Mickey Rourke vs. Gods & Humans: No Family Jewels are Safe

City Pulse | November 7, 2011
Pitched to the public for its producer's association to the 2008 cartoon-cutout sword and sandal trash fest "300," this spectacle-driven tale of myth-based fantasy rightly earns its stripes thanks to a heavy-duty cast that includes the masterful John Hurt as a human-disguised Zeus and Mickey Rourke as an incredibly vicious King Hyperion.

Said producers have taken note of the many criticisms levied against “300” and made significant changes in response. Tarsem Singh ("The Cell") is a welcome replacement to hit-and-miss director Zach Snyder (hit with "Watchmen" and miss with "Sucker Punch"). Gone is the fetishistic adoration of the exposed male physique, which sent “300” into the realm of camp, in favor of truly breathtaking scenes of spectacle in the context of a story that actually holds together. Neptune splashes down to Earth, setting off an unforgettable tsunami which crashes against a cliff shoreline with gigantic, mind-boggling ferocity. It’s one of the first times in recent memory that such a scene excited me so much as an audience member that I was momentarily shaken out of my “critic” mindset.

Greek peasant warrior Theseus (Henry Cavill – “The Tudors”) is handpicked by the mortal incarnation of Zeus (John Hurt) to take up arms against King Hyperion (Rourke) who, with the help of his enormous army, is wiping out everything in his path in search of an all-empowering golden bow (forged in the heavens by the god Ares) that will destroy humanity. Theseus has a running start at battling King Hyperion considering he’s been mentored by Zeus. Still, Rourke’s ruthlessly sadistic King Hyperion is like a cross between British Petroleum, Bernie Madoff, Alan Greenspan, and Dick Cheney.

Only the long-lost magical Epirus Bow can release an army of gargantuan Titans imprisoned in a giant cubical cell buried in Mount Tartaros, where they wait to be brought back to life so they can take revenge against the gods who put them there. The catch is that the Gods of Olympus who defeated the Titans are sworn not to interfere with human matters even if it means allowing King Hyperion to obtain the powerful bow. As such, Henry Cavill’s Theseus carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Lush compositions of magnificent iconic imagery are captured by cinematographer Brendan Galvin (“Veronica Guerin”). Ominous foreboding skies cover every scene like something out of a painting by Bruegel the Elder. There’s a constant sense of mythic themes running at crosscurrents to the brutality onscreen. Some of this effect can be attributed to John Hurt’s uncanny ability to influence the narrative during his short but crucial scenes that bookend the story. The incredibly violent action that occurs includes numerous decapitations and scenes of erotic sensuality that temporarily alleviate the bone-crushing violence on hand. Myth genre movies have come a long way since the Ray Harryhausen-designed stop motion effects of “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963). “Immortals” is a big-screen popcorn movie to send off 2011 with a bang. You can taste the fury.

Rated R. 110 mins. (B) (Three Stars – out of five/no halves)

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