‘Immortals’ falls into action movie platitudes

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A few times during the screening of “Immortals,” the audience would emit a collective awkward laugh, and not in response to a joke made by the stoic Henry Cavill, who plays the lead hero Theseus. Rather, certain attempts at melodrama would brush the surface of comedy, as when Freida Pinto’s virgin oracle character takes Theseus’s head in her hands and feeds him drops of water from her own mouth, rendered in slow motion. From the looks of it, this is a movie that takes itself a bit too seriously.

Cavill’s Theseus, whose mission is to save the Greeks from destruction by the evil Hyperion, is the kind of guy who doesn’t seem to own a shirt. His rippling abs are made especially rippling through the generous use of CGI effects, which are present throughout the movie in various forms. These effects are perhaps the movie’s one saving grace, carving whole villages into sides of steep ocean cliffs, which make for some great visual eye candy, as well as a handy way for ill-fated minions to fall to their deaths.

And like your average blockbuster film, all the characters are archetypes. You have your old guy mentor, akin to Yoda in his one-liner platitudes, but less amusing. There’s also your crass, fun-loving (but ultimately goodhearted) jokester sidekick, as well as your arrogant but fundamentally cowardly traitor who, in this case, is the one to give our heroes away to the evil King Hyperion.

This Hyperion, played by the ever-hulking Mickey Rourke, is the sort of carelessly ruthless villain who intimidates all with his Vader-like voice. He’s often seen carelessly eating fruit and throwing the pits into various holy receptacles.This apparent disregard for the sanctity of the gods has a root, we soon find out. The gods betrayed him when he needed them the most, he explains, when they let his wife and children die. This thread is mentioned, and like many other threads in the movie, never alluded to again. But it does explain Hyperion’s evil goal to vanquish the gods by releasing the imprisoned Titans, thereby sending the whole Greek civilization into chaos.

There are a few epic fight scenes, if you’re into that sort of thing. The final battle sequence is almost overwhelming in terms of its sheer volume: millions of lowly foot soldiers crashing into each other like ants intercut with Theseus’s private showdown with Hyperion, as well as the gods’ own battle against the Titans. The ways various people are killed and done away with are taken to a new level of creativity. At one point, Poseidon severs the heads of two Titans with the side of his trident in gloriously bloody fashion.

Perhaps the most infuriating part of the movie, besides the excruciatingly obvious plot line and one-dimensional characters, is its blatant sexism. Pinto’s oracle, Phaedra, along with her posse of three oracle maidens, all speak in ominous whispers and for some unbeknown reason, dress in scanty little cleavage-baring dresses, despite their untouchable status. And then there’s Athena (Isabel Lucas) — not the strong, intelligent goddess of mythology that we all know and love — but a whimpering, skinny little daddy’s girl.

But again, being true to tradition is not exactly what the producers of “300” were going for in making this movie. If what you’re looking for is a gratuitous bloodfest drawn in sumptuous imagery, this would serve your purpose, sort of. The visual effects are stunning at times, but never completely breathtaking. And the battle sequences draw upon hundreds of similar precedents. Even taking the whole production at face value, “Immortals” is not memorable.