By JAMES MELVILLE
Man, does everybody remember how awful this looked? Like, yet another sepia-toned ab-fest, or the bastard child of 300 and that Clash of the Titans remake. Somehow, it manages to be none of those things. Of course, there are a lot of people who don’t agree with me there. Immortals has been getting almost universally bad reviews and I guess I can see why. Critics who complain about gaping plot holes or the frequent use of Deus Ex Machina are certainly observant, but also kind of missing the point.
The film is bloody, surreal and, in a few places, more than a little f*cked up. But let’s be honest, so are Greek myths. No matter how much we might prefer to see them romanticized, it’s important to remember that characters in these myths—especially gods and goddesses—are, to put it lightly, a bunch of awful, murderous bastards. Remember how nice all the gods seemed in that animated Hercules movie from the 90s? Well, those fond memories probably have something to do with Disney leaving out all the stuff about Zeus cheating on his wife, or raping women while disguised as a bull, or sometimes as a swan.
Immortals presents the audience with an un-neutered view of Greek myths. Does that make it perfect? No, but it’s definitely in the film’s favor. It’s violent, but not in the way that 300 is. That film glorifies violence. Carnage in 300 is a purely aesthetic choice, not meant to suggest anything more than “Damn, Gerard Butler looks good with another man’s blood on his face.” The violence in Immortals is hella brutal, but I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to make the audience feel uneasy. War isn’t fun, gods are terrifying, and being good at killing people can come at a terrible price.
I’m not sure if the script is all that impressive, but scenes that would otherwise have been cheesy are lent a certain gravity by a combination of Tarsem Singh’s direction and, surprisingly, the performances. Henry Cavill gets saddled with the difficult job of being angry for two hours without it getting boring or looking stupid, and he manages to pull it off. Even Mickey Rourke manages to give a more than superficial performance, creating a character that is truly menacing, rather than kind of over-the-top, like his electricity-wielding bad guy in Iron Man 2.
All in all, Immortals is a very pleasant surprise. It doesn’t suck, it’s kind of disturbing, and it actually feels like it has something to say. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much better than I was expecting.
The Muppets (2011):
The Plot: Aided by their biggest fan, a Muppet named Walter, the long-disbanded Muppets get back together to put on a show in an effort to raise the ten million dollars needed to save their beloved Muppet Studios.
The Muppets does a very good job of addressing the fact that there hasn’t been a Muppet movie since 1999. Rather than simply ignore the gap, the film does what the other Muppet movies—minus those excellent literary adaptations—do, and imagines the Muppets as real performers. Kermit lives alone, trying to figure out what he could have done to keep everyone together, while Miss Piggy works at Vogue in Paris and Fozzy advertises hotel deals in Reno. If you aren’t all that familiar with the Muppets, then the film is unexpectedly poignant. I’ll be honest, I got a little misty-eyed. Fortunately, the film is also hugely entertaining.
The Muppets is very self-aware, but never to a fault. Some people complained about it breaking the fourth wall, but you know what? Those people suck. Anyway, the film’s script is co-written by Jason Segel, who also plays Walter’s older, human brother Gary. The songs are written by none other than Bret McKenzie, one half of Flight of the Conchords. I didn’t know that the first time I saw the movie, but listening to all the songs for the second time I was totally getting some Conchords’ vibes. I won’t spoil anything for anybody, but the songs are fantastic.
I didn’t grow up watching The Muppet Show, so some of the film’s significance was lost on me. But even if I missed some of the stuff thrown in there for lifelong fans, I had a great time. Even if you’re not a huge Muppet fan, you should probably see this movie. Especially if you’ve been having a bad day. It’ll cheer you up.
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