Our latest interpretation of the sword-and-sandal film genre needs a hero. "Clash of the Titans" was ungodly stupid, and even "300" became instantly overrated by fanboys and girls who received it as if they'd never seen someone shirtless swing a sword (in slow motion, nonetheless). Armed to the tee (for "Tarsem") with an army of special effects but not enough tangible substance, director Tarsem Singh is not that hero with "The Immortals." However, he does treat some of our brain cell wounds by satiating us with a few heavy injections of style.


"The Immortals" is about a strapping peasant named Theseus (Henry Cavill) who gathers a group of local warriors (one of them played by Stephen Dorff) to stop the brutal King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) from locating a magical bow that would make even the gods powerless to it. A virgin oracle, played by Freida Pinto, is the only one who can help guide whoever is in control of her towards the bow.


Looking on from above in the heavens, a group of golden gods tell themselves that they will not directly intervene with the human conflict, despite every desire to. Taking a special eye to Theseus is Zeus (Luke Evans), who trained the young peasant as disguised as an old man (John Hurt). When Hyperion gets closer and closer to the bow, the gods must decide whether to break their vow as even their kind is at stake.

If Pinto is here to get more work (more on that below), then Henry Cavill is primarily a part of this muscle orgy to give us a first-look at the new Superman (who will hopefully be wearing his shirt more in Zack Snyder's "The Man of Steel"). "The Immortals" is also a showcase of his action movie presence, which is not as defined as his physique. Combining the type of action sequences he's in, along with the general blandness of the film, Cavill inches more towards "Why Do We Care About Sam Worthington?" Sam Worthington, instead of someone who offers viewers the next chapter of action stardom.


"The Immortals" has some funky color schemes, yuppie golden gods, the new Superman, Frieda Pinto's caboose, and yet, Mickey Rourke might be the film's most unique attribute. Adding a strong nightmarish element to the swords-and-sandal subgenre, Rourke is made into a super-sociopath who wants to be a human god, except that he wants to use such power to spread his obsession with sadism and mutilation. Rourke's gravelly voice and general presence of being Mickey Rourke offers the Immortals something director Tarsem couldn't just animate, or hurl at his audience. In some weird way, Rourke is a reminder of how some things just freak out us out naturally.

The former "Slumdog Millionaire" Freida Pinto star is probably in this movie to ask for more work; her choice to be a female lead in a film by Tarsem Singh has only designated her to a helpless female supporter, who only exists to keep the story from collapsing (by having a vision with clues in it). Even Jennifer Lopez had more to work with in "The Cell." In very low critical standards, Pinto is used for one of this cinematic year's more jarring butt shots.


In terms of action movie dialogue, Rourke dishes out a couple of menacing dialogue might actually stick afterward (such as when he growls, “Witness hell.”) The rally speech before the big battle in the third act delivered by Theseus hardly feels rousing to his life or death cause. It doesn't convince me to fight for anything except, to quote Homer Simpson (The Simpsons), "less chat, more splat."


A very strong visual experience, "The Immortals" enjoys distracting its audience from thinking about how much of its action happens in front of a green screen, so there are a decent amount of shots that mix both elaborate set into well-animated landscape. The film does have a bonus of offering particularly impressive special effects, and on top of this, its set design even offers unique terrain for typical battles to happen (such as the “stair room” in which Theseus fights the spiky bull-headed guy). Tracking shots (which view the action from the side) are used in a couple of long-take action sequences that have Theseus running and slicing, but show off competent choreography more than jaw-dropping action.


The intensity of the blaring horns and exploding timpani do give "The Immortals" a decent audible sense of power. (Yes, at times it even sounds like the Inception horn motif). While it’s not a score that sounds like it has come from the gods, it is one that at least makes us think it goes hand-in-hand with the presence of such deities. Oh, and this movie is LOUD.

Even when "The Immortals" has some decent visuals, some scenes still feel needless. An entire sequence involving an oil ocean and Poseidon causing a large wave is almost out of place - unless this movie’s real intention is to show off every muscle that Cavill is working with on his upper body.


When compared to its many artful tendencies, the violence of "The Immortals" is fairly phony, and generally not all that exciting. When the action physics of such a movie make way for anything to happen, from perfectly aimed arrows to exquisitely sliced titans, how can anything really be all that surprising? Haven't the endless possibilities of CGI gone too far towards endless and away from natural ground?


The best scene in the entirety of "The Immortals" involves a closed-quarters scuffle between Theseus and a bull-head minion sent by Hyperion to retrieve the bow. This scene has a fair amount of tension and general horror to keep audiences engaged. Plus, I like the room that it was shot in.


Quoting oneself is ungodly, but my above thoughts basically sum up the entire experience of "The Immortals" – "I like the room it was shot in." The action of "The Immortals," no matter how brutal it is made to be with CGI blood, or slowed down it is with special effects, doesn't stand to the movie's natural elements – the sets, the coloring, and yes, even Mickey Rourke. Although "The Immortals" sets itself apart from

"300" by at least aiming for a shred of story, (and not being an action scene mixtape), it still gives into the badass-less hollowness of those movie's sequences.


"The Immortals" might be worth a matinee if you feel like it's been too long since you've seen some ancient ass-kicking (in slow-mo, none the less?) But if you're looking for something to wipe away memories of the glossy suckiness of movies like "Clash of the Titans" and "300," you won't find it here.   -- NICK ALLEN, is also a film critic for The Scorecard Review and member of Chicago Film Critics Association