War of the Gods (a.k.a., Immortals)

Author: Charley Parlapanides & Vlas Parlapanides
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Storyline: 3
Dialogue: 4
Characterization: 3
Writer’s Potential: 4

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

An ancient Greek peasant seeks revenge against the demonic forces that killed his mother.

Synopsis:

In 1900 B.C., THESEUS, age 16, and his mother, SOPHIA, argue over who will eat their dwindling supply of olive paste. They’re interrupted by a blood-curdling scream. Investigating, Theseus discovers HOPLITE WARRIORS in his village, in pursuit of a demon. Theseus wanders to see if he can trap the demon himself, but instead he discovers an OLD MAN has fallen into one of his mother’s animal traps. While Sophia stitches the Old Man back up, KING PETROS leads his warriors in the countryside surrounding the village. The Old Man tells Theseus he can forge the young man a weapon if they feed and clothe him until he has recovered. Theseus and Sophia agree to this.

Going to the village fountain to fill a bucket with water, Theseus stumbles across one of the demon’s victims — and then the demon itself. It attacks Theseus, but King Petros fights it off before it can do any real damage. The demon runs away, and they find a bloodied and bruised man in his place. In the village square, they perform a “fire test” to reveal the man’s true nature — he is a demon. Sophia, a “whore” and the mother of a “bastard son,” is accused of bringing the demons to their village. Petros intervenes.

Back in their hovel, the Old Man asks about the demon execution. Theseus asks how such a thing can exist within a man, and the Old Man tells a very long story about the gods, explaining that there are the gods — symbols of good — and the Titans, essentially their evil twins. Similarly, humans symbolize good, while demons represent the mirror of evil. The forces of evil are increasing because of the power of evil. Meanwhile, King Petros assembles an army of his Hoplites and villagers to go up against the demons that are attacking.

Sophia tells Theseus that his father is a very important person, but she won’t say who, telling him instead that she will let Theseus know when he is able to fight his own battles. Encouraged to fight, Theseus tries to enlist. Petros sends him away, saying he’s too young. Meanwhile, a DEMON LORD searches for the bow of Cryptos. The Old Man shapeshifts into ZEUS, king of the gods, and returns to Mt. Olympus, where he argues with ARIES (god of war) about intervening with humans. Zeus return to the village in his Old Man form and agrees to train Theseus to be a warrior.

Several years later, Theseus has the skills of a warrior but remains in his village. The Demon Lord leads an attack on the village. It kills Sophia but not before she can give Theseus a cryptic message about who his real father is. Enraged, Theseus single-handedly fights back the demon attack. The Demon Lord notices him and tries to fight him alone. Theseus is wounded and unable to continue fighting. He is enslaved by the demons and taken to a slave ship, where he sees the beautiful DESPINA, another slave. He also witnesses the slave STELLIOS stealing a key for his shackles. Theseus confronts Stellios about this, arguing that it will cause trouble before he gets the chance to escape. He’s right — the demon guard kills one of the other slaves and intends to kill everyone else until he finds the key. Stellios steps forward and says the key was stolen by the slave the demon killed. He tricks the demon into believing this is true.

MEGALLOS, Stellios’s mute friend, signs to Theseus that the demons have enslaved humans to aid in the search of the bow of Cryptos. A new prisoner, HERON, tells them how far south into Greece the demons have gotten. Angered, Theseus convinces them to escape with him. He kills a bunch of demons, steals a set of keys, and frees a big group of slaves. They’re surrounded promptly by demon warships, but Theseus and his friends manage to escape — with the help of sea god POSEIDON, who defies Zeus’s orders when he sees Theseus in trouble and causes storms and huge waves on the sea.

When Theseus and his friends get to the shore, the Old Man is there. He tells Theseus that they must find the bow of Cryptos and get it to King Petros before the demons do, and then he must seek the Oracle of Delphi. He disappears, and Theseus’s companions argue briefly, then agree to accompany Theseus on this journey. Meanwhile, the Demon Lord is updated on progress — they haven’t found the bow, but they have found the shards of Iyisis, which the Demon Lord hails as “half their puzzle” solved.

At a village market, SOLON, a huge brute, assaults Stellios and accuses him of robbing Solon’s brother. The others threaten to attack Solon, who backs down. At a stronghold on Mt. Tartaros, King Petros says it is time to make their stand. LORD THANOS argues, but Petros can’t be swayed. In a forest, a GIANT is about to kill a man (NIKOS). Theseus orders him to stop, and the Giant says Nikos couldn’t solve his riddle. Theseus says that if he solves the riddle, he must let Nikos go free and let everyone cross. The Giant agrees, gives him a shockingly easy riddle, which Theseus solves without much effort, and the Giant keeps his word, setting down Nikos and letting them cross.

Nikos warns them not to cross into Delphi because it’s been sacked. Theseus isn’t swayed — they have to find the Oracle. Nikos seeks the Oracle, as well, so they take him into Delphi, as well. Nikos is not wrong; Delphi is a disaster area, littered with carnage and destruction. They make their way to a mountain fortress, and inside a dungeon they find the ORACLE — it’s Despina, the slave girl Theseus met earlier. As soon as they free her, Demons surround them, and the Oracle leads them on an escape path. They escape from Delphi. Meanwhile, Lord Thanos enters the Demon Lord’s tent — and shapeshifts into the Demon Lord. He implies that the Demon chase out of Delphi was some sort of ploy.

