The millions of people this weekend who paid to see "Immortals," the mythology-laden story of Theseus and the cruel King Hyperion, turned out for plenty of reasons. But doubtless high on the list was the movie's underlying similarities to "300," the Gerard Butler-starring story of dueling Persians and Spartans.
Like the 2006 hit, Tarsem Singh's movie, which stars Henry Cavill and Mickey Rourke, is a swords-and-sandals swashbuckler heavy on the visuals (and the ketchup packets). "Immortals" also came from the same producers, a fact that the film's distributor, Relativity Media, was not shy about emphasizing in its television ads.
But those producers were not entirely keen to compare the two movies. "We don't really see them as that similar," Mark Canton, one of the producers who made both films, told 24 Frames last week. "This ['Immortals'] is about the journey of a man finding his faith, and '300'...is a great action movie."
He added that "300," based on the Frank Miller graphic novel, centered on a war between two human civilizations whereas "Immortals" mixed in legends of the gods. (Canton did allow for a superficial similarity: "'Immortals' is the most visually compelling movie that we've seen in a long time, and '300' before that was the most visually arresting movie we've seen in a long time.")
A Relativity executive heavily involved in "Immortals" was similarly inclined toward distinctions.
"We looked at the Greek mythology as a fantasy world more than a Greek world," said Tucker Tooley, the Relativity No. 2 who oversaw "Immortals" production. "We didn't approach this as a typical swords-and-sandals film."
He added that there were differences in the visuals department too: "As Tarsem has said on many occasions, he views '300' as a comic strip coming to life, and this is a painting coming to life."
There's a reason to put some distance between the two films -- apart from producers not wanting to feel like they're repeating themselves, a "300" sequel has long been in the works, and what's the sense of doing one if "Immortals" already fits the bill? (Of course, with Relativity's $32-million domestic opening for "Immortals," we wouldn't rule out a sequel for that film either.)
In at least one regard, though, "Immortals" has a long way to go before it can be uttered in the same breath as "300" -- the Butler pic grossed more than $200 million in the U.S.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Mickey Rourke in "Immortals." Credit: Relativity Media