety of Immortals. Also, I got to type 'Haldir' and 'Craig Parker' into a review that has nothing to do with them. Win! Anyway, the giant wall of Greek idiocy looks a lot like the rock quarry where they created the Helm's Deep set so the result is that I spent the whole battle sequence of Immortals - when not holding my head in agony trying to figure out what the actual fuck was happening - remembering another, far greater battle sequence. RIP Haldir. (SPOILER, though not really. He's alive in the books.)
The only two gods I can be certain were represented in Immortals are Zeus and Athena. Athena because she's the only girl portrayed on Olympus and they call her 'Athena' and Zeus because at one point Athena calls him 'father'. Every other god appears to be cast out of the male model catalogue (that's a thing, right?) as they are interchangeable in appearance and not, apparently, wearing hats that signify identity. If their hats made sense, the one that was comprised of giant gold spikes that loosely resembled sunbeams would have been worn by Apollo. You know, the SUN GOD. But no, at some point Alan and I realized that just maybe sunhat god was actually Ares. Whatever. It matters not because **SPOILER** in the end most of the immortals are dead anyway. As are King Mickey, most of both armies, many more than twenty-five Titans, several unnamed gods, the god who became the coffee table, Stephen Dorff, three of four Oracles, the Oracle virginity, and Superman. OH YES HE IS. He is "transported" just as the mountain crumbles. That means dead in deity speak, people.
The scarab-shield-boat transition is exactly what it sounds like: decorative bullshit. It is a scarab beetle that visually morphs into a shield that magically morphs into a boat that bleeds into a short and totally pointless scene on a boat that was written just so Tarsem Singh could put the transition before it. I am going to keep saying Tarsem Singh's name because I want you to remember it. So the next time you see a Tarsem Singh movie advertised you will know to keep your money firmly in your wallet and avoid the mess that it will doubtless be at all costs. Tarsem Singh, unless your next movie is a documentary about couture hats, I am not interested in hearing your name associated with filmmaking ever again.
What say you, Alan? If we were to rank this movie on the Spacey System - with one being the lowest number of Spaceys and five being a perfect movie (so, again, The Grifters) - what would you think we should give Immortals? I'm leaning towards .25 but am I being needlessly generous?
I might be willing to raise it up to a half Spacey because, while it was completely nonsensical, it was pretty to look at and it kept us entertained through its entire running time, which is more than I can say for a lot of movies. Granted, we were mostly entertaining ourselves with our commentary, but the movie gave us so much to work from. It was an embarrassment of riches. Okay, mostly it was just an embarrassment, but we couldn't look away. I know it's hyperbole when said about most movies, but in this case the old cliche is true: you will not believe your eyes!
Oh, I think we also figured out who Poseidon was, since he jumped into the ocean to cause a tidal wave (and wore a ridiculous bug-eye helmet that had nothing to do with water that I could determine).
Maybe he was a fish. A fish suffering from pop-eye.
Anyway, Immortals gets an overly generous .5 Spaceys which is crazy. All half of those points were earned entirely by the hats so nobody gets any credit for the film outside of the wardrobe department. But were we, in the classic words of Russell Crowe, not entertained? To be sure, we were entertained. You will similarly be entertained if you watch Immortals, just not for the reasons Olympus and Tarsem Singh intended.
- Corinne Simpson and Alan Decker