You’re going to hear a lot of comparisons between “300” and “Immortals,” and on a surface level, those comparisons aren’t wrong.
After all, Marc Canton and Gianni Nunnari were both producers on “300,” and that was a hyper-stylized take on a combination of history and myth, with gorgeous people and an almost celebratory take on violence. “Immortals” looks to be in the same general neighborhood, but instead of taking a real incident and elevating it to the status of myth, director Tarsem Singh and screenwriters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides have taken mythology and tried to find something grounded and human in it.
I was notoriously not a fan of Tarsem’s first feature film “The Cell,” and for me, the failure was first on a screenplay level, but then also I felt like Tarsem was recycling imagery from his striking and hypnotic music videos. There were moments where I almost expected to see Michael Stipe lurking around behind Vincent D’Onofrio. It was the sort of movie I didn’t just dislike, but that I actually actively hated, and since I was much younger and far more incendiary, I sort of nuked the movie when I wrote about it.
But much like my reaction to David Fincher’s first and second feature films, when Tarsem finally made his second movie, “The Fall,” he turned my opinion around completely, and I saw a clear expression of a real voice, an artist with something to say. My big question at this point isn’t whether or not Tarsem can make a great film, but whether he can do so within the confines of the studio system. Not everyone can, and for some artists, they shouldn’t bother. I think Tarsem could surprise people with this one, though, based on the several conversations we had on Saturday. It sounds to me like he made a personal connection to a piece of material, and I’m ready to be surprised by the end result.
In addition to speaking with Tarsem and one of his stars, Isabel Lucas, who plays the goddess Athena in the film, I also sat down with Henry Cavill and Luke Evans. Cavill, of course, has been cast as Superman in the upcoming Zack Snyder film, and Luke Evans is Aramis in Paul Anderson’s upcoming “Three Musketeers”. These are guys who are sort of poised right there on the verge, movie stars waiting to happen. There are a lot of them in the mix this year, and we’ll see at the end of the year whose films work and whose films don’t. And in every case, these guys are already making something else, so their next steps are right there, about to be.
They were both new to the whole sort of geek convention experience, and maybe it’s nice that Henry Cavill got this warm-up round out of the way before he shows up at Comic-Con for the first time. And talking to them the morning of the panel, there was a lot of good nervous energy. I think by now, if you’re making these sort of event movies, the convention circuit is a baptism you have to go through. And watching Evans on the “Three Musketeers” panel, interviewing him, and then talking to him during the “Immortals” panel I moderated in the Esplanade Ballroom, he’s going to be great at this. He was laid-back, funny, and seemed to genuinely enjoy the energy of the whole thing. Cavill got a whole lot of screams from the girlies during his time onstage, and he charmed the audience pretty easily.
What ultimately made the day, though, was the footage. And it was unmistakably Tarsem’s footage. If I had seen it without knowing anything about it, I would have known Tarsem shot it. And there were at least ten or twelve shots that sort of made me gasp. He’s got an outrageous eye. He found ways to stage this stuff that is all about emphasizing the power and the brutality of battling with the gods, and it looks like his cast plays it big. Mickey Rourke as King Hyperion is just doing his own thing. As Tarsem said on the panel, “You don’t direct Mickey. You just set things up and then tell everyone else what to do around him.” Mickey looks like he is ready to attack the camera, basically, just pure menace. We got glimpses of Kellan Lutz, Stephen Dorff, and Frieda Pinto as well, and it’s a stunning cast. That is part of what Tarsem intentionally did here, imagining Immortal beings who can choose any form choosing to live eternally as their most young and beautiful forms, and then casting humans who can stand toe to toe with them. We saw armies and slow-motion and crazy armor and a bow that shoots magic arrows, as many as Theseus can draw.
Basically, “Immortals” was my entire Saturday, and it was both easy and enjoyable. I look forward to seeing the film when it finally opens on November 11 of this year.
Yes, that’s right. 11-11-11. Easy enough.
We’ll have one more interview for you from this film, with legendary producer Mark Canton, my first time sitting down with him. That’ll be later this week.