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Past Posts

Immortals: The Movie That Made Us Love The Three Musketeers

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.

If my husband and I ever divorce, I have no doubt that he will itemize "made me see Immortals" as one of his grievances. He's usually very patient with seeing movies for the blog. But on this one, he almost refused. "It's going to be horrible," he said. "I mean, I want to spend time with my wife, but..."

The logic he finally used to convince himself? "It will be better than seeing the Adam Sandler movie." Of course, there was an addendum: "Then again, spending two hours staring at the wall would be better than seeing the Adam Sandler movie."

(Just so we're clear, I knew it was going to be bad. But I had managed to get a babysitter and I wanted to get out of the house, and it was marginally on-topic for the blog. These are the factors that drive our out-of-the-house cinema consumption, which is why we rarely see a good movie in the theater.)

Immortals was to The Three Musketeers what Cowboys and Aliens was to Priest: a movie we saw right after another film that we thought wasn't that great, that turned out so bad, we almost wanted to pre-order the box set of the first one because it looked so good in comparison. At least in The Three Musketeers and Priest, we weren't bored. To be fair, though, we weren't as bored in Immortals, because we spent a lot of time laughing and whispering to each other.

Let me break it down for you. Immortals is about Theseus, who is a nice young warrior type from a small village. His mother is killed by the forces of Hyperion, a neighboring king who wants to kill everyone. This is Hyperion:

Hyperion is mad because Tony Stark's dad beat up his dad, or the Gods didn't save his family from dying from the plague, whatever. Basically, he's an asshole and he's going to wipe out anyone who isn't related to him? Unclear.

He wants to find the Virgin Oracle so she can tell him where the Gods' bow is, so he can unleash the Titans, so they can kill everyone. How will this help him? Again, unclear. The Virgin Oracle is one of four women who all stay together so no one will know which one is the real one. (Think Padme Amidala.) They basically look like this:

british royal wedding guests with bizarre hats

Except their hats are red, and one of them has votive candleholders hanging from it. They're also more diverse than British royalty tends to be. Frieda Pinto is from India, and she plays Phaedra, the actual Virgin Oracle. Mercedes Leggett (said to be Canadian, and her parents were Scottish and Filipino), Kaniehtiio Horn ("a native of Kahnawake, a Mohawk reserve outside of Montreal"), and Ayisha Issa (seems to be Canadian, with Ghanaian and Jamaican mother and father, also she's a martial artist) play the others. The diversity was a nice touch in a movie populated by mostly white men. Or, it was done to make the Oracles look "exotic." Ugh. In any event, the Oracles are captured by Hyperion's forces, but they are packing deadly hairpins and small knives, and they mess up their guards something fierce so the Virgin Oracle can get away. Then they get beaten up and locked in a metal cow. So much for that.

Meanwhile Theseus is traveling with Phaedra, the Virgin Oracle. She insists that he goes back to his village to bury his mother, whereupon he finds the Gods' bow. Which he cannot seem to hold without dropping it for more than five seconds. Not that this is foreshadowing or anything. After Theseus saves Phaedra's life, she decides that she doesn't care for having visions thankyouverymuch and would rather sleep with Theseus to get rid of them.

You have no idea how much I was hoping for a reveal here, something like "oh it turns out the whole virgin thing was just a myth, she still has visions and we're going to use them to totally kick ass." Unfortunately, Andre Norton was not writing this movie circa her 1963 Witch World, so Phaedra loses any possible relevance to the plot after this encounter.

Speaking of things that are about 50 years old, have I mentioned how this movie's look reminds me of this:

movie poster for 7th voyage of sinbad

It was like filmmaking had not advanced at all since 1958. Or possibly had gone backwards. My husband opined that the movie had five sets, and I think that was generous. It looked a lot like this thing we did at my church in junior high, where the gym and the racquetball courts were turned into "A Night in Old Bethlehem" and everyone dressed up like they lived in that time period. Kind of.

(Yes, the church I grew up attending had racquetball courts.)

