The premise for this entirely ‘original’ account ostensibly from the Odyssey, is that the story of The Isle of the Mists was too terrible for Homer to tell. Frankly, it’s not that bad; just a little innocuous. Certainly on a Syfy Channel budget (albeit boosted for a 2008 theatrical release), and with a television sensibility, it was never going to be especially horrific. In truth, it barely earns its 15 certificate – which makes you wonder just exactly what kind of audience Syfy were aiming for.
Odysseus (a reasonable Arnold Vosloo) having fought and won the Trojan War, is heading home to Ithaca and his wife Penelope, having missed out on the first two decades of his son’s life. But Odysseus’ ship is attacked by winged creatures and wrecked on the shore of what turns out to be the Isle of the Mists, fabled home of the fallen goddess Persephone (the striking Stefanie von Pfetten; an appropriately Teutonic substitute for Troy’s Diane Kruger – the most beautiful women in Ancient Greece being all of Germanic heritage). Tagging along with his lack of combat prowess – but much to his benefit – is a young Homer, who has been attempting to persuade Odysseus to allow him to publish the great warrior’s story.
The early scenes on the island are gorgeously shot and promising of if not an epic adventure to come, at least an involving one. But sadly the script is beset by silliness (a “safety zone” that’s straight out of a school playground) and predictability – and the character with the most potential removes himself from the stranded party and almost out of the film entirely. What ensues is almost painfully serious, when the film could have benefitted from more levity; a story this hokey needed to be told in a befittingly trashy fashion. The occasional stab at profundity falls wilfully short of success, while there isn’t enough money to give the battle sequences impact nor integrate the effects effectively. What results is 90 minutes of passable but tame adventure that might, with just a little extra inspiration, have raised itself to bear comparison with the Ray Harryhausen pictures it is so obviously in thrall to.
Those Sinbad and Argonaut flicks took themselves seriously and got away with it, having been created half a century ago with all the mores that that entailed. By being shamelessly old-fashioned, yet with a darker, more horrifying subject matter, the producers of this seem caught between two stools. A little more gung ho might have appealed to the younger generation, a little more terror might have satisfied horror fans. But by being neither one thing nor the other, Odysseus doesn’t really have an audience to engage with.
ODYSSEUS – VOYAGE TO THE UNDERWORLD (AKA ODYSSEUS AND THE ISLE OF THE MISTS) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TERRY INGRAM / SCREENPLAY: BROOK DURHAM, KEVIN LEESON / STARRING: ARNOLD VOSLOO, STEVE BACIC, J.R. BOURNE, STEFANIE VON PFETTEN, RANDAL EDWARDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW