Consider "Immortals" a cinematic snack while we wait ... and wait ... for the promised sequel to "300."
The new swords and six-pack abs flick dabbles in the elements that made "300" such a guilty pleasure. Merciless fight sequences. Monosyllabic heroes. More digital effects than "Green Lantern" and "Sucker Punch" combined.
Add the future Man of Steel, Henry Cavill, and you've got a giddy blend of action and mumbo jumbo plotting. Then again, did anyone cheer on "300" for its nuanced storytelling?
Cavill stars as Theseus, a Greek peasant trying to protect his town from King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), a ruler renown for his insatiable appetites. He's always chomping something, with flecks of food clinging to his scruffy beard. Fruit, meat, scenery, there's nothing ol' Hyperion won't munch on. But he really hungers for world domination, and if he finds a magical bow he might just get it.
The Epirus Bow fires magic arrows and can free the Titans, a race of zombie-like ghouls imprisoned years ago by Zeus and his fellow gods.
Said gods can't interfere with humanity even if it means watching as Hyperion gets close to the bow. But Zeus, played in human form by John Hurt, has been coaching Theseus for years in the hopes that he would lead the charge against Hyperion.
Director Tarsem Singh ("The Cell") treats the film's digital effects like a child discovering finger paints for the first time. "Immortals" can be beautiful to behold, but "300" featured a far more rewarding tapestry of fantasy backgrounds. Every time Singh pans back, and back, we're taken out of the movie and left to marvel at how many computers made it all possible.
Those digital effects can still dazzle, but they become yet another distraction during a climactic sequence with the aforementioned Titans.
"Immortals" exists for its battle scenes, and it's here where Singh reveals a singular talent. The action is intense and unrelenting, with severed heads and other body parts coming our way thanks to the unnecessary 3D conversion. Singh's camera doesn't shake once, and he captures the ferocity of hand-to-hand combat without any "Matrix"-style wizardry - at first. The third act battles take a turn for the monotonous, swapping in video game style antics for quasi-realism. What a shame.
Bloody swordplay is serious stuff, and "Immortals" goes about its business with grim-faced determination. Stephen Dorff tries to inject some levity into the story as a wise-cracking thief who teams with Theseus, but the script barely acknowledges his presence.
That leaves Cavill to carry the hour, and he does so by flashing glimpses of what we'll surely see when he dons Superman's red cap in 2012. He's got the sculpted physique demanded by the genre, and while "Immortals" is hardly an acting showcase he manages to give some texture to Theseus' plight.
"Slumdog Millionaire's" Freida Pinto plays an Oracle who can see briefly into the future. Had her character had clearer vision she'd tell Pinto one more rail-thin role and she'll be stuck shooting made-for-TV movies and infomericals.
"Immortals" wraps with the inevitable sequel tease, and perhaps we'll see it before any "300" project hits theaters. Either way, "Immortals" delivers the essential action set pieces genre fans demand - and not a blessed thing else.