In the film Immortals, there is a character named Phaedra who is known as The Virgin Oracle, (played by Freida Pinto). We’re told through dialogue, “The Virgin Oracle is blessed with visions of the future. If she were to be violated? Her vision of the future would be corrupted.” The mortal hero Theseus scoffs, “How can it be considered a gift? When you can see the future but you don’t have the power to change it?”, and Phaedra herself downplays her powers, telling Theseus, “What I see is only a glimmer of what may come to pass. Your actions and decisions shape the future.”
I have some problems with this. First of all, I get that Theseus is supposed to be the hero, the fate of the world rests on his shoulders, blah blah blah. But is it really necessary to be so pessimistic about Phaedra’s potential to enact change? Doesn’t she very actively participate in shaping the future by telling certain people about what she sees, and not others, and by leading Theseus through several of his actions? She isn’t just the passive vessel that she is described as being.
Secondly, I’m not convinced that her visions were actually all that helpful, (other than to advance the storyline, of course.) Consider–the first vision of hers we see is actually the opening sequence of the movie, with Hyperion wielding the Epirus bow and unleashing the Titans. That actually ends up happening, in pretty much the same way that she envisioned. The only benefit to her seeing it is that a few characters realize the cosmic shift that victory for Hyperion would bring.
But the main vision that guides Phaedra throughout the film is what she sees when her foot touches the outstretched leg of a passed-out Theseus, who is mid-way through a forced journey to work in the salt mines. Phaedra sees Theseus holding the long-lost Epirus bow, with one arm around Hyperion. Hyperion is returning the embrace, and they seem to be standing on a boat or something, with a dead body wrapped in linen at their feet. That’s pretty much it. That’s the big reveal that the divine powers grant to the Oracle.
Because of the vision, Phaedra is convinced that “this man is favored by the gods,” so she hatches a plan with her sister oracles (that are really like her bodyguards/handmaidens) to help him escape. She doesn’t have a plan other then get the perceived-as-blessed man (and herself) away from the bad guys, and maybe somehow this will stop the other vision of the Titans being unleashed from happening. Not sure how she gets all that from this vague image of Theseus with Hyperion and a dead body, but, okay, so far I’m with her.
Theseus wants to head for the fight, but the little band of escapees runs into trouble at the sea’s edge. Poseidon decides to interfere by creating a giant-ass tidal wave that sweeps all the bad guys away, (and after all “the sea has forever been an unpredictable domain,” smirks a hairless Kellen Lutz as the trident-wielding god), but Phaedra’s foresight ‘saves’ the group again when she repeats a line she had stated earlier, which was “when cloudless skies thunder, stand fast.” Poseidon’s dive-bomb does create a kind of a boom, and it’s cloudless, so I can see how this sort of fits, but really how much of an advantage is it to know “okay, when that happens, stand fast.” What if “stand fast” meant not backing down to the bad guys on that boat? How were they supposed to know it meant waiting until the last minute, when you see this giant wave, and then jump to the cliff and hold on to the ropes that are conveniently anchored there for you? Not sure they needed the prophecy to figure that one out, or that having the direction makes it any more plausible than the usual heroes-narrowly-escape-death-but-bad-guys-fall-easy-prey-to-mishaps movie-universe logic.
Anyway, after the giant wave, Phaedra learns that Theseus’ mother was killed, and that her body wasn’t buried. Somehow Phaedra just knows that the body of Theseus’ mother must have been the one in her vision, and so she convinces the hero “you must return to your village” to give her a proper burial. It is when Theseus is placing his mother’s body in the tomb that he discovers the Epirus bow, and hence Phaedra tells