Immortals (US - BD RA)
Gabe watches good guys fight bad guys, decked in gold, in front of green screens.
The brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) and his murderous army are rampaging across Greece, demolishing everything in their wake with ruthless efficiency. Village after village falls to Hyperion's legions and each victory takes him one step closer to his goal: unleashing the power of the sleeping Titans to vanquish both the Gods of Olympus and all of humankind. It seems nothing will stop the evil king’s mission to become the undisputed master of the world, until a stonemason named Theseus (Henry Cavill) vows to avenge the death of his mother in one of Hyperion’s raids. When Theseus meets the Sibylline Oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto), her disturbing visions of the young man’s future convince her that he is the key to stopping the destruction. With her help, Theseus assembles a small band of followers and embraces his destiny in a final desperate battle for the future of humanity. (from the official website synopsis)
As far as I’m concerned, sight unseen, Immortals has three things going in its favour – director, cast and my undying interest in Greek mythology. The first and most obvious plus is director Tarsem Singh, who hasn’t made a genuinely good film outside of 2006’s The Fall, but has an obvious eye for gorgo-ragious visuals, as evident in his music video catalogue, as well as his film debut The Cell, which is actually pretty good for about a third of its laborious runtime. Tarsem mostly does his part and creates a definitively beautiful and graphically extreme world, one I find myself preferring to Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans, especially when comparing the two director’s more avant garde godly realms. While reveling in his extreme, at times pleasantly goofy, sets and costume design the director largely succeeds in at the very least creating something enjoyable to look at. But when Tarsem depends too heavily on digital effects to fill out his expansive, epic world he tends to inadvertently shrink it, creating limiting and cheap-looking images. For the most part, Tarsem and his editors Wyatt Jones and Stuart Levy succeed in creating stylized action beats that play out in long, sweeping shots, rather than over-cut, shaky-cam glimpses of blurry fisticuffs. Sadly, as the action picks up it becomes all the more obvious that Tarsem is a director for higher, not the major creative force on this project, he’s clearly doing his best impression of Zach Snyder’s 300 shtick at the behest of executive producer Mark Canton, who was hoping lightning would strike twice. This is sad because Tarsem has the potential to be a much more interesting filmmaker than Snyder, whose similarly stylized films are quickly devolving into graphic mud, like Sucker Punch. If it featured the same cast and screenplay I’m pretty sure I’d prefer Tarsem’s version of Watchman, and would definitely be more excited about Man of Steel with him attached.
Speaking of the Man of Steel, the second reason I was curious to see Immortals is leading actor Henry Cavill, who is busy playing Superman for Zach Snyder right now. Like all nerds I like to know what to expect from an actor before he or she takes on such a coveted role. If Immortals is any indication Cavill is good enough at looking stoic, and he’s certainly got the physical presence, I’m just not sure he can actually act, because Tarsem gives him so little chance to show any range of emotions. The rest of the cast fairs about the same, with the exception of Micky Rourke, who despite apparently hating the experience of making the film, has what appears to be a fine time chewing the scenery as King Hyperion. Even at half of a half ass his performance is amusing. I’m also a big enough Greek and Roman mythology nerd that I’m willing to give just about anything working from the source material a home video release chance. The problem is that screenwriters Vlas and Charley Parlapanides don’t add any real humanity to the story. All the characters go through the motions with all the intensity of sleepy kittens, and the stakes of the war are never appropriately signified. Tarsem and the Parlapanides have fun filling the screen and script with epic numbers of soldiers, but never once are you going to care what happens between shots of clanging swords and epic vistas. The sense of overwhelming melodrama actually fits the source material, but doesn’t carry any genuine weight, and turns exhausting, along with the terse and dopey dialogue, despite the best efforts of a decent cast. It was genuinely alarming how little I was concerned with anything that didn’t concern graphic violence for the sake of graphic violence. The gorehound in me enjoyed films hyper-violence in terms of spectacle, but like Snyder’s similar 300 violence, it offers little in the way of genuine pain or awe.
