A greek tragedy: Immortals stakes its claim as the year’s worst movie

by Mark Burger

3-D or not 3-D, that is the question. In the case of Immortals (zero stars), however, the question proves moot, because no format can improve what shapes up to be one of the year’s genuine catastrophes. With so few weeks left in 2011, it’s almost inconceivable that something worse is due.

That the film opened big at the box office must surely indicate an inclination on the part of the audience to savor one of the more unintentionally hilarious films in recent memory. Either that, or they’ve seen everything else playing.

Under the clumsy direction of Tarsem Singh, this stone-faced (and sometimes stone-paced) saga follows the path of Theseus (Henry Cavill, late of “The Tudors” and soon the next Man of Steel) as he comes to greatness, doing battle against the evil King Hyperion (the one and only Mickey Rourke), whose awesome army threatens to swallow Greece as readily as Rourke threatens to swallow the film, after having feasted on every inch of scenery in sight with a performance of humongous hamminess.

Both Theseus and Hyperion are on the hunt for the sacred Epirus Bow, with which the bearer can conquer the world. Or something like that. Rourke’s growling, glowering, swaggering performance is seemingly a threat to civilization (or at least civilized behavior) in and of itself.

Joining the brawny Theseus on his heroic quest are Stavros (Stephen Dorff, pretty buff himself), who provides the sort of Bruce Willis-type wisecracks that were undoubtedly the rage in 13th century BC, and foxy Phaedra (Freida Pinto), whose mascara and eyeshadow appear equally incongruous. Pinto is certainly easy on the eyes, and so’s her body double in a naked bedroom romp with Cavill.

If the actors occasionally look a little lost, it’s not hard to sympathize. Immortals is the sort of film that strands whatever talent happened to be unlucky enough to get involved.

Observing these pedestrian proceedings from the lofty CGI vantage point of Mount Olympus are the gods themselves, including Athena (Isabel Lucas), Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) and the eponymous Zeus (Luke Evans), whose bickering engenders a few chuckles. From time to time, one or more will descend to Earth — looking for all the world like floor models for the FTD Florist — to lend a hand, or a lightning bolt, where circumstances require.

Charley and Vlas Parlapidnes are credited with the film’s screenplay, which boasts its fair share of verbal howlers. Sometimes, despite the non-stop barrage of slow-motion violence and bombast, the dialogue can even be heard. This is not necessarily a good thing. Actually, there aren’t necessarily any good things in Immortals.

That includes the always-welcome (yes, even here) John Hurt, whose career is at a point where even a film like this can’t hurt his reputation — and probably helped his bank account. Work’s work, after all. Hurt provides the film with its wizened, if not necessarily wise, narration, as the “Old Man” who is actually Zeus in human disguise. The actor gives a few smiles to the camera, evidently aware that his on-camera appearances are limited to only the very beginning and the very end of the film. He’s coasting, folks, and don’t he know it.

As dreadful, stupid and ridiculous as the film is — although the levels fluctuate, it’s always constant — Immortals is at least good for some hearty, highly unintentional laughter, making such a mockery of Greek mythology that it takes on the aura of an instant camp classic. It almost makes one long for the comparatively dramatic lucidity of 1980’s Caligula. Think of a bad film; Immortals is probably worse.

Unlike anything in the film, it’s interesting to note that, back in 1980, John Hurt and Mickey Rourke in another bloated cataclysm called Heaven’s Gate. Immortals isn’t as long and isn’t as interesting as that film, but it is funnier. By the gods, it is.