Immortals casts Superman-in-waiting Henry Cavill as Theseus, a poor peasant boy who rises up to lead an army against Mickey Rourke's King Hyperion, an evil leader stabbing and bludgeoning his way through Greece in search of the Epirus Bow, a weapon from the heavens that will bestow him with great power.
Those who enjoyed the bone-crunching action and graphic novel hyper-stylisations of 300 will no doubt find much to admire in Immortals, but like Zack Snyder with the Spartan epic, Tarsem finds himself at a loose end when it comes to storytelling nous. For all his artfully-composed shots and breathtaking digital scenery (in contrast to The Fall's beautiful natural landscapes), writers Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides can't conjure him up a script that imagines its protagonists as anything more than stock characters.
In fairness, the cast acquit themselves well with what's on offer, but Freida Pinto's virgin oracle Phaedra and the prominent gods - Zeus (Luke Evans), Poseidon (Kellan Lutz) and Athena (Isabel Lucas) - are cut adrift and function as plot devices rather than real people. As war rages down below, the gods passively view the destruction from on high. They vow not to interfere, yet this quickly changes when the sagging story is in need of a shot in the arm.
Mickey Rourke has fun as the ruthless Hyperion, who shows just how evil he is by ordering one of his minions to take a sledgehammer to a traitor's testicles. With facial scars and outlandish costumes, the highlight being headgear constructed from what looks like a crab's claw, the Wrestler star chews his way through scenery with gleeful abandon.
Counter to Rourke's pantomime turn is Cavill as the ultra-serious hero Theseus. Keeping a straight face while the carnage and campery erupts around him may seem like a hiding to nothing, but Cavill's stoic performance keeps the movie emotionally grounded and presents a believable character to root for. His bond with John Hurt's wise old mentor and mother Aethra (Anne Day-Jones) provide the film with its heartbeat.
Cavill also proves a capable action star as the sometimes hot-headed hero. His leadership and physical presence will make him a good fit for his upcoming Man of Steel role, in which he'll likely present a tougher Superman than Christopher Reeve or Brandon Routh.
Ultimately, it's a less than auspicious big screen breakthrough for the former Tudors actor, as Immortals suffers from the same kind of shoddy, post-converted 3D that torpedoed Clash of the Titans. The 3D is barely noticeable for the most part - another example of the format being crowbarred on for commercial rather than creative reasons.
Immortals may be gorgeously shot and packed with visceral thrills, but once you're out of the theatre it vanishes quickly from memory.