University Challenge. Jeremy Paxman is asking the questions to UMIST. 

PAXMAN: The nicknames Cheesemongers, Cherrypickers, Bob’s Own, The Emperor’s Chambermaids and The Immortals have been used to describe which groups of men?

BRIGHT: (Of UMIST). Homosexuals.

PAXMAN: (Disbelieving): No! They’re regiments in the British army, and they’ll be very upset with you, UMIST!

When it comes to discussing Tarsem Singh’s latest opus, Immortals (no definite article here), it bears to keep the above exchange in mind. Although there is a female character played by Frieda Pinto, apparently a priestess, this is very much a man’s film, and by ‘man’s, I mean predominantly a confirmed bachelor’s fantasy. The male characters are all so buff and ripped that one wonders whether CGI was used. Then good old Mickey Rourke’s reassuringly saggy and middle-aged torso hones into view, like Moby Dick, and the suspicion is allayed, at least for a moment.

The plot is simultaneously simplistic and muddled, as in the subsequent Pirates of the Caribbean films. Theseus (Henry Cavill) is a lowly bastard and peasant, who has been trained from childhood by a kindly old man (John Hurt). The kindly old man is REALLY Zeus, king of the gods (Luke Evans), who is aware that wicked King Hyperion (Rourke) is after something magical called the bow of Ephesus, which he will use to liberate the imprisoned Titans from their mountain stronghold. And this will apparently bring him immortality, or something like that. (It’s not particularly clear, despite a scene-setting Hurt voiceover.) Theseus, whose mother is conveniently slain by Hyperion, seeks revenge, and also finds himself serving as a rallying figure for his oppressed and betrayed countrymen.

If it sounds familiar, this is because this is essentially yet another sword ‘n’ sandals CGI-fest in the vein of 300 (its closest match), Troy, Thor, etc etc. It almost entirely lacks a sense of humour or fun, is very indifferently acted (whoever cast Cavill in the new Superman film on the strength of this should be fired, as he’s one of the weediest and least convincing protagonists in this sort of thing for ages), has a rambling and at times nonsensical plot and feels like a retread of other, better pictures. The one saving grace, as with his earlier films, is Tarsem Singh’s astonishing visual sense, which makes countless scenes feel far more compelling and grand than they actually are,with some breathtaking shots and imagery that almost make the typically poor post-conversion 3D cinematography worth watching. Calling it ‘Fight Club meets Caravaggio’, as Singh has done, is hyperbolic, but at least it shows more ambition than your average hack job.

All the same, this isn’t a film that one could actually recommend with a clear conscience, unless one wanted to get thoroughly tanked up on a Friday night and heckle the very earnest members of Bob’s Own as they spar and tussle homoerotically at near-interminable length.



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