Cinephiles have followed visionary director Tarsem Singh‘s stunning visual spectacles for years in films like The Cell and The Fall. As a fan of his films, my only regret has been that as an indie director his work has been somewhat overlooked by mainstream audiences. With Immortals being produced by the producers of 300, Tarsem finally has the opportunity to helm a true tentpole epic.
At the Immortals panel today at San Diego Comic-Con 2011 included Tarsem, 300 producers Mark Canton and Gianni Nunnari, and cast members Freida Pinto as the Oracle, Stephen Dorff as Stavros, Luke Evans as Zeus, Kellan Lutz as Poseidon, and (future Superman) Henry Cavill as Theseus.
Tarsem revealed that the actual film is quite darker in tone than recent ads have revealed.
Footage shown was an amazing visual feast for the eyes. Imagine a cross between 300, Spartacus: Blood & Sand, or Troy, but completely in 3D, and on an exponentially more epic scale. Diamond arrows, golden armor, and thousands of warriors shed blood across the screen in terrific stylized slow motion.
Freida Pinto said she was challenged by the scope of the film, since it’s unlike one she’s ever been involved with. Gianni Nunnari recounted a story of having to share responsibility with Mark Canton to keep cast member Mickey Roarke in line and on the set on time. Tarsem was thrilled to have the opportunity as an atheist to address the subject of the interference of gods in human affairs.
Then they showed a clip in which Zeus and a cadre of golden-clad warriors descend into a mountain cavern temple to fight dark forces in a brutally violent and gory battle, with Zeus proclaiming, “None of you will leave here alive.” Once defeating them, Zeus pulls chains attached to enormous stone warriors, causing them to crumble to the ground, collapsing the entire mountain in its wake.
Tarsem said when composing for 3D, he keeps in mind that it’s a tool and you don’t want to put the cart ahead of the donkey as in some post-processed 3D films like Clash of the Titans. Tarsem says he often plans with good visuals and hopes a story will fall in afterward, something evident in his past work. This often requires him to shoot several versions of the same scenes multiple times, but this allows the final footage to be absolutely impeccable.
Many of the actors felt the toughest challenge was keeping themselves in physical shape for the demanding roles. Pinto’s first scene shot was a lovemaking scene, for which Tarsem felt a little embarrassed for her. Tarsem intended not to make a mythological film where the gods were just passive, he wanted them to actively battle throughout the film. He also felt his static compositions are more suited for 3D than the current trend for shakycam. He felt that the current trend for 3D can have a tendency to feel like a product of its time, and may seem quite dated in years to come. Canton said test audiences were satisfied with both 2D and 3D presentations of Immortals.
Kellan Lutz kept referring to his his character as king of wetness and moisture. Freida’s favorite experience was both working with visionary Tarsem and all the hunky men. Henry Cavill mentioned that the upcoming Superman movie is one of the best scripts he’s ever read and can’t wait to get started, Luke Evans mused that this year he’s had the opportunity to play two gods, with this and his role in Clash of the Titans.