Thursday, 24 November 2011

Immortals Review: The Good (Spoilers)

I have now, finally, after all of that anticipation, seen Immortals (not "The Immortals", as previously written). It was quite a bizarre experience. I've taken a few days to mull over the film, and have decided that the best way to structure my review/response/reaction would be to split it in two, the first post listing all of the positive and/or commendable aspects of the film, and the second unleashing some of the detracting elements (I think you can see where I'm going with this).


  • Some of the mythology is correct... sort of. Theseus is famous for fighting a minotaur in a labyrinth, even if the circumstances are about as radically different from the ones presented in the film. In fairness, however, the final scene of the film suggests that the myth passed down to us (as represented by the friezes and large statue of Theseus fighting the minotaur) is in fact a distortion or exaggeration of the "true events", which, if I'm interpreting that correctly, does imply some degree of narrative consistency. That is to say, the whole point of the film is to show the events that spawned the legends familiar to us today. Could be.
  • The treatment of the notion of immortality in Greek eyes was actually fairly convincing, with Hyperion (?!) projecting a model of paternal continuity, as opposed to Theseus' conception (no pun intended) of "deeds" rather than "flesh" being immortal. I was reminded not only of the general themes of kleos and so in Greek mythology, but also Book 16 of the Odyssey, where Telemachus emphasises the fragility of his family line:
ὧδε γὰρ ἡμετέρην γενεὴν μούνωσε Κρονίων·
μοῦνον Λαέρτην Ἀρκείσιος υἱὸν ἔτικτε,
μοῦνον δ' αὖτ' Ὀδυσῆα πατὴρ τέκεν· αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς
μοῦνον ἔμ' ἐν μεγάροισι τεκὼν λίπεν, οὐδ' ἀπόνητο.
For in this way the son of Cronos has made our bloodline solitary:
Arcesius sired Laertes as an only son,
Then he in turn was the father who sired Odysseus only; but Odysseus
Sired and left me in his halls alone, and had no enjoyment from me.
(That's my attempt, there are better translations here, here and arguably here)
So, the tension in the film is essentially the same as the central concern of the Homeric epics, where Achilles in the Iliad could hardly be more indifferent towards either his own life or that of his son - here, Theseus dies in pursuit of glory without even knowing that he has a son.
  • The whole idea of the gods being mortal - indeed, dying, as they do in the bust-up with the released Titans - is not such a crazy one. In fact, I myself once wrote an essay (and perhaps at some point will write a post) on the mortality of the immortals, so these chaps must be on to something.
  • Despite the general fuzziness regarding the mythology (which could be intentional and excusable, as discussed earlier), some of the details were traditional. For example, that Theseus' girl-acquaintance is called Phaedra, and that together they have a son named Acamas (Immortals 2?). The Titans in Mt. Tartarus. And so on (yes, alright, I can't remember any others, but I had a (slightly longer) list when I came out of the film).
  • Some of the fight scenes were quite well choreographed (even if for the most part they tended towards a sort of "300-lite", and the 3D was rubbish... no, that comes later).
  • The opening scene was in... Ancient Greek. Ish. Okay, it wasn't exactly the right dialect, and it wasn't strictly speaking logical that the sybils should speak Ancient Greek to each other while everyone else spoke American English, and the subtitles didn't absolutely match what was being said (I look forward to the inevitable YouTube video with "correct" subtitles), but it was a nice effort, and a refreshing break from antisemitic caricatures hurling abuse in Aramaic at Jesus while Pontius Pilate mutters mournfully to himself in Latin. Which reminded me of the opening scene of A Serious Man.

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