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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Immortals (Blu-ray)
Immortals (Blu-ray)
Fox // R // March 6, 2012 // Region A
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 10, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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The Fall earned Tarsem Singh Dhandwar a well-deserved lifetime pass from me. This is a director who funnelled many millions of his own dollars into his magnum opus: a visually dazzling film about the power of storytelling, shot over the course of four years in dozens of countries all across the globe. The story behind The Fall is as remarkable as the movie itself, and the end result ranks among my very favorite films of the past decade. Having risked so much for his art, I can't begrudge the guy for taking a well-paying gig strictly for the paycheck. After all, even the most mediocre of screenplays
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will surely have something spectacular to offer in the hands of someone with Tarsem's cinematic vision. Well...I'm still willing to give Tarsem the benefit of the doubt, but Immortals pushes that lifetime pass I've given him just about to the breaking point.

Tarsem's unparalleled visual eye is muted to better fit into the 300 mold. There's something resembling a story here -- grieving King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) seeks to free the titans as part of his war against the gods, undeterred by the devastation this will wreak upon humanity, and only the gods' chosen warrior Theseus (Henry Cavill) stands any change of stopping his mad quest for vengeance -- but it's really an excuse for orange guys with spears and rock-hard abs to stab each other in slomo-fastmo-back-to-slomo against computer-generated backdrops of orange, brown, and teal for two hours straight. Immortals fails on most every conceivable level. It's devoid of any meaningful dramatic or emotional hooks. I guess you're supposed to care about whatever's going on because you shelled out $22.99 at Target for this Blu-ray disc.

There's nothing engaging or even vaguely memorable about most of these characters. Henry Cavill's Theseus is all six-pack abs and no personality. Mickey Rourke doesn't exude any real menace as Hyperion. Sure, Immortals is at least mildly watchable thanks to the presence of such superhumanly gorgeous women as Freida Pinto and Isabel Lucas, and any movie with John Hurt in the supporting cast can't be a total wash. For every John Hurt, though, there are two or three Kellan Lutzes who can't convincingly deliver a line of dialogue to save their lives...so stilted and awkward that it's baffling that Tarsem didn't just get someone else to loop over their lines in post-production or something. Immortals trudges through its first hour and change with largely uninteresting characters doing largely uninteresting things to service a largely uninteresting story, with the bulk of the brutality reserved for the final half hour. It's one of the most ploddingly placed and flat-out
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tedious movies I've had to suffer through in the past year.

Even looking past all those scenes of unrelenting, interminable exposition, Immortals really doesn't work as much of an action movie. I do appreciate the craftsmanship behind that, though, at least to a point. Unlike a lot of action flicks that rely on jarringly frantic editing, Immortals instead prefers longer cuts. Bolstered further by spectacularly elaborate choreography and geysers of digital blood, it's practically a ballet of violence. On the other hand, the battles are too dementedly, cartoonishly over-the-top for them to have any real impact, plus there aren't any stakes in a movie where I couldn't give any less of a shit about its characters if I clenched my fists and tried really, really hard. Despite the volume and brutality of its battles, Immortals never manages to get my pulse racing.

The overreliance on digital imagery also proves to be a stumbling block. Part of what I find so entrancing about The Fall is Tarsem's insistence on capturing such otherworldly imagery in front of the camera. It's a film overflowing with visuals I've never seen before, and every last bit of it was executed practically. There's an inherent sense of reality that comes with that sort of approach, and particularly in the context of a wide-eyed fantasy, that can be remarkably powerful. Even with as skilled as many of the visual effects throughout Immortals are, it very much comes across as an artificial construction. Pretty much every shot in the movie has a digital environment composited into the background, and it's a constant distraction, preventing me from ever fully escaping into this world. The digital blood looks ridiculous as well, and such significant shots as the tidal wave triggered by Poseidon also aren't particularly convincing. Tarsem's distinctive visual eye rears its head from time to time, particularly as it sets its gaze upon the elaborate costume designs. Some of them are tremendous; others look like rejects from "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark". Immortals' central villains are draped in such absurd looking costumes that it's impossible to take them seriously. Tarsem being forced to paint with a palette of essentially three colors doesn't do him any favors either.

I would've been perfectly okay with Immortals if it had been another case of style-over-substance, but even with a visual master like Tarsem at the helm, it doesn't muster nearly as much style as I'd have liked for that cliché to work. Immortals is a tepid, tedious, uninvolving technical exercise shamelessly riding the coattails of 300 and cashing in on what looked like a resurgence of Greek mythology-based blockbusters like Percy Jackson and Clash of the Titans. As much as I loathed that sensory overload remake of Clash of the Titans, somehow Immortals manages to be even worse. Skip It.


