Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

17 November 2011


I got exactly what I expected from Immortals. Well... that might be a little too kind.

Let's do a little math. For me, Immortals breaks down like this:

Immortals > Alexander (what isn't?)
Immortals < The Fall
Immortals > 300
Immortals = Troy

I liked Immortals well enough. It was exciting and for the most part quite enjoyable as a film. Immortals is also über-violent. Like, crazy violent. And I have to say after the milquetoast Rum Diary that I really was pleased to see violence have an actual effect on bodies in space. I find PG-13 violence in movies quite offensive. But Immortals is insanely violent, actually. Bodies are smashed to bits and there were times while watching this film when my friend George and I cringed and crossed our legs and covered our eyes and all the rest of the horrible reactions people tend to have while watching truly grotesque violence on screen.

The most important thing to note about Immortals, if you ask me, is the costumes. I really hope designer Eiko Ishioka (Tarsem's usual designer) gets recognized by the Academy for her stunning work. I also want to note the performance by Luke Evans as Zeus. Evans was in the Musketeers movie earlier this fall, as well, and he is less interesting there, but in Immortals, he is fascinating. His Zeus is a tortured, troubled figure filled with equal parts hope and regret, and Evans manages to convey all of this wearing next to nothing and spouting inane dialogue.

A couple other thoughts. It's easy to object to the use of violence in a film. The standard logic here is that by giving us so much violence to see, we become desensitized to it, and violence seems to mean less to us. That may be true – probably is – but I think the horses have left the barn on this one. So it isn't violence per se to which I object here. What Immortals does that I find really troubling is the way that it justifies violent action by constantly utilizing ideological buzzwords like courage and freedom and honor and glory. For me, the mobilization of these words is much, much worse than representing grotesque violence onscreen. Words like courage and honor work to justify violence by behaving as though murder and rape and torture and brutality are equivalent to courage and honor and freedom and justice. If they are not equivalent (and they are not) Immortals behaves as though violence is the only way to achieve honor and the only method for demonstrating courage. To my mind, this ideological nonsense is infinitely more damaging than showing what happens to the human body when it is doused in alcohol and set on fire or when someone cuts his tongue out with a pair of rusty, ancient scissors.

Also: this movie is not The Fall. It is definitely a Tarsem Singh movie. It's gorgeous and feels like it takes place in the middle of nowhere even though we are constantly being told exactly where we are. But... well it just doesn't have the kind of emotional center that The Fall had. Instead, Immortals has beautiful costumes and gorgeous bodies and lots and lots of blood. I object to none of those things categorically, of course (I appreciate all of them, in fact), but at the center of Immortals there is no compelling relationship or powerful theme. In fact, there is not much at all at the center of Immortals.