The Immortals… isn’t.

One of the kindest things I can say about The Immortals is that I didn’t hate it. I went into the the theater with zero expectations, and in fact had discussed with fellow blogger Ryan McNeil from http://www.thematinee.ca/ how we both expected to hate it.

Not that either of us went in with an intent to dislike it, it just didn’t seem like there was a lot to it to hold our interest. The genre of sword and sandals seemed to have been done to death already in it’s brief resurrection starting with 300, the abhorrent Clash of the Titans remake, the Conan relaunch, and now this.

One of the driving reasons I did decide to see the film was because of Henry Cavill. I wanted to see him in a lead role before I see him as Superman, a character that has always been very important to me, and though my opinion doesn’t really count to those making The Man of Steel, I wanted to know if he would have my blessing or not.

He does.

He plays Theseus a mortal, gently schooled and nudged on his path by Zeus, disguised as an old man (the always awesome John Hurt). But in the first minute or so on screen, watching him, my brain happily classified him as Kal-El.

Providing Zack Snyder doesn’t drop the ball (*cough* Sucker Punch *cough*) Cavill WILL be Superman. There were moments in his performance where I could not only see Tom Welling’s Clark from Smallville, but the iconic Christoper Reeve as well. And for me, that is saying something. While I may wear rose-tinted glasses concerning the Reeve Superman movies, they helped shape my love for the character, and are partially responsible for my boy-scout attitude towards the world and people to this day.

Mickey Rourke plays Hyperion a grief-driven-to-rage king who wants to find the legendary Epirus Bow to free the caged titans (who lost a war to the currently ruling gods, Zeus and company) and rule all of mankind. Rourke, since the Wrestler has seen a resurgence in his career and though he could probably just walk through the role, he does bring a lot of grief and anger to his Hyperion. He’s vicious, evil, and you have no doubt that he could kick your ass.

But there are a few missed opportunities for characters and actors in the film.

Most notably Frieda Pinto, best know for her turn in Slumdog Millionaire. She seems to be wasted here, with almost nothing to do as the Virgin Oracle. This in my eyes is a loss, because this character could have been so much stronger and had more to do. I love strong female characters and her character Phaedra isn’t one. Sigh.

Luke Evans steps up from the role of Apollo in 2010′s horrible Clash of the Titans to head god Zeus in this film. He and James McAvoy could be related, because there was a moment when I thought he was, though just a little more beefed up.

And I have to say, I think Tarsem Singh (more on him soon) got the gods right in this film, I think they are closer to their original mythological counterparts than Clash made them. They move differently amongst themselves and the mortals, they sit and worry atop Olympus waiting and watching, having sworn that if men were to have faith in them, then they must have faith in men, a concept not really mentioned or touch on in Clash.

And I was happily distracted by my favorite Greek goddess, Athena. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve always had a spot for her. The goddess of war and wisdom (though they would seem to be mutually exclusive) is played by Isabel Lucas, and once again, a strong female character is under-used. In the final battle, while all the forces are battling one another, the majority of the time with the Gods Vs Titans fights are kept to Zeus and Poseidon, and nowhere near enough of Athena kicking ass. But that may just be a personal bias.

To return to the mortals Stephen Dorff, who I’ve always enjoyed no matter the film he does, plays Theseus’ sidekick and ally Stavros. He gets to be slightly rogue-ish in this, and clearly has fun with it, and it’s his actions I believed when Theseus is trying to rally the troops to fend off Hyperion’s army at the climax of the film. Theseus’ speech falls flat for me, but Stavros’ banging on his shield, to build courage and unity with his fellow fighters, I bought into that.

The action sequences are very much in the tradition of 300, it’s bloody, brutal, and well-deserving of it’s R-Rating, a tradition I truly miss. I know that most theater goers nowadays are teens, but I miss the R-rated action movies that used to be a staple of Hollywood(the original Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, First Blood), and now seem to be drifting to the wayside.

Happily director Tarsem Singh didn’t slink away from making it an R film. Singh is a great visual director, he fills his frame with incredible images. Whether you liked The Cell or not, you had to admit that it did look great. The same with his next film The Fall, which I though was fantastic! He uses the film frame as a canvas and paints some fantastic pictures.

That makes Immortals a step above the rest of the sword and sandal ‘epics’ that have come before it since the genre’s rebirth. But is it enough to make you run out to the theater to see it. I can’t answer that for you.

Can I recommend it to you? It’s very pretty to look at, but by the time I left the theater it was already on it’s way out of my system.

What would I have changed? Hmm, I’m all for an actioner, but there was no point in the story where I actually cared for the characters. You’re given maybe 10 minutes at the beginning of the film to get a feel for them, but there’s no real character work, it just moves from one action scene to the next. Too bad…

Though I would like to see more of the battle in the heavens that is hinted at by the end of the movie. But maybe that’s because I’ve been watching a lot of Ancient Aliens lately.

Still, the one thing this movie did do is convince me that Cavill will be awesome as Superman…

til then… I’ll be watching.

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