The sword-and-sandals genre gets a stylized shot to the senses with this hard-R-rated epic from visionary director Tarsem Singh. Using Greek mythology as a backdrop, the filmmaker has created a fantastical picture full of epic scale, classical compositions, and, oh yes, lots of blood for the audience to feast upon. And while the drama doesn't hold quite enough weight to justify the film's deliberate pacing (the picture clocks in at just under two hours), the out-there visuals and commanding leads help keep it from wallowing in big-army-fights-big-army computer-generated tedium.
The story centers on peasant hero Theseus (Henry Cavill), who, under the tutelage of a disguised Zeus (Luke Evans), becomes mankind's best hope when a grief-stricken tyrant (Mickey Rourke) aims to take on the gods by setting free a group of deadly immortals known as the Titans. With the help of an oracle (Freida Pinto) and a rogue warrior (Stephen Dorff), Theseus leads an army into battle in order to prevent a war between two powerful gods from wiping out humanity.
Lovers of the weird will rejoice in the Alejandro Jodorowsky-like imagery throughout, as will fetishists of violence during the moments when the picture gets crazy with gore. Cavill, Pinto, and Rourke are all solid, with only Dorff seeming a bit out of step with the rest of the cast. More than anything, the movie is about the experience of watching it. Few directors bring as much of an eye for lush visual cinema as Tarsem does -- and here he's managed to deliver a big-budget Hollywood picture as if it were painted by a Renaissance artist. That's really the hook for the film: If you want a gorgeous, high-tech spectacle that isn't afraid to squash some heads along the way, look no further. Those looking for Harryhausen-esque creatures or Shakespearean monologues best keep walking.