Quick Film Review: Immortals (dir. by Tarsem Singh)

Perhaps I’m jaded and spoiled by movies like Jason and the Argonauts and games like God of War.

I’m pretty sure that in an alternate dimension somewhere, audiences are sitting in the theatre and loving the hell out of Immortals. Maybe in some ways it’s actually good, but I can’t see them. At best, the film acts a great demo reel for Henry Cavill, who audiences will see as Superman sometime next year. For that reason, and perhaps Mickey Rourke’s Hyperion, Immortals is worth a peek. Even then, you may want to have someone take you to the movie, rather than pay for it yourself. Let’s put it this way. I spent more time on my iPhone with the brightness dimmed during the movie than I did actually watching it, and that’s a rarity for me. You’re better off waiting for the Netflix Edition. Everything you see in the trailer is basically the film in a nutshell.

The only other thing it really does have going for it is the 3D, which actually happens to be pretty good for the half hour that you can see it (and perhaps that’s just me, because it feels like it fades over time). The film does feel as if it were primarily filmed in 3D, and boasts some awesome visuals, but the story is a little jumbled. I won’t deny that Tarsem Singh has a really fantastic eye for painting a scene from The Cell to this point, but without sharp writing there’s something lost in the translation. It’s like watching David Fincher when he was still partnered with Darius Khondji on Seven or Spielberg with Kaminski in Minority Report. You can make pretty pictures, but there has to be some kind of meat and potatoes to it for the audience. That’s just how I felt here.

Eons ago, you once had mortals and you had gods. Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, Dionysus, Aphrodite, etc. In Immortals, the gods learned that they had the ability to kill one another and as a result, there were a number of wars.  Enter Hyperion, who loathes the gods and wants them destroyed. In order to do this, he has to unleash the Titans, who were once servants of the gods but were punished for their treachery and sealed away in a special cage that can only be unlocked with an item called the Epirius Bow (which was one of the elements I truly enjoyed).

Our hero, Theseus (Cavill) lives a quiet life with his family when Hyperion’s forces attack. In the process, he witnesses his mother’s death at the hands of Hyperion himself and swears vengeance. Captured and left for dead with a number of others, he meets a mystic named Phaedra (played by Freida Pinto, who seems like she may be playing the same role emotionally that she did in Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Phaedra provides him with visions that allow him to reach the Bow.

Lead by Zeus, the gods watch all of this from Olympus, but are unable to interfere in the affairs of mortals on pain of death. These sequences (when they do happen) are the ones that you’re seeing in the trailers for the most part. Oceans rise and bad guys are cut down so fast that the first hardly has a chance to fall before the ninth one is hit. It’s amazing to see, it really is, but it’s been done before in movies as old as Jet Li’s The One. The film doesn’t lack in action, and in that, there’s a plus. What I had personally hoped for was something akin to giants or mythical creatures. Even though it was geared for teens, last year’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians offered more of a mystical element than Immortals did for me. It wouldn’t have hurt to have undead warriors or harpies or something. For all the money spent in effects, everything in this film seemed to be grounded in human based actions.

All of this culminates into a huge 300 like battle, right down to the narrow passageway that is used as an arena of battle. Theseus rallies his troops that are ready to retreat with a speech that’s helped along with the banging of shields. It was nice, but again, it wasn’t anything terribly new – “They’re only human!!” *clack clack clack* “We can beat them!” *clack clack clack* “For the children!!” *clack clack clack*

“And a tighter script!” I wanted to yell with a raised fist. “And maybe a refund!”

As for the audience, they seemed okay with it. There is a love scene which I don’t think younger audiences are ready for, but it was done in such a way that the “fade to black / open to the following morning” shot doesn’t let things get too far, visually.

When it gets to video, I may see Immortals again (because it is visually beautiful), but you’re better off treating yourself curling up somewhere and reading Homer’s The Odyssey for a while and letting your imagination fill in the pieces. It’s a okay film if you don’t ask for more than what it’s giving you.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

So. At long last, here it is. The latest installment from the shell that remains of Infinity Ward, bringing back those endlessly popular features like sniper rifles, killstreaks that build on one another, and host migration that keeps the multiplayer modes playable!

