|Henry Cavill, Immortals, Relativity Media, 2011.|
The sword and sandal genre which officiated itself in early-60s drive-in America, swung the spectrum from the Harryhausen classics, Jason of the Argonauts, et al, to Euro-trash imports the likes of the Steve Reeves Hercules flicks. Trickling down through the decades into films as varied as Clash of the Titans and 300, the standard features brawny men and busty women in ancient Greece/Rome, torn between earthly passion and the fruits of the Gods, on some convoluted adventure involving mythical creatures.
Visionary director Tarsem Singh makes a welcome entry into the sub-genre, with his intoxicating Immortals. Essentially a rehash of myth and malfeasance, with all of the usual players in place; Theseus, King Hyperion, Zeus; what Tarsem sets out to do is not tell the story in any groundbreaking way, but to redefine the way we see it. This has landed him many detractors. His earlier works were genre-bending, not easily defined. The Cell remains one of the best American thrillers of the last decade, and his underrated The Fall threw out plot to redefine reality and cinema as we see them.
While Immortals may be his least affecting film, loaded with standardized bad lines and non-acting, it stands up to his first two as visually shattering. His use of color, tableaux. staging, pacing are all immaculate. His ancient-Greece as fantasia pulls you in, and you become lost in a magical, dangerous world. And is that not what movies are supposed to do? Transport us so that we are not alone, we are stimulated in our minds and eyes?
Tarsem may be one of the purest of all contemporary auteurs. His vision is uncompromising in the fury of its purity, and Immortals is no exception. Henry Cavill is God-like in his physical splendor, Mickey Rourke chews at the heart of the film, Frida Pinto is alluring and mysterious as the Virgin Oracle, and both James McAvoy and John Hurt get interesting mileage out of their unique characters. Towards the end, the frenzied rhythm becomes almost unbearable as head shattering splatter takes precedence. Yet, this brave director keeps hold of his world of Gods and demi-Gods, and never lets it go.