Immortals was shot using full HD Panavision Genesis digital cameras, which have in the past featured a bit of a digital ghosting effect problems to my eye. This 1080p, 1.78:1 image (in 2D) shows generally no sign of this problem. Occasionally things get a bit fuzzy, but I believe these were part of the 3D composition, and meant to appear out of focus. For the most part the digital source details are extremely sharp, as expected, including crisp edges and fine textures. The more complex digital backdrops and decorative elements of the golden armour are particularly stunning. And speaking of ‘golden’, there are scenes in Immortals that are almost monochromatic in their devotion to gold. Outside of the high contrast black and white elements, several minutes tick by without even a hint of an alternate hue. Outside of these shots there are plenty of poppy solid blue, green, and red hits throughout the film, and most of these are generally presented as the same hue with only subtle changes in gradation to set them apart from each other. These shades are mostly pure, and mostly cut heavily against each other, but there are moments where they bleed into the blacks, and I definitely noticed a touch of digital noise along some of the reddest edges. Outside of these, I didn’t catch any real noticeable digital artefacts or damage. The only major problem I had with this transfer pertains to its utter blackness. Any nighttime sequence is so dark it’s genuinely impossible to tell what’s going on, which I’m assuming was the intended vision based on the sharpness of the white highlights in these scenes. Interestingly enough daylight scenes featuring utter blackness, like the one where Theseus and his friends are covered in oil, look perfectly stunning and crisp.
There’s no mistaking the utter bombast of this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which will tear your system a new one in the first couple of minutes of film time. The films scale is greatly assisted by subtle and not so subtle sound design, especially when in the midst of Hyperion’s kingdom, where the clang of industry and the wails of pain fill the rear and stereo channels in reasonably realistic ways (as realistic as such a film can be). The gods’ narration fills out the rear channels a whole lot more than I’m used to, which adds another nice touch of immersion, along with a more abstract, multi-channel flutter that accompanies the visions seen by the virgin oracle. The film’s battle scenes feature a solid collection of directional elements and dynamic ranges, but the soundtrack is most impressive when the gods are doing godly things, like creating massive waves, breaking heads at amazing speeds, or gorily killing Titans in super slow motion. Even the basic weapons of the gods are intimidating, and rumble with much more bass than those of mortal men while being brandished. Trevor Morris’ omnipresent score is big and brassy, throbbing out of the mix, and banging us over the head with bursts of low horns, and massive percussion.
Extras begin with It’s No Myth (5:30, HD), a brief discussion of the film’s source material with Cal State University lecturer J. Mark Sugars, Cal State University professor of comparative literature Dr. Nhora Lucia Serrano, UCLA lecturer Richard Rader, and (briefly) director Tarsem Singh and actor Kellan Lutz. These educational types run down the basics of Greek mythology, the reality found its themes and its place in modern storytelling, and is generally a good primer. Caravaggio Meets Fight Club: Tarsem’s Vision (20:30, HD) is a four-part featurette covering the director’s vision (including design and story themes), the visual effects (including new effects systems that allow effects compositions on sight), the stunts and the film’s score. It features interviews with Tarsem, writers Vlas and Charley Parlapanides, actors Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans and Kellan Lutz, producers Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Tommy Turtle, Ryan Kavanaugh and Jeff G. Waxman, art director Mark Manson, costume designer Eiko Ishioka, VFX producer Jack Geist, VFX supervisor Raymond Gieringer, cinematographer Brendan Galvin, stunt coordinator Artie Malesci, and composer Trevor Morris. Everyone makes telling comparisons to 300 throughout.
Next up is an alternate opening sequence (11:30, HD), which follows the final film relatively closely, but adds a bit of insight into the earlier years of some of the characters (Hyperion’s history could’ve been included, but the young Thesius stuff is pretty boring), followed by two alternate endings (8:40 and 4:10, HD), and eight more deleted/alternate/extended scenes (8:10, HD). The deleted scenes add a smidge of character to the gods, and help establish the geography of the universe. I think I might’ve left parts of them in, but generally appreciate the film’s quickened second half pace. The extras are completed with five still galleries from the Immortals: Gods & Heroes comic books, a trailer, and trailers for other Relative Media releases.
Immortals is uber-dumb, a textbook example of style over substance, and I’m not sure I could possibly care less about the plot or characters, but I still kind of enjoyed it. It could certainly be worse. I still have faith that director Tarsem Singh has a bright future. Anyone with this potent of a cinematic voice has to have at least one more The Fall in him. I mean, there are definitely comparisons to be made between him and Alejandro Jodorowsky, right? *Watches Mirror, Mirror trailer* Ohhhh, maybe not…
…Well, this Blu-ray disc looks and sounds pretty great, despite a bit of mud in the darkest sequences, and the brief extras actually cover quite a bit of the behind the scenes story. Fans should be plenty happy.
* Note: The images on this page do not represent the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 6th March 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: It's No Myth, Caravaggio Meets Fight Club: Tarsem's Vision, Two Alternate Endings, Alternate Opening, Delted Scenes, Immortals: Gods and Heroes Graphic Novel, Trailers, Digital Copies
Easter Egg: No
Director: Tarsem Singh
Cast: Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans, Isabel Lucas, Kellan Lutz, Freida Pinto
Genre: Action, Adventure and Fantasy
Length: 110 minutes
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