There are times when you spurn the healthy option. When edifying foods with a high nutritional content are just not what you crave. Instead you want the hamburger. And you want it with cheese. Lots of cheese. You want it cheap and a little bit throwaway. You want it fun rather than worthy.
And so it was, in such a peculiar hunger, that Karen and I went to see Immortals on Saturday night. From the trailers we’d kind of sussed what kind of film it was going to be. Pure escapism. Not at all serious. Just beefcake, epic battles and spectacular effects. The only question was: would it be as excruciatingly wooden as the Clash Of The Titans remake or would it manage to recreate the magic of watching an old Ray Harryhausen movie on the telly when you were a kid?
I’m pleased to say it was more of the latter than the former. It’s not a classic. No one is going to get an Oscar. But neither was it tiresome and stilted. It was ridiculous, of course, but then it is impossible to portray Greek myths on the screen without them appearing ridiculous. As soon as you put muscular men and impossibly pneumatic women in skimpy gold costumes and flimsy togas – no matter how much they may appear to embody Zeus and Athena – they inevitably appear camp and like something from a Carry On movie. Couple that with the production people who gave us the 6-pack rich 300 and you have gratuitous violence as well as gratuitous musculature. If you’re a fan of fab abs and skulls being pulped with big golden hammers you’re going to love Immortals.
If Ray Harryhausen had had access to modern technology this is the kind of film I’m sure he would have made. Once you surrender to the Doug McClure-esque absurdity of the storyline it really does feel like being a kid again. Don’t fight it. Roll with it. This isn’t Shakespeare (or even the person who claimed to be Shakespeare). It’s a hamburger with cheese. It’s naughty but nice. It’ll put a couple of inches on your thighs but so what? It’s coming up to Christmas. You’ll have to diet in the New Year anyway.
Mickey Rourke gives good value as King Hyperion though given his bulk you’d imagine he would have been better placed to play Zeus. His performance is very physical. I think he is quoted as saying he didn’t get “all method” about it. I don’t blame him; there really was no need, though I can’t help but feel wistful about his surprisingly subtle performance all those years ago in Angelheart.
Zeus is played by the surprisingly svelte Luke Evans who looks bizarrely like Action Man, the one with the eagle eyes and grippy fingers but nevertheless convinces the viewer that he is indeed the father of the gods. Henry Cavill, fresh out of The Tudors, seems to have spent a few months down the gym and an equal amount of time on a sunbed but throws himself into the part of Theseus with gusto – which is odd given the luckless life Theseus seems to lead. Mother murdered before his eyes, he gets beaten up, finds a magic bow, gets his end way just once, loses the magic bow and then dies killing the bad guy. In between, of course, he does dispatch a great number of masked warriors with superlative spear work. One can’t help but think he is compensating for lack of opportunities elsewhere.
All in all this is great entertainment provided you don’t take it at all seriously. Director Tarsem Singh gives everything a slightly Indian tint which actually marries quite well with the original Greek blueprint though I was waiting for a Bollywood-style song and dance routine about halfway through.
Mickey Rourke does Bollywood. Now there’s a film I’d love to see.