Friday, June 1, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #22: Immortals

There's something cold and off-putting about Tarsem's CGI abuse in Immortals. Admittedly gorgeous, its clean aesthetic is one glob of frozen Vaseline away from being a mash-up of 300 and Mathew Barney's Cremaster series of art films... and that's just the impression left by the first three minutes. By the time Frida Pinto shows up and John Hurt starts narrating, you question why actors and storyline are being introduced to ruin the clean. cartoon-y tableau. Tarsem may be the most painterly director since Peter Greenaway, but his CGI compositions commit the crime of being, for all their showmanship, not quite good enough. You're always aware of what's been pasted in digitally, and it always looks a little unfinished.

That said, damn, this is one good-looking movie. Nearly two solid hours of sparse-yet-sumptuous eye-candy. Add one more "S" here, "sterile." For all the aggressive fight choreography and sanguine splashes of color, everything here has, again, a touch of aspirational CGI:  the unreality of composited sets and impractical effects. Even using people seems excessive, Immortals should have simply been programmed like an arty video game.
While gorgeous, good luck even remembering the visuals after watching, because this is more a lovely perfume commercial than a movie. Story? Secondary here, and mostly in service to the visuals. King Hyperion wishes to bring back the Titans to vanquish their children, the Gods. Zeus selects Theseus to lead the battle against them. There's intrigue and betrayal and the hunt for a mythic bow that can release the Titans. There's also Mickey Rourke (under enough hair and makeup to look normal), and pretty faces like Henry Cavill, Luke Evans, Pinto, Stephen Dorff, and Kellan Lutz, all of whom pose like human special effects. The gods, especially, look like a set of underwear models. Lutz, however, is so ridiculously buxom as to nearly resemble Rob Liefled's Captain America.
Kellan Lutz or Captain America?

It's always nice to see John Hurt, but not even his talents can stand up against this glorious, roaring void of art direction. The fight scenes, however, are rockin'. Easy to follow crowd-pleasers, the blood and battle keeps this from being just a pure experiment in pretty pictures. Oh, wait, scratch that, for all their impact most of the fights are just a series of poses.

Bad acting, not quite accomplished effects, and a disjointed story. How can something be this visually creative yet so howlingly awful otherwise?

(As an aside, I can't help but see some of the inspiration here for the Cliff Chang designs for the current "New 52" reboot of Wonder Woman.)

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