By MARK TURNER
The genre of film known as "sword and sandal" has gone up and down over the years. A staple of films in the late '50s and early '60s, the genre lost favor when the age of the anti-hero and film student filmmakers took over.
But in 2000 that changed when GLADIATOR hit the screens and planted Russell Crowe firmly in the position of movie star. More movies followed like TROY and 300. And so it is we now have the latest film based on Greek mythology, IMMORTALS.
The story opens by telling us the history of the Gods of Greece, having risen up against the Titans and imprisoning them in Mount Tartarus. The only weapon on Earth that could possibly free the Titans and thus open the world to a war among Gods once more is the Epirus bow, now being sought by King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke).
As the army of Hyperion moves forward in search of the bow, villages fall and inhabitants try to stay one step ahead avoiding capture. Young Theseus (Henry Cavill) is a highly skilled warrior trained by an old man in his village (John Hurt). But since his birth was the result of his mother being raped, both are looked down upon and when the time comes to leave they are left behind. This results in Theseus' mother's death when the village is attacked by Hyperion's men and Theseus is captured.
While this is going on Hyperion has captured the oracle Phaedra in hopes that she will lead him to the bow he seeks. But it is visions of Theseus that fill her head and she knows that he is the key to stopping Hyperion. When their paths cross Theseus helps leads a revolt against the few guards that hold them prisoner organized by Phaedra and with the help of a thief named Stavros (Stephen Dorff) t While in the village they discover that the Epirus bow was buried there all along. Theseus recovers the bow but is attacked by Hyperion's beast the Minotaur. Theseus survives and knows his destiny lies in stopping Hyperion. They travel to Phaedra's home only to be overtaken by Hyperion's men and losing the bow. Now it's up to Theseus to join the army that stands against Hyperion and prevent the release of the Titans. And this is just the main story going on here.
Along the way Theseus and Phaedra fall in love, politicians fall for Hyperion's tricks and nearly cause the downfall of the civilized world and the Gods speak to Theseus. It seems that the person who trained him was Zeus posing as the old man. Having already told the rest of the Gods that they are not to interfere, he tells Theseus that the Gods can not assist man; they must shine on their own. These were the rules written long ago when the Titans were first imprisoned.
Of course this all means that we're bound to see a major battle scene involving the good army against the bad one, a face off between Theseus and Hyperion and the possibility of the release of the Titans if Theseus doesn't quite take care of things. And should they be released, a battle among Gods will surely follow.
The movie offers the tale of a hero extremely well and perhaps it's time we told stories of heroes once again. It seems there we find few out there these days in the spotlight and so many are toppled from their pedestals by those who feel we need more truth and less heroes. Myself I'm glad we have heroes to inspire us even if they are in movies and stories only.
The special effects are dazzling to watch and fit nicely into the story rather than take it over. Battle scenes are bloody but they would have been since they involved more bludgeoning and blades than anything else. But at least those involved have that gritty look to them as opposed to the freshly starched togas seen in some films.
The acting done by all shines here, especially Cavill. That's great to see since he's been tapped to portray Superman in the new film being made. He has the presence to carry that role off which many were concerned about when he was named. If he can make you believe he's the Grecian hero seen here then Superman should be a breeze.
The movies being turned out in this genre have all been exceptional and well worth our time as a viewing audience. Many have been worth adding to our collections, including this one. Let's just hope they continue to make them and then discover that the past treasures deserve blu-ray treatment as well. For now we'll have to be content watching releases like IMMORTALS which offer tremendous entertainment.
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