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IMMORTALS

God Speed
Singh's immortal heroes, the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, are a world apart from their human counterparts in beauty, strength and speed. The director envisioned them as idealized, larger-than-life creatures. "In the end, the gods have very little wardrobe,” says Singh. "They had to be fit. That had to be a factor in casting.”

Some of their seemingly superhuman abilities are the result of Singh's innovative use of the camera. "I wanted to take them to another level,” says Singh. "So during the battle scenes, the gods move much faster than the humans, which adds to the action. All our fights are quite different. Those that pit humans against humans take place in real time. And when gods go up against gods, they match each other's superior speed, so the difference between their speed and the humans' is imperceptible and it still appears to be real time. But when gods go up against humans, humans are revealed to be like putty. They're frozen.”

And at times, all three types of battle are taking place simultaneously. "There are a couple of sections where all the fighting sequences are differently done,” Singh says. "I think it's pretty magical.”

Making the director's brainstorm into reality took patience and persistence. "We shot the whole thing from the gods' perspective,” he says. "Then we then shot the whole thing again from the human point of view. We shot something like four days of plates to make it right for each perspective. The humans practically freeze, while the gods are like lightning. It's not a fair fight.”

Galvin explains that the magic was created by changing the camera speed. "Five hundred frames is starting to really slow things down and if you up that to a thousand, sometimes even the simple movements people make can look static,” says Galvin. "It's an unreal speed, you're entering a different dimension in your head when you're going into those speeds because you see things. Most people are familiar with high speed from sports events. When you slow things down, it's quite different.”

Canton finds the "god speed” effect an excellent example of the way the special effects have been woven throughout the film to become part of the story and storytelling. "Seeing the gods moving at hyperspeed and the humans moving in slow motion is more than just an effect,” he says. "No one's ever attempted to manipulate time for two different characters in the same movie. It's not a movie; it's an experience. It's a life-changing event, like Star Wars was when we all saw it for the first time.”

At the outset, Singh decided he wanted the fight scenes to have a more realistic, less stylized feel than is typical of many contemporary films. "I wanted actual physical fighting with the weapons that they have. Some of it was done with wires, but there's just no substitute for physical combat. You can feel the impact.”

The filmmakers brought in Artie Malesci, who worked on Miami Vice, some of the Transporter films and television's "Burn Notice,” as stunt coordinator. A core group of 13 fighters from Montreal trained and rehearsed for three months so when the filmmakers got on the set, all the stunts were ready to go.

The result is non-stop, beginning-to-end action, says Malesci. "We taped everything we did in advance for Tarsem to view. He'd say yes or no, and tweak it his way. All the time we were choreographing, we were also training the cast to get them prepared. The stunt people trained all day, five days a week. They really worked hard. If their bodies weren't right, they didn't have a job.”

For Henry Cavill, intense physical training started six months prior to shooting. "When I met Henry, he was fit,” says Singh. "But as I told him, it can't be a six-pack. You've got to come with an eight-pack. There has to be no body fat, because I don't have too many clothes for you to wear. He put himself through an incredible regime. I took one look at him and I knew that he had embraced the role.”

Cavill was given what he calls "certain briefs for training” and asked to supply photographic evidence of his progress. "When we got our final brief of what they wanted me to look like, we just trained and trained and trained. It was eight hours a day in the gym, five days a week.”

All that training paid off, according to Pinto. "Tarsem told me that the actors were undergoing this transformation, that their bodies were going to be really ripped,” says Pinto. "But until I met Henry for the first time, I had no idea that this was what he meant. He looked god-like.”

"I have never seen anybody in such a great shape,” agrees Nunnari. "He dedicated months to sculpting his body.”

The training also gave Cavill an array of skills to use in combat. "Every day was something new, so in the end, we had a big tool box to work with,” he notes. "If anything was thrown at me on the day, which it was, I could go into my tool box and pick out the right stuff.”

Still, he is mindful to say that the battle scenes could not have been accomplished without the expert stunt team. "They were mind-blowingly good. Some of the fight choreography was so complex and so difficult, and I had to get it exactly right every time because a lot of it was done in one continuous shot and if anyone messed up anything, we would have had to do it again. But we never did.”

Theseus' final faceoff with King Hyperion was his most difficult scene, says Cavill, because it is so realistic. "The fight is brutal and messy. These are two exhausted, desperate men who want to tear each other's throats out. It's a non-stylized, painful experience in a very small space and they're throwing each other against the walls and hitting each other with anything they can get their hands on. It's the human representation of the conflict between the gods and the Titans. There's some jujitsu, some Greco-Roman grappling, but mostly it's two guys kicking the crap out of each other.”

Singh says he intentionally shot this climactic scene in a confined area. "If we had people fighting outside in the open, that would have been very difficult for me,” explains the director. "I like tighter places, so I created what I would call a bottleneck. We have this tunnel, and outside of it is the bigger army. Inside the tunnel, it becomes a personal fight.”

The tunnel fight sequence is spectacular, according to Cavill. "So much hard work went into it by all the departments. The choreography was pretty complicated, but it looks fantastic, which made it all very rewarding. I was broken and exhausted at the end of day two. I just had to go home and collapse.”

Singh posed himself an additional challenge in filming the film's denouement by creating three separate skirmishes within the larger battle. "I've got three fights happening simultaneously in the tunnel,” explains Singh. "Theseus and Hyperion are fighting ‘mano-a-mano,' humans are trying to stop the non-humans from coming through, and the gods are trying to contain the Titans. We have three different schools of fighting—one's got all the emotion, one's got all the wow factor, and the third one's got the scale.”

The array of fighting styles posed additional challenges for the stuntmen. "When gods fight with humans, it's a completely different school. Then when gods fight with other gods or with Titans, which have the same power, how do we define that so they're completely different schools of fighting?” the director asks. "For stunt guys, it's been quite difficult. They crack one scene, but the next scene does not have the same rules at all.”

But, say the producers, Singh never challenged anyone mo

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