Del and Mladen review ‘Immortals’

Image courtesy of Relativity Media.

“Immortals” Starring Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, John Hurt. Directed by Tarsem Singh. 110 minutes. Rated R.

Del’s take

OK, Mom and Dad. Do not – I repeat, do NOT – take the kiddies to see “Immortals.” If you do, I suggest when you get home you immediately hide the family sledgehammer. Yes, in “Immortals,” somebody does something very bad with a sledgehammer. We’re talking back-alley vasectomy. We wouldn’t want the kiddies getting any ideas.

You might also want to hide the kitchen knives, any random chains you’ve got hanging around, pikes, swords – heck, just hide everything. Or better, do NOT take the kiddies to see “Immortals.”

Because it’s a bloodbath – an empty, silly, thoroughly predictable yet exquisitely choreographed bloodbath. Take strawberries, tomatoes, cherry Jell-O, berry-flavored Kool-Aid, and dump them into a blender. Leave the top off and hit the “on” button. That’ll give you a visceral preview of “Immortals.” Oh, and you get to clean up the mess.

In “Immortals,” the gods have won their war against the Titans, imprisoning them within a mountain. But a power-mad human king, Hyperion (played with vicious gusto by Mickey Rourke) decides he must have a WMD, something called the Epirus Bow, with which he may free the Titans and rain destruction on all of Greece. The gods are bound by law not to interfere in the matters of men (probably a part of Obama’s health care plan), but Zeus (Luke Evans/John Hurt) has been secretly preparing a human peasant, Theseus (Henry Cavill), to lead the Greeks to triumph over Hyperion. When Hyperion’s men slay Theseus’ mother, and Theseus encounters a virgin vision-seer (Freida Pinto, who doesn’t remain a virgin very long – oops, spoiler alert!) who sees his role in the upcoming battle, Theseus embarks on a bloody quest to avenge his mother’s death and make the world safe for Democrats. OK, maybe that’s stretching it.

If you go into “Immortals” expecting any kind of high-concept art, you’ll be disappointed. It is not “Being There” or “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Heck, it’s not even “Star Wars.”

Or maybe it is. What separates “Immortals” from movies like, say, “Transformers,” is that it does have a plot, albeit a predictable plot sans any pleasant surprises along the way. Director Tarsem has constructed a visual machine that performs its work with the ritual synchronicity of an assembly line at a Ford plant.

It also has lots and lots of flesh – pretty boys with perfectly sculpted abs and luscious women whose attributes, be they God-given or enhanced by prosthetics, suggest that life in the B.C. days had definite virtues.

But it’s the fight scenes in “Immortals” that make the movie worth seeing. If you thought Jet Lee, the Wachowski brothers and Quentin Tarrantino had mined that vein for all it’s worth, think again. “Immortals” carries the movie fight scene to an unprecedented and bloody apex, giving the viewer a slow-mo entrée to a feast of exploding heads, cartwheeling body parts and severed torsos, all of it presented in breathtaking operatic melodrama.

I recommend seeing it in 2D. The 3D version contributes practically nothing to the viewing experience.

“Immortals” is not for the squeamish. It’s not for the thoughtful moviegoer.

But if you’re looking for nearly two hours of escapist fun – and you’re not warping your children’s minds – you’ll enjoy “Immortals.”

Out of 10 stars I give it seven.

Mladen’s take

The film “Immortals” starts with a vision by a soon-to-be defrocked virgin oracle and ends with her glimpse of the future coming true. Between, the movie is filled with slick scenes of slaughter that only an R rating permits.

Immortals is loosely based on Greek mythology.

Gods, led by father Zeus and fearful of another internecine war with Titans, hope that a mortal becomes their savior. Theseus, portrayed by Henry Cavill, is nudged by fate and faith to fight against Hyperion, played by Mickey Rourke. Hyperion, a commander of vast legions, wants to free Titans to avenge cruelties that he and his family endured because Gods refused to intervene on their behalf. But, before Hyperion can achieve his desire, he has to fight Hellenes, and Theseus, defending the mountain where Titans are imprisoned.