With the Oracles out of the way, the other possible source of Heroine Content coolness in this film is Isabel Lucas's Athena. All four of the Gods we see do interfere with the mortals even though they're not supposed to, but her intervention is the tamest. She gives Theseus some horses. After he's dropped the f---ing bow again, and a DOG grabs it and runs off to take it to Hyperion.

Once Hyperion uses the bow to release the savage black people, oh I mean the Titans, from their cage-

Okay, we have to stop and discuss that part. The Titans. Supposedly evil as evil can be, though all we're told about their evilness is that they lost the war with the Gods. We don't have any evidence that they're actually evil, they just didn't win. And they're black. And in a cage, in chains. With bars of metal in their mouths. (Husband's comment: "I'm pretty f---ing sure they didn't have REBAR in anything B.C.") Sure, they look like they're covered in the ashes of their dead wife and children like Kratos from God of War; it doesn't look like actual blackface. But they're black. And when they're released, they go wild and try to kill everything in sight, until the very white Gods show up and start chopping them to bits.

It looks really, really bad, y'all. Like Resident Evil 5 bad.

I don't think I need to say any more on that front.

In that battle, Artemis does kick some ass, though the awesome of that is totally negated by the squick factor - and she gets impaled anyway, then uses her dying breath to implore her father to be a nice guy. Whereas Poseidon uses his dying breath, as Titans are chewing his leg off, to yell "GO!!!!" to Zeus who is about to pull down Mount Tartarus to stop the Titans.

So yeah. I can't find a star anywhere for this mess.

6 Comments

"In that battle, Artemis does kick some ass, though the awesome of that is totally negated by the squick factor - and she gets impaled anyway, then uses her dying breath to implore her father to be a nice guy. Whereas Poseidon uses his dying breath, as Titans are chewing his leg off, to yell "GO!!!!" to Zeus who is about to pull down Mount Tartarus to stop the Titans."

I take a different track on this.

Artemis' death - regardless of whether her last action was the affirmation of (Women's) compassion or the prelude to the final attack by the Forces of Good - would still come across as being completely pointless. Women in "combat" roles in these kinds of movies tend to die as it is - and it happens nearly all the time to women of color - and are usually only spared if they happen to be the hero's appointed love interest...and the story isn't about the hero living a serene life until a bad thing happens (usually to the love interest in question).

That's a good point about women of color characters.

@c_kworth said at January 1, 2012 1:32 PM:

I watched this movie last night. I agree, it was not good. As a person of color, I thought that I might have just been reaching to see the racism of the gods being pearly white, and the titans as blacks, but I guess I wasn't alone in that thought. Let's hope there is no sequel.

There may be some basis in the mythology for those chromatics, but how many people in the audience would have known about them? Seriously, it just looked terrible. :(

Abb_dogon said at January 29, 2014 7:14 PM:

Ok.. First, I LOVED your article on Immortals. It wasn't just bad, or factually incorrect, or even boring. It was insulting and perhaps a little too polarised. The "very savage black people", my bad, the titans all look like a copy of that mad African fighter Jim Carrey had to fight in Ace Ventura (another insensitive treatment of black culture but never mind). Only, here, they multiplied it, THE Matrix style. And by all the gods, aren't the Olympian gods white. Ashes or not, I refuse to see past the blatant ignorance of a film maker who didn't see that was even a teeny tiny bit insensitive. Come on, is he effing BLIND or what? Granted, I can get past the "chromatids" and the ashes nonsense, but the tribal dress code? Are you for real? Glad I didn't watch it when it came out, I'd have probably gone nuclear. Black and proud to be. Why can't they make something that is creative and doesn't insult anyone...? Oh, I know, coz they're agenda driven.. See ya.

Skye said at February 4, 2014 8:48 PM:

Now I am so glad I never saw Ace Ventura! And I don't know how many people saw the evolution of all these issues, like the costuming you mentioned, and no one said "HEY WE HAVE A PROBLEM HERE!" It's ridiculous. You actually tell a better story when you're not insulting people left and right, so it's just sad all the way around.

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