Direct from the (not especially mean) streets of Oxford City centre. Or not far from them, anyway – from the foyer of the nicer of the two Odeons:
Awix: 'One for Immortals, please.'
Ticketeer: 'Which one, please?'
Awix: 'The one in about twenty minutes.'
Ticketeer: 'You know that's in 2D, sir?'
Awix: (grinning) 'Yes.'
Ticketeer: (clearly bemused) '...oh.'
(Protracted conversation concerning which of the numerous available seating and loyalty card options I wish to avail myself of ensues. Eventually...)
Ticketeer: 'So there's your ticket, sir. Can I ask, do you prefer 2D?'
Ticketeer: (clearly straining to hide incredulity) 'May I ask why?'
Awix: 'Well... I just find it really distracting. The 3D shrinks everything... I don't think it's worth the money... and with the glasses you lose so much light, if the film's dark to begin with you can't see what's happening...'
(The Ticketeer is staring at me with an expression as stony as the Greek economy. I had no idea these people were trained so thoroughly. )
Awix: 'Anyway I'll just go now...'
Ticketeer: (clearly doubtful that such a thing is even possible, but contractually obliged) 'Enjoy your film, sir.'
Hmmm, well. Given that the film in question was Tarsem Singh Dhandwar's Immortals, I was pretty dubious myself - I had a pretty shrewd suspicion going in that even had I availed myself of the stereoscopic option, adding an extra D to this movie would only bump the plotting and characterisation up to the level of 2D anyway.
There's probably a pretty good Immortals drinking game to be had – every time a terrible old fantasy cliche or plot device lurches into view, everyone has a shot of something bracing. This way you will all be unconscious well before the end, which is possibly the best way to partake of this movie.
Oh well – expository opening voiceover explaining backstory of ancient evil and lurking plot devices? Check! Rampaging dark warlord on the march, intent on vengeance for poorly-explained reasons? Check! Strapping young hero with a Big Destiny? Check! Besieged monastery and fleeing beautiful young woman? Check! Faux-period violin-y sounds all over the score? Check!
If you really must know: bad guy Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) has but one aim – to breach the walls of Tartarus, the ancient prison of the Titans, losers of a war in heaven. (Well, I say 'one aim' – he also seems quite keen on eating and putting it about a bit. Clearly the man has serious issues of all kinds.) To this end he and his army are sweeping across what's obviously ancient Greece (though not named as such). Releasing the Titans will mean trouble for everyone, but especially for the Gods, who are nevertheless unable to intervene (although it's never explained why).
In Hyperion's path is the village of buff young atheist Theseus (Henry Cavill, to be seen next year in Zach Snyder's increasingly ominous-looking Man of Steel), who is strong and determined and – judging for his ability to put up with a homily-spouting old coot who follows him about (John Hurt, really slumming it) – extremely tolerant. Theseus is only concerned with looking after his dear old mum, to the point of indulging in fisticuffs with the Greek army when they object to helping her flee from the looming war. 'This is no time for violence!' cries a Greek officer, an attitude which may explain why Hyperion is doing so well in the war.
Anyway, Hyperion captures Theseus and slings him in the salt mines, where he meets Phaedra (Freida Pinto), not the Nancy Sinatra character but a seeress, and Stavros (Stephen Dorff), not the Harry Enfield character but a wisecracking thief and thus someone with 'sidekick' written all over him. Phaedra quickly twigs that Theseus has the potential to stop Hyperion and they all bust out, with what seemed to me to be excessive ease.
The rest of the movie is to do with the Epirus Bow, a plot-device magic weapon. To be fair to it, Immortals does break new ground in this area at least – normally you would expect a lengthy quest taking up most of the second act to take place, with great deeds required, etc etc. But Theseus basically just trips over the damn thing without even knowing what it is, let alone looking for it, which must have made the film shorter, so – hurrah! Well played, guys!
Yes, this is another clanging mess of a fantasy film, very much influenced by 300 on this occasion. Lord knows 300 isn't a great movie (though I always find it rather enjoyable to watch), but compared to this one it's a blazing classic of our time. Immortals is a brave movie in a number of ways – for one thing it goes down the full Jason and the Argonauts route of having the Gods of Olympus appear as characters – good-looking, woodenly-acted characters, admittedly (one of them, Luke Evans, was in The Three Musketeers, and another used to be in Home and Away, so this should not be a great surprise).
The film also has the most impressive collection of silly hats I can recall – Phaedra turns up at one point apparently with a lampshade on her head, while Hyperion has a large selection, of which my favourite is one which makes him look like he's peering out of an earwig's bottom. All in all, Immortals is so absurd and incoherent and garish and emotionally banal that it rather resembles a particularly lavish running of the Eurovision Song Contest with all the songs cut out and lashings of violence put in their place.
I have to say, folks, this is a seriously violent movie – it's only a 15 in the UK (and I understand some key scenes have been snipped to secure even this) but what's there is still seriously at odds with the tone of the rest of it. It's a silly CGI-heavy 3D piece of fantasy nonsense! Kids on the cusp of teenagerhood are probably the only ones who will be able to enjoy it unironically! So why bother to include all the graphic stabbings, eye-gougings, people being burned and roasted alive, and men hacking out their own tongues or being castrated with a sledgehammer? (The last two occur in the same, charming, scene.) It all comes across as simply nasty, which when added to the silliness of the rest of it results in a film which is just baffling: if you've ever wanted to see an extravagantly choreographed and CGI'd sequence of about six extras having their heads graphically smashed apart in slow motion by a man apparently dressed as a cockatoo, this is the movie you've been waiting for.
There are lots of looong slooow zooms to showcase the 3D, intrusively flashy dissolves between scenes, and technically immaculate but utterly soulless effects sequences. For at least the third time this year Freida Pinto is treated solely as a decorative item. Mickey Rourke spends the entire film doing a hhhrrrhhhrhrhrhhrh voice which renders some of his dialogue actually unintelligible. Only Stephen Dorff – someone once described by the commentator and critic Mark Cousins as 'a rotten actor' – manages to show the slightest personality beyond the demands of the script.
Immortals only ever shows the barest signs of anything beyond simple technical efficiency. The rest of it is pretty much unmitigated nonsense, utterly cliched and frequently genuinely unpleasant. One to be avoided – stay at home with a DVD of 300 and marvel that that film turned out as well as it did.