Whether or not it’s fair, the comparison is there: there are undeniable similarities between Zack Snyder’s revered “300” and Tarsem Singh’s “Immortals,” out in theaters today. For one, both are extremely stylized swords-and-sandals epics. For another, the producers behind “Immortals” are the same ones behind “300.” On top of that, “300” is based on a graphic novel, while “Immortals” also sports a completely original comic book counterpart.
The gauntlet has already been thrown down by our friends at NextMovie, who claim that “Immortals” is more badass than “300.” Big words, of course, but inaccurate words? That’s subject to debate. I can’t speak for everybody, but having seen both films, I can speak for myself. Click on past the jump to see which movie — “Immortals” or “300” — I personally prefer, pound for pound.
» “300”: The self-proclaimed god-king Xerxes and his numerically superior Persians seek global dominion, with their sights currently set on Sparta. Xerxes’ desires don’t sit right with Spartan king Leonidas, who assembles 300 of his finest soldiers and marches off to war against the Persian oppressor, despite the overwhelming odds that each and every one of them will die.
» “Immortals”: The commoner Theseus somehow becomes the only man standing in the path of evil king Hyperion, a vicious war lord who, like Xerxes, seeks everlasting power. It’s a skirmish amongst men until it becomes a war involving the Gods, with Theseus and his possession of the Epirius bow throwing a serious wrench into Hyperion’s plans for victory.
» Winner: While “Immortals” has divine mythology on its side, it’s much easier to relate to the plight of Leonidas and his soldiers, a small few against a great many in their attempt to protect their homeland from foreign invaders. “300” gets my vote.
» “300”: The Spartan warriors follow Leonidas’ lead with very little equivocation. A charismatic speaker and ruler, as well as a highly capable fighter on the battlefield, Leonidas is an ancient action hero that would make even Spartacus blush.
» “Immortals”: At the core of “Immortals” is Theseus, a youth who is unwittingly tossed into a battle between Gods and mortals. His place in this war soon becomes invaluable for the cause of good men as well as the divine Olympians that lord over Earth.
» Winner: There’s no doubt that anyone who watches “Immortals” is going to idolize Theseus and his ability to become a champion of Gods and men everywhere. That said, Leonidas is so badass. Gerard Butler commands that character with such authority that it’s impossible to vote against him, as awesome as Henry Cavill is. Once again, the winner is “300.”
» “300”: Xerxes is an impossibly tall, booming-voiced, flamboyant and cruel ruler of men. He crushes his opponents indirectly, using his massive forces to enact his will while he stays behind in a tent and enjoys the lavish lifestyle that only god-kings can afford.
» “Immortals”: Curious fashion sense aside, Hyperion is not one to be mocked. The brutal king never wavers in the face of an obstacle: if something is in his path, he will either take it or destroy it… and he’ll always be the personal instrument of destruction when the opportunity is available to him.
» Winner: You can’t deny Xerxes’ power and influence over his own men and his conquered subjects. But he’s the kind of war lord who sends soldiers to do his bidding. Hyperion, on the other hand, isn’t just willing to step onto the battlefield, he’s eager to slit throats and crush brains with his own two hands. Plus, Mickey Rourke is just fantastic in the role. Sorry, “300,” but this round goes to “Immortals” quite easily.
» “300”: Decapitated bodies, public murders, and armies slain by the thousands are par for the course in “300.” If we’re judging purely by body count, it’s “300” all the way. It also arguably kicked off a renaissance of slow-motion killing in movies, a movement that has its fair share of fans and detractors.
» “Immortals”: Simply put, I’ve never seen anything like the violence in “Immortals.” It’s easy to say that the slow-motion style is just a “300” ripoff, but it’s not. In that film, characters moving slowly was a stylistic choice. In “Immortals,” the time-disorienting motion is inherent to the nature of Gods and Titans, resulting in one of the single most breathtaking battle scenes I’ve ever seen committed to film, ever. Again, I have never seen anything like those final 20 minutes of “Immortals.” It’s some of the most beautiful violence I’ve ever witnessed on the big screen.
» Winner: Sorry, Zack. This one goes to Tarsem and “Immortals.”
“300” and “Immortals” are pretty even movies in terms of quality — they share many of the same strengths and weaknesses. For my personal tastes, however, I have to admit that I prefer “Immortals” over “300.” Story is not the selling point in either film’s case, at least not for me. For my money, it’s all about the action, and both movies have that in spades… but the way it’s rendered in “Immortals” is just so unlike anything I’ve ever seen before that it’s nearly impossible to vote against it when compared to “300.”
As I said before, your mileage may vary. These are my tastes and my tastes alone. But if you’re an action and fantasy junkie looking to satisfy your moviegoing fix this weekend, “Immortals” is by far and away your best option at the moment. Give it a shot, then come back here and let us know what you thought of the movie in the comments section and on Twitter!