As the heroes – Theseus and Gods – and antiheroes – Hyperion and Titans – edge closer to battle, Immortals tries to teach us lessons.

Theseus and his mother are peasants and abused by prominent members of the cliffside village where they live, so there’s a subtheme of class warfare.

Theseus, an unbeliever at the beginning of the movie, transforms into a man of faith. Hyperion, once a believer in Gods, scorns them. Guess which one survives the epic hand-to-hand combat at Immortal’s end? So, we are taught that those who bow to the will of Gods prevail and those who fail to genuflect, die. What crap.

Morals aren’t the strength of Immortals, but, I suppose, something had to be devised to bundle the movie’s virtue: gorgeous, stylized carnage.

Theseus sweeps through squads of Hyperion’s men with ballet-like precision, puncturing abdomens and heads with spears, slicing necks with swords, and, once, blasting them with electromagnetic arrows of the Epirus bow.

Though the peasant warrior’s magic with all objects sharp and pointy was impressive, nothing compared to the vivid gore that enveloped the screen when Gods or Titans warred. I’ll stop here to keep from spoiling the scenes, but wait until you see god Aries dispatch a half-dozen of Hyperion’s men in slow motion about halfway through the movie. The battle between Gods, who dress like sissies, and Titans, who look like corpuscular ash, is absolutely luscious.

Del and I saw Immortals in 3-D, though it isn’t necessary to enjoy the movie. The cinematography is bright enough, I suspect, to make Immortals very watchable in just plain 2-D, as long as the theater packs a good sound system.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” Starring Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, and Sergi Lopez. Directed by Guillermo del Torro. 119 minutes. Rated R.

Mladen’s take

Beautifully shot, captivatingly acted, the film “Pan’s Labyrinth” has to be more complex than what appears on the surface, as gripping as the surface can be.

At face value the movie is about a smart, upstanding 12-year-old girl descending into a fantasy world below and about the abandoned mill where she’s staying with her desperate mother and vile step-father, a captain in the Spanish army of fascist Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

It’s 1944 and the captain and his unit are mopping up communists hiding in the mountains. As he flattens a less-than-subservient suspect’s nose with a beer bottle, shoots others with his pistol and tortures a captured partisan, the captain’s pregnant wife ignores the bloodshed and prepares for child birth.

Her daughter tries to escape the horror through imagination. In her thoughts, she encounters Pan, the tattooed, goat-like guardian of a utopian kingdom long dead. He promises the girl eternal life and happiness, as long as she executes three deeds.

On the surface, “Pan’s Labyrinth” is about a girl turning inward to forget the brutal world engulfing her. Trouble is, her adventures in fantasy land aren’t all that wonderful. During her quest, the girl encounters all sorts of creatures – one beast, with drooping skin and eyes in the palms of its hands, eats two of the girl’s dainty fairies.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” strongly suggests, if not outright screams, that even the imaginary places we contrive for peace of mind are tainted by exposure to civilization. We’re viciously human even when we don’t have to be, though in this case the girl eventually journeys to a happier land.

Del’s take

What’s to understand, Mladen? This girl’s life really, really sucks.

Her name is Ofelia and she’s the quintessential stepchild – her real father was murdered by fascists, her mother has taken up with those very same fascists and Ofelia’s only escape is the brutal and scary fantasy world of Pan’s Labyrinth, which is about as much fun as a two-for-one root canal.

While performing the three tasks to prove her worthiness to Pan, Ofelia makes mistakes, disobeys orders, and brings pain and even death into her life … wow, sounds like a shopping adventure at Wal-Mart.

But what matters is where she’s at when the movie ends, and I guess it’s safe to say she’s in a better place.

What I took from this movie is that life – even a fantasy life – extracts its pound of flesh. Sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven. Sometimes it’s worth it.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is dark by American standards but it reminded me that even a can of Spam can taste like a banquet when you haven’t had anything to eat in a long time.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a journalist and author.