Home Video Hovel- Immortals
David Bax was right, Immortals is one of the most underrated films of 2011. Unlike most modern blockbusters, Tarsem brings a true visual artistry to innovative action. Certainly no one criticized the bravura of Immortals — most of the complaints were directed at the script, which Rotten Tomatoes says contributed to “slack, boring storytelling.” I must disagree on this level, as well.
While its narrative shouldn’t win any awards, I think it stands shoulders above the films in its genre, as it understands what it is and presents itself in the appropriate way. All Greek mythology is just that, a mythology — Immortals consistently tells its story as a fable, a point which 300 or the Clash of the Titans reboot sorely missed. The film does this in a number of creative ways, starting with the film’s opening, which is told through voice-over narration. From the start, we understand this as a story being told to us, as if we were reading a Homer epic or a Greek child being told these legends. In a pivotal action scene, Theseus fights the Minotaur, a variation of the story we’ve heard in many Greek mythologies. Immortals absolutely gets the presentation of the beast right — for the monster is an actual man but he is given the ingredients that could develop through time into what we know now. I can imagine an unfilmed scene of Theseus telling others of the giant man with the head of a bull and them passing this story on, slightly changing along the way. Tarsem’s style also contributes to the narrative’s fable qualities: his sets, backdrops and costumes all have an other-worldly quality that are conceived imaginatively.
Another point to the strength of Immortals not mentioned in David’s theatrical review is Mickey Rourke’s turn as the villain, King Hyperion. Rourke’s reemergence stalled quickly after The Wrestler (films like The Expendables, Passion Play and Iron Man 2 were all grave disappointments), yet here is one of his absolute best performances. The villainy of King Hyperion is anything but “boring” — he is not only a badass but one of the most grotesque, evil characters of recent years. He isn’t exactly charismatic but he has some ridiculously amazing quotes. My favorite: “If I’m forced to search you out by other means, you will experience discomfort, a discomfort unique to your gender.” And he also wears great hats.
The Blu-Ray presentation is pretty amazing, as you would expect from a film so reliant on its visuals. I did notice that particular scenes were too dark, a problem I didn’t remember having in the theater. Still, the CGI is sharp and never shows its strings. The sound is absolutely perfect — loud and crisp. Another particular reason to buy the Immortals Blu-Ray or DVD are the special features, which include a number of production featurettes, alternate and deleted scenes — all together, over an hour of extra footage. It is sorely missing a director commentary but there should be enough for any film nerd or casual fan.
The alternate opening is an 11 minute sequence which slightly modifies the theatrical opening and adds a scene of a young Theseus. Similar to the original opening, we see the vision of King Hyperion releasing the Titans on the world, but here from the perspective of the virgin oracle as a child. We also hear the John Hurt voice-over narration which follows, yet this time he is presenting this story to a group of children. This literal presentation of myth adds to my reading of the film’s importance as a fable and I wish it could have been kept in the final film. Starting the film many years before the rest of the action adds another element to the film’s epic nature, stretching this story over years instead of days.
[SPOILER ALERT] The first alternate ending starts just after Theseus has killed Hyperion. Instead of teleporting him to the Heavens, though, he remains in Greece, among the carnage we didn’t get a chance to see in the theatrical cut [END SPOILER ALERT]. I like this alteration to the ending, as it gives a little extra context to the battle sequences — you can’t really digest the thousands of dead and wounded without this appendage. It also gives closure to Theseus that we didn’t previously get. I won’t go into specifics of the second ending, but it gives a pretty bold twist to what we see in the film. Interesting, but unnecessary.
Similarly, there are eight short deleted scenes that add unneeded context. Some of these scenes weren’t totally mastered and looked odd on my television. There was one highlight amongst the scenes, though, a confrontation between Zues and Poseidon which is shot on a gorgeous stage in the Heavens. If there was something Immortals needed more of it was definitely the beautiful landscapes amongst the Gods and this scene shows us one not seen otherwise. Also, for any Kellan Lutz fans out there disappointed that the hunky young actor didn’t have much screen time, this shows that he actually did have some dialogue originally.
The disc’s two featurettes are short and sweet — more of an overview than deep analysis. The first is a series of talking head experts explaining the mythology behind the film but they don’t talk much about the film specifically, which feels a little odd. Although it is relatively informative, anyone who went to high school probably already has a pretty good grip on the major players and themes of Greek mythology. The other is a series of mini-features on Tarsem’s vision, the effects and the stunts, grossly titled “Caravaggio Meets Fight Club“. Any film with this level of visual flair and autuerist stylings always deserves making-of documentation and those included on the disc give great insights on the filmmaker and the magic of the movie. I’m not really a special effects geek but I found the presentation of how the CGI was implemented in the film just as spectacular as the finished product. Watching the features on the effects and stunts definitely gave me an even greater appreciation for the film’s spectacle.
Immortals not only was a lot of fun to see in the theater, it is a film made for Blu-Ray. It looks beautiful, sounds epic and has more than an hour of extra content that fans of the film will enjoy. Though it had a moderately good box office run, I imagine many didn’t see it based on the poor critical consensus. Not only is the film worth seeing, it has been given a worthy home video release.