The first reaction I’ve heard from people on the fence about this game (and, let’s be honest, there aren’t that many) is that they don’t want to pay the Madden Tax to play yet another Call of Duty that, much like any sports game, just isn’t that different from year to year. If you’re of that mindset, you’ve likely already made up your mind about this title. This review probably isn’t going to change your mind either way about this title, so I’m going to try and keep the review brief and focused upon specific observations I have about this game, the ground it breaks (or doesn’t break, as the case may be), etc.

Before I do some quick hits on the game though, it’s worth visiting the game’s new mode. The outstanding mode in Modern Warfare 3 is Survival Mode, which is an offshoot of the single/multi player Covert Ops mode from Modern Warfare 2. Like that title, Modern Warfare 3 includes a panel of special missions (based on levels that appear in the single player, of course) that you can run through that pose unique challenges. New this incarnation, however, is a wave-based horde mode that is very much in the vein of (nearly) identical modes in the last couple of Halo or Gears of War games. If you found those modes satisfying in Halo or Gears (or another title I’ve forgotten. Please forgive me?) you’ll like Modern Warfare 3’s take on it as well. The only possible downside is that, like the true PvP mode, Modern Warfare 3’s survival demands that its players level up to unlock certain equipment pieces. The problem is that the equipment curve in Survival begins with an even more boring selection of equipment. It’s worth noting that the level curve is so much lower that you should earn the equipment you really want in no-time flat, if you’re dedicated to doing so.

So, assuming you’re one of three human beings sitting on the fence today… you’re asking the question, do I want to buy this game? (Or, perhaps more probably, is this game right for X gift recipient?)

FULL DISCLOSURE: I pre-ordered and received the ‘Hardened’ Edition of Modern Warfare 3. I’ll try not to harp on pre-order features, but I’m not going to guarantee I’ve got it right. In addition, I am playing this title on the XBox 360. Addressing technical aspects of the game is pertinent only to the XBox 360 game system.

The Good!
– Multiplayer mode features more guns than ever. Not all of them seem powerful, but none of them seem un-useable (with the possible exception of the handguns, which I don’t deal in).
– Story isn’t bad, actually. It’s well-conceived, and fun to play. The variety in the level design is a nice change!
– Multiplayer mode rewards you for past service by giving you a head start if you’re achieved prestige mode in a previous title (going back to CoD 4!)
– The Prestige Mode now has its own shop that gives you a choice of rewards. Prestiging players can now keep a piece of equipment (such as a favourite gun) through the Prestige Mode. Players are, of course, free to go with more traditional benefits such as adding a custom class or gaining a bonus title and emblem set. The player is able to choose between options at each Prestige level.
– Netcode is very passable. The game will hand off host in extreme circumstances in order to improve gameplay (this was the single biggest downfall of Call of Duty: Black Ops, and no, it’s not close)
– The gun customization in this game is awesome. Adding the customize menu (including such benefits as reducing gun kick, or equipping two attachments) on top of the attachments available really makes you feel like you can get the gun you want to play with.
– New Strike Package system in multiplayer is endless fun.

The Un-Good

– Frankly, it’s Call of Duty. There’s no real innovation here, just a lot of touch-ups. It’s up to you to decide if that’s worth it!
– This game pushes the hardware limits of the console hard, and fast. I’ve noticed some weird system lag issues as a result of this, and the game frankly just doesn’t run as crisply as earlier entries (particularly, CoD 4).
– Story contains a horrifying twist… although, this can be disabled in the game options, much like the level ‘No Russian’ in Modern Warfare 2.
– Weapon balance is – as ever – questionable. Why bother including some weapons that feel utterly useless at higher difficulty levels and in multiplayer arenas? It’s worth noting that all weapons have some (read: dramatically more) use in the single player modes as opposed to the multiplayer environment, but it still feels like some weapons are universally strong, useful, and sustainable… and most others just simply aren’t. Given how many incarnations of Call of Duty we’ve suffered through now, this is the sort of thing that should have started to be fixed.
– Online players are as annoying as ever. Need proof? Take a look back at this review. I’ll see you on XBox Live. 🙂