In 2007, Zack Snyder's movie "300" breathed dramatic new life into the ancient tale of the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan warriors fought against a million-Persian army led by Xerxes. It conquered the box office, but could its stylized battles ever be topped?
Yes. Yes, they could.
Director Tarsem Singh is about to unleash "Immortals," his unique take on Greek mythology that puts "Clash of the Titans" to shame and makes "300" look quaint by comparison. We've got seven good reasons this kickass film takes "300" to school.
1. Tarsem Singh Is a Mad Man
Like Zack Snyder, Singh comes from the colorful (and lucrative) world of commercials and music videos, which means he's all about the image. His feature career got off to a somewhat rocky start with "The Cell," but then he bounced back with the self-financed passion project "The Fall," easily one of the most breathtaking movies ever captured by a camera. With "Immortals" he's taken that same painterly approach to staging bloody, epic action which, though it will obviously be compared to "300," is an exponential leap forward for the sword-and-sandal genre.
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2. Henry Cavill and His Superman Pecs
This dashing Brit (and author Stephenie Meyer's original choice for Edward Cullen in "Twilight") was plucked from the Showtime series "The Tudors" to play this movie's central hero, the legendary Theseus. The plot ignores Theseus becoming the ruler of Athens and recasts him as a peasant warrior trained by an incognito Zeus (John Hurt). Of course, what Theseus movie would be complete without him duking it out with the Minotaur inside a labyrinth? While this movie's Minotaur doesn't have as much exposed Johnson as the one in "Your Highness," it does have a head made out of barbed wire, which kinda rules. And yes, Cavill does have a rousing "They will never take our freedom!"/"Tonight, we dine in hell!"-type speech at the climactic battle against the evil hordes.
3. Freida Pinto Bein' Hot
Don't get us wrong, "300" had some hot oracle action in it, but nothing as stunning as Freida Pinto. The "Slumdog Millionaire" actress has proven she's got more than Bollywood swagger, with recent roles for Woody Allen and the "Planet of the Apes" reboot. Here she's given a chance to be more than just arm candy playing oracle priestess Phaedra, whose visions are the engine that drives Theseus to take down Hyperion. And she maybe saves his ass a couple of times, as well.
4. King Hyperion
After many miles of bad road, Mickey Rourke is a man who's been around the block. On-screen he carries himself like a dude who's seen some s**t and is a little over it, which is perfect for big, bad Titan lord Hyperion. With his scarred face and battle-hardened temperament, the king is out to unleash the imprisoned Titans and destroy the Olympian Gods in a quest for omnipotence, and he really doesn't care how many throats he has to slash to get the job done. That jewel-encrusted Nancy-boy Xerxes got nothin' on this guy.
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Okay, kids, let's get one thing straight: This movie is violent. CRAZY VIOLENT. People are stabbed, stomped, smashed, cooked, and tortured like nobody's business. And that's before the gods show up. Once the Titans are unleashed, then you really see some staggering battles that set the bar high for 3-D floating brain matter. Basically, imagine "The Matrix" if they did "bullet time" photography showing someone's head exploding. Yeah, that's right, "Immortals" is not for the faint of heart.
6. Power of the Gods
"300" took some liberties with history but more or less ignored religion, as did other epics like "Troy." "Immortals" explores Greek mythology in a striking way that we've never seen depicted beyond Ray Harryhausen claymation or pixilated CGI, a la last year's "Clash of the Titans" remake.
Anyone who's studied these myths know that they're as twisted and violent as any horror movie, with tons of sex, gore and incest. Also, Zeus is a major d-bag, the kind of guy who would totally be like, "Yo, don't help the humans or I'll KILL you" to the other gods. In the past, these intimidating figures have been played by long-in-the-tooth dudes such as Laurence Olivier (original "Clash of the Titans"), but the 'Immortals' filmmakers have cast a young lot here, including Isabel Lucas as a gorgeous Athena and 32-year-old "Three Musketeers" star Luke Evans as Zeus, the old man himself.
With its geometric sets and physics-defying fight sequences, this is one of those films (largely shot in native 3-D) that was tailor-made for the format. Tarsem himself has stated that his style was easily adaptable as he tends to shoot big, wide shots in long takes. The Gods vs. Titans scenes in particular stand out with different characters shot at different speeds. The combination of eye-popping 3-D and outrageously over-the-top visuals makes this the No. 1 motion picture destination for anyone who may be in an "altered state of consciousness" next weekend. Not that we condone that sort of thing. *cough*