Video
Lensed with the Panavision Genesis, it ought to go without saying that Immortals is spectacularly sharp and immaculately detailed on Blu-ray. By any reasonable measure, this presentation ought to be rewarded with a perfect score, but I guess I'm about to be unreasonable. Though Immortals benefits greatly from its rich contrast and deep, inky blacks, a number of sequences teeter on the brink of excessive darkness. Its aggressively bland
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palette -- an onslaught of teals, oranges, and browns -- also quickly becomes tedious to watch. I'm sure those are all deliberate visual choices, but I can't honestly say that Immortals is a movie I enjoyed watching because of them. The strictly technical end of things is flawless, however, devoid of any compression artifacting, banding, ringing around areas of high contrast, and the like.

The AVC encode for Immortals spans both layers of this BD-50 disc, and the image has been slightly letterboxed to preserve its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. That itself is an interesting choice seeing as how films of this scope almost always opt for a far wider frame.

The version of Immortals being reviewed here is the 2D release. There is a BD-3D set out there, although viewers are warned that it's a post-production conversion rather than proper 3D photography. That might not matter to you seeing as how the 3D release has the same pricetag at Amazon as I write this, and that three disc set lets you choose whichever version of the movie you'd like.


Audio
Though Immortals does boast a lossless soundtrack with a properly cinematic set of technical specs, I have to admit to feeling at least a bit let down. That's really due to its disinterest in taking full advantage of the surround channels. The rears are dutifully chattering for a couple hours straight, but throughout the battles for so much of the movie, there's just a bunch of dull, indistinct, metallic clanging. I get that it's meant to feel as if swords are crashing against shields as warriors duel in every direction, but it rarely comes across as immersive or engaging. The surrounds largely reinforce off-screen action rather than bolstering the strength of what's unspooling right in front of me. The brawl against the minotaur is the first noteworthy exception to that, and the havoc wrought throughout Immortals' final half hour leaves me wishing that same mindset had been applied to the film as a whole. I also appreciate the deafened sound design in the aftermath of the titans' release, I consistently found myself dazzled by the distinctness and clarity of every last element in the mix, and bass response is expectedly thunderous. Flawed but worthy.

Also included is a Dolby Digital 5.1 dub in French. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.


Extras
  • It's No Myth (5 min.; HD): The first of the featurettes is a five minute primer in Greek mythology, particularly some of the stories that form the basis for Immortals and how malleable the lore has proven to be in popular culture.

  • Caravaggio Meets Fight Club: Tarsem's Vision (20 min.; HD): The four featurettes that comprise "Caravaggio Meets Fight Club" can be viewed
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    individually or played all at once. "Tarsem's Vision" marvels at the director's unparalleled visual eye and also touches on how he's resculpted Greek mythology into something all his own. "Visual Effects" focuses largely on the technology that allows the cast and crew to preview digitally rendered environments during principal photography. "Stunts" delves into the staggering scale of the battle sequences and the endless preparation that went into bringing them to life. Finally, "Creating the Score" dissects the compositions of Trevor Morris and touches on his collaboration with Tarsem.

  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes (32 min.; HD): Immortals' additional footage is spread out across four different headings on the menu. The reel of eight deleted scenes is by far the least compelling of the bunch, with each sequence clocking in at a minute on average, and they're largely limited to people standing around and talking. None of this really amounts to much of anything, which I'm sure is why they were ultimately removed. Only the first of these scenes, further fleshing out Lysander's defection to the Heraklions, is of any real interest.

    Featured elsewhere on the disc is an alternate opening, and it revolves around Theseus as a child. The expository introduction into Immortals' underlying mythology is not only greatly extended but is revealed to be a school lesson of sorts, leading up to a young, skeptical Theseus battling it out with some of his particularly cruel classmates. The relationship between Theseus and the Old Man is better established than it is in the theatrical cut, his mother is introduced in a very different way, and the future warrior's strength and indomitable will are also shown to have been decades in the making. Interestingly, this alternate opening begins with the oracles as children as well. This intro serves the story well, although I can see why it was taken out -- for pacing, if nothing else -- and the actor playing young Theseus doesn't exactly scream "period". It's hard to spell out what's changed in the two alternate endings without heavy spoilers, but suffice it to say that a couple of central characters meet different yet equally fatal ends.

  • Immortals: Gods and Heroes: It's not particularly pleasant trying to read them at a normal viewing distance, but this Blu-ray disc does serve up pages from an Immortals graphic novel.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Rounding out the extras is a high definition trailer.

The second disc in the set is a digital copy for use on iTunes and Android-powered devices. Immortals comes packaged in a metallic slipcover.


The Final Word
Tarsem is a visionary filmmaker in the truest possible sense, and I'll always be among the first in line to marvel at whatever the next world is that he's so meticulously crafted. Immortals, though, bears less of Tarsem's stamp and more of the "from the producers of 300" plastered across the bottom of the cover. Immortals is a sporadic visual feast but far more often a plodding, unengaging, clumsily written bore. Skip It.


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