Comic-Con ’11: After Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” presentation Friday afternoon, Comic-Con attendees appeared to have relatively few other films or properties to get excited about. But Relativity Media maximized the potential of their upcoming sword-and-sandal opus “Immortals” with a panel featuring cast and crew members as well as a presentation of some footage which, as one colleague put it, felt about perfect for screening in the convention’s centerpiece showroom, whether or not its charm translates to commercial success down the road.
As a quick reminder, the film directed by Tarsem Singh (“The Cell,” “The Fall“) stars Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Mickey Rourke, Kellan Lutz, Luke Evans, John Hurt and Isabel Lucas, and follows the story of warrior prince Theseus (Cavill) as he leads men and gods alike into battle against titans in order to save mankind. As an early trailer has indicated, if anything, the film should be a visual wonder and as the filmmakers chatted during the panel, it was that element that certainly became a central focus.
1. Although producer Mark Canton previously worked on “300,” “Immortals” is not just a redux of Zack Snyder’s speed-ramping spectacular.
“Immortals” is directed by Tarsem Singh, a filmmaker who indicated that first and foremost he didn’t just want to shoot everything in a green room, as Snyder did, when approaching the epic, mythical tale of a battle between gods and men. “There were a lot more physical sets than ‘300,’” he said. “Because I needed the actors to interact with things more, I needed the sets to be existing.” In fact, Singh said he shot certain sequences multiple times using different techniques to make sure that it looked and felt as visceral as possible, starting with actors on a set, then with CGI characters in a virtual environment, and finally with both of those sequences overlaid on top of each other.
2. Freida Pinto greatly enjoyed watching her buff and often shirtless male co-stars in action
Not unlike “300,” the film appears to be heavy on testosterone, with an ensemble of chiseled male actors wearing very little as they go through the motions of making war. Pinto said it was a refreshing change of pace to be the least exposed actor on set. “My favorite part was watching the men,” she said. “I think it’s very rare that you get to be a part of a film where the men have to bare it all and the women can keep everything covered. Tarsem has an amazing vision, and he has the imagination of a three year old – only he can bring it out.”
Meanwhile, Luke Evans explained that there was actually a good reason why he and his fellow actors were chosen instead of older actors for their mythical roles. “We left the ‘ancient voice’ to John Hurt,” he said of his character Zeus’ necessary gravitas. “It was difficult – we’re used to seeing Zeus as an old man. So this was a new slant on the role. But as Tarsem said, if you were a god, you would want to be in the prime of your life.” Cavill agreed: “That’s a tricky thing, because you don’t want to make it sound too stuffy, but stay true to the age of the character. So it’s about finding a balance.”
3. The “Immortals” footage screened in San Diego is even more intense than what you saw in the trailer
Singh explained that they want to bring in as many viewers as possible, but the movie itself promises to be slightly more sinister than its promotional materials make it seem. “It’s a little darker than what the trailers lead you to believe,” he said. “The trailers have been for everybody, but the movie has a slightly darker tone.”
In the clip Singh showed, several gods descend upon a cavernous lair where they are quickly attacked by a group of homicidal monsters. The gods move almost twice as fast as their adversaries, and dispatch them with ruthless, violent efficiency. But when two of the gods are struck down and Zeus’ female companion is injured, he uses a pair of giant gold chains to literally bring down the entire chamber, in the process reducing an entire mountain to rumble. As he holds his companion in his arms and starts to transport her to safety, more of the creatures descend upon him from all sides.
4. Singh approached the film from a philosophical point of view, and then constructed it from a visual one.
Singh admitted he was a longtime atheist but was fascinated by the idea of gods, after his mother offered an observation about their role in his life. “I just wanted to address the idea of gods,” he said. “My mom said to me, ‘How do you think you are as successful as you are if it wasn’t for my praying?’ So I started with [that idea] in the script, and there’s a little bit less now. But there’s enough of my DNA for me to feel like it’s my film.”
Meanwhile, Singh is well known for his visual sense – so much so that he’s sometimes criticized for prioritizing that over storytelling. But he said that the way he directs works counterintuitive to conventional wisdom, but nevertheless works well on film. “I have certain images in my head, and I usually don’t start with [a script]. I usually start with an image, a good visual story. Fortunately it works in the medium I’m in.”
5. The film’s use of 3D enhances its storytelling, even if Tarsem isn’t completely sold on the technology’s longevity.
Discussing the subjective importance of 3D in the storytelling process, Singh said, “I think it’s an aesthetic call. Maybe in 30 or 40 years we’ll see it differently. But there’s lots of inherent problems and I don’t think that current 3D will age well.”
Producer Mark Canton, meanwhile, indicated that the decision to make the movie in 3D was as much a commercial opportunity as a creative choice. “I think you have to look at this in the perspective of moviegoing audiences all around the world,” Canton said. “If you look at the numbers, they’re quite extraordinary. If it fits, and the filmmaker like Tarsem feels it can enhance the audience’s experience, we want more of it. But it’s still about good stories well-told.”
Check out the latest poster for “Immortals” below. It opens on November 11th.–Todd Gilchrist; Photo Credit: Kevin Winter, Getty from JustJared