The Oracle reintroduces herself to Theseus, tells them she is Nikos’s sister, and explains how her power works. She warns Theseus of the dangerous path that his thirst for revenge has led him down. He asks Nikos to lead them to Petras — where he’s from — so they can reach the coast, then follow it from a seacraft. On the craft, the Oracle mentions to Theseus that his fate calls to him. She says he will soon face a terrible choice and will have to be brave in the face of it. She also says they must go to “the stone” Theseus’s mother mentioned while she was dying — the clue about who his father is.

They find the stone, which contains another riddle. Solving the riddle results in Theseus stuck in an underground lake hidden beneath a mountain. Inside the lake cave, Theseus finds a shield with Petros’s emblem on it. The Oracle has an amulet that fits into a small, hollowed section of the shield; when turned, it produces Zodiac signs. When pressed in the correct order, two sides of the shield spring apart, revealing the bow of Cryptos.

Almost immediately, they are attacked by more Demons. They run away, then camp out. Nikos stands guard for the night. The Oracle and Theseus make love. Stellios catches Nikos trying to steal the bow, then accuses him of being in league with the demon army. Theseus heats his sword, then presses it to Nikos’s body. He lets out a shriek and transforms into a demon. Saddened, the Oracle kills her brother. Angered, Theseus leads an assault on the demon army using the bow — but they promptly steal it from him and are about to kill the group of humans when Aries drops his war-hammer down, killing them to spare Theseus and his companions. Once he helps them escape, Aries tells Theseus to go to Petros and alert him that he must lead his men into battle as soon as possible.

Returning to Mt. Olympus, Aries is confronted by the other gods for going “too far.” Resigned, Zeus says they don’t need to interfere; if the humans fail to win this battle, he’ll wash them from the face of the earth.

Theseus’s group reaches Petros. Theseus introduces himself to his father and brings him up to speed on what is happening. The demons approach. They battle, and the demons have a major upper hand thanks to the bow of Cryptos. Petros battles the Demon Lord personally and is slain. With his dying breath, Petros urges Theseus to keep fighting. One of the demons spills a chest filled with the shards of Iyisis, which strikes fear into the gods — who watch from Mt. Olympus. The demons use the shards to kill the gods’ HUNDRED-HANDED BEAST, then use it to kill HERMES — the messenger god, who was sent from Mt. Olympus to intervene because he’s the fastest.

At this point, IAPETUS, the Titan equivalent of Zeus, appears in the battle. The gods decide to join in the fight, as well. There is a battle royale involving a variety of mythological creatures — minotaurs, Medusa, etc. — leading to a clash between Zeus and Iapetus. Zeus gets beaten handily and, with the rest of the gods, beats a hasty retreat to Mt. Olympus. The humans are also running away as quickly as possible. This leaves Theseus and his crew to fight the remaining demons and Titans. There is another epic battle, and eventually Zeus and a few other gods return to help. All the men are awed by Theseus’s courage and unwillingness to give up, even though by the end of the battle he’s at death’s door.

This fades to the Old Man telling the story of Theseus to his young son, while the Oracle looks on.

Comments:

Here’s the top problem in a screenplay glutted with problems: Theseus, for all his machismo and warrior bravado, is an incredibly passive character from a narrative standpoint. Nearly everything he does in the story is dictated by others: he only wants to fight because, if he does, his mother will reveal the identity of his father; he only becomes a warrior because Zeus commands it; he only seeks the bow of Cryptos and the Oracle of Delphi because Zeus tells him to; he only seeks the shield because the Oracle tells him to. There are dozens of examples, big and small, of this behavior throughout the script, so even though we’re supposed to root for Theseus as the bad-ass to end all bad-asses, in the end he comes across as both weak-willed — because everything he does is dictated by others — and weak-minded — because he couldn’t draw these conclusions on his own. It’s an easy solution, just by having him think about things and make his own decisions, but this isn’t the screenplay’s only problem.

The screenplay contains almost wall-to-wall action sequences, with very little room to breathe. This leaves almost no time for character development beyond the broadest strokes, but the writers, to their credit, do a halfway decent job of distinguishing each of Theseus’s gang. It’s everybody outside the gang that gets short-changed. The all-powerful gods are distinguished only by their respective powers, but all of them seem to share the same “moping whiner” personalities, as they watch the carnage unfold from the safety of Mt. Olympus. The demon army and King Petros’s army are just fresh bodies for the battle sequences; not even Petros or Lord Thanos/Demon Lord have much interesting happening, which makes the “twist” that Thanos is the Demon Lord kind of worthless. He appears in one scene prior to that reveal, barely makes an impression, and doesn’t use his dual nature to much of an advantage. Last but not least, Theseus’s relationship with the Oracle is rushed and hilariously unconvincing.

The story is serviceable as a vehicle moving us from one action set-piece to another, but careful scrutiny reveals its incoherence and startling lack of originality. It’s pretty much a hodge-podge of other swords-and-sandals epics that doesn’t bring much new to the table. The closest it comes is including some actual gods fighting, something that hasn’t been seen much (possibly because it’s a fairly silly conceit, despite its roots in actual myths). Of course, many of its story problems also stem from the passive nature of Theseus, but there’s not much to get excited about even if the writers made him more active.

It might appeal to the same people who made 300 a hit, or maybe fans of action movies. There’s way too much action for it to appeal to fans of period dramas or historical epics, and the “fantasy” elements don’t have the gravitas of something like the Lord of the Rings films, so War of the Gods would be lucky to draw an audience from fans of these types of films. Its intense action and Greek setting might make it popular overseas, though.

Posted by D. B. Bates on September 24, 2008 5:23 PM