Many moons ago, the Titans were vanquished in a huge battle by the immortals who became the Gods of Mount Olympus, and passed into Ancient Greek legend that they had been imprisoned in an impenetrable mountain for all eternity. But what if there were an army whose leader, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), had made it his mission to release these Titans from their incarceration to do battle once more with the gods, what then? The Gods had better draw up some plans soon, for Hyperion is advancing on Greece and has in his sights the Bow of Epirus, a magic weapon that fires a never-ending supply of energy bolts, just the thing to unleash the awesome power of the Titans; yet what he hasn’t counted on is the presence of a mortal, Theseus (Henry Cavill)…
Although exactly what help our mythic hero Theseus has been once the movie has reached its end was rather difficult to discern, since that conclusion, without giving much away had very little to do with his actions and seems to have been able to happen without his interference. Thus was the sham of Greek legends exposed! Or perhaps the screenwriters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides didn’t quite have the grasp on their material they hoped – this was one of those movies that began without a completed script, after all, so perhaps they could be excused for their loose approach to the mythology which played pick and mix with various elements the scholars would be mildly horrified to see rode roughshod over their field of expertise.
But that was nothing new, and anyway, who cared about that kind of thing when you could see loads of big, musclebound, sweaty men wearing next to nothing? This was where you realised it was not the classical history Immortals was harking back to, and no matter what director Tarsem Singh said it wasn’t exactly Renaissance art either, nope we were well and truly in the territory of Italian peplum movies of the nineteen-fifties and sixties, where Steve Reeves and his ilk bestrode the cinema like a Colossus, quite often literally. So what we were actually asked to do here was not brush up on our culture, but to ogle the perfection of the male physique as presented to us in various flavours of beefcake.
If you wanted more depth and insight to your classical studies, then stick to the library loser, this was the effects of pumping iron on display, much as the film this most emulated, 300, had been (it had the same producers). Not quite setting aside the rumours about Ancient Greeks’ sexual proclivities when there was this amount of heaving manflesh to be seen, in precisely the way an eighties action flick would invite you to be impressed at how physical the hero could get with his shirt off as he posed and grimaced with the exertion of looking good, here when the swords were set a-clashing much the same dynamics were in place. Not to say there were no female characters, with Freida Pinto our oracle whose big vision turns out to be of no use whatsoever.
But chicks, huh? What use are they when there’s all these strapping blokes to lustily admire? The best thing Pinto’s Phaedra does according to this is be bedded by Theseus, not because she provides sexual or even romantic satisfaction, but because he requires an heir, just as his mother (who died at the hands of Hyperion), always wanted, and also to fulfil some destiny or other. Singh arranged this in his by now customary empty but artful style, proving that what he needed was a strong basis for his visual ambition and Immortals wasn’t necessarily supplying it. Indeed, you could sit through this and let the whole thing wash over your barely caring mind, simply appreciating the abundance of glossy imagery should that be to your liking. Certainly the acting was very much secondary to how much time the cast had spent in the gym, and the effects budget added little more than further slick veneer no matter the regular brutality of events portrayed. Even so, there wasn’t a whole lot here you couldn’t get from a bodybuilding documentary. Music by Trevor Morris.