‘Immortals’ tries to be the most macho film since ‘Predator’ and gets about as close to achieving that aim as I ever get to a gym. It wants to be the lovechild of ‘The Rock’ and ‘Rambo’ and raised by every single Clint Eastwood movie ever made. Instead, it manages to become the embarrassing cousin of all of the most hateful parts of ‘Blazing Saddles’ and 1960s-era James Bond movies.
First off, this film is completely fucking gay. I don’t mean that in a homophobic, “being gay is like being different and is therefore bad and funny” sense – I mean it in the sense that John Barrowman – that’s John Fucking Barrowman – saw this film and said “Wow, that’s pretty gay.” I mean it in the sense that Elton John, wearing full wedding regalia, watched this film and said “Wow, that was a bit extravagant, wasn’t it?” I mean it in the sense that Graham Norton watched ten minutes of this film and said “Wow, that’s the gayest thing I’ve seen today, and I just spent three hours watching a bunch of men fuck each other.”
You might think I’m exaggerating, and being fairly hateful myself, but let’s have a look, shall we?
I mean, this is a film that features people cutting their own tongues out with rusty shears. It features at least four throat-slittings, about nine litres of blood, people being burned alive, a bloke having his testes mashed with a hammer, it’s got several breasts on display – the film tries so very hard to be as tough and “manly” as Burt Reynolds chewing a nail-covered brick, yet packs in so many flamboyant, ridiculous visuals that its tone is entirely sporadic at best and self-contradictory at worst. Christ, they even introduce an all-powerful bow, and denote it as “magical” by covering it in glitter.
Most ironically of all, the story is set in Ancient Greece, a place known for its awful yet still fairly loose approach to sexuality and orientation. You could have had legitimate homosexual relationships based on historical precedent, and still have been less gay than the final, super-hetero, ultra-“manly” product.
The star of it all is the finely-sculpted slab of physical prowess named Henry Cavill, playing the legendary Theseus. There would have been plenty of room to have another powerful male lead – let’s say Mark Strong, as a dreamy example – and have the two of them go around killing everything in sight and occasionally penetrating one another, and it would have been the most macho film since Arnold Schwarzenegger said “Fuck it, just record two hours of me lifting weights, shooting Russians and smoking cigars.”
But the bewildering combination of high-camp regalia and absent homosexuality is hardly the most significant of ‘Immortals’ problems – and it’s not even much of a problem unless you’re a hardcore homophobe. No, much worse is its treatment of women.
There are six female characters with speaking lines throughout all of ‘Immortals’. I’ll list them below:
- The mother of the protagonist, who is a victim of rape, and whose death serves to motivate said protagonist in his quest.
- The goddess Athena, who is introduced topless, and who manages to kill a few goons before getting killed by a few goons.
- The three sisters of the main love interest, all living in chastity, who get captured, abused, threatened with rape, and ultimately burned alive.
- The main love interest, who achieves nothing, lives in chastity, and who asks to be “saved” by having the protagonist fuck her so she can be rid of her “curse”.
I mean, technically the love interest and her sisters initiate an escape-attempt, but given that it only leads to further violence against women, with added expressions of surprise that mere women were capable of overpowering unsuspecting men, I’m inclined to be unforgiving.
Oh, and what is it with fucking movie villains threatening women with rape all the time? Three movies I watched in the space of a couple of months, this, ‘Elysium’ and, I’m sad to say, ‘In Time’, and each one features a main antagonist threatening the leading female with sexual assault. I can only imagine that the conversations in the writers’ offices go something like this:
Scumbag Writer #1: “So, the bad guy has captured the woman, and now he wants to threaten her to get information. But what can he threaten her with?”
Weary Voice of Reason: “Death? Torture? Her family and friends? All the things that a male lead would be threatened with?”
Scumbag Writer #27: “Don’t be so gay, Frank, we can’t threaten a woman the way we’d threaten a man, that would suggest women have a stake in the story and are capable of possessing personalities.”
Scumbag Writer #14: “Derek’s right, if you’re going to threaten a woman, you’ve got to threaten her sexually, otherwise the audience might forget that the true value of a woman is based only on the things that she can offer to a man.”
Scumbag Writer #1: “Right, job’s a good’un everyone, let’s go down to the strip club and pay immoral sluts to show us their bodies and then threaten them when they refuse to touch us.”
The thing is, when you threaten someone with something, in a weird way you kind of normalise it – “this will be a consequence of you not doing what I want.” And whilst there might be a time when you need to say to someone “if you don’t stop trying to kill me I’m going to have to kill you”, there ought NEVER come a time when you might say to someone “if you don’t act according to my wishes, I will rape you.”
Or, cause you to “suffer discomfort unique to your gender”, as the film’s antagonist so charmingly phrases it. Which also implies that men can never be victims of sexual assault – another charming notion that this film espouses.
Hell, the whole concept of the main love interest’s only interesting feature is that she’s a “virgin oracle” – a woman who retains her powers only as long as she remains chaste. And whilst that in itself is a fairly nasty little idea in this day and age, it’s exacerbated when one of our actual protagonists describes it thusly:
“Were she to be violated, the prophecy would be corrupted.”
“Were she to be violated…” – it’s as though the concept of women willingly participating in sex in the world of ‘Immortals’ is completely alien. The only evidence we see of any consensual interaction is when the “virgin oracle” decides to sleep with the protagonist, and even that is explicitly described as him “doing her a favour.”
The fact is, ‘Immortals’ makes rape normal, ignores the existence of homosexuality and in general seems to be working hard to make the real world a worse place for all of us.
I’d love to be able to write more about the plot holes, stupid characterisations and silly costumes a little more. Things such as the visibly plastic armour, or frankly adorable pair of brass bunny ears that the antagonist wears to look intimidating. But there’s so little to this film beyond genuinely unsettling misogyny and absurd design choices that I’m left with nothing but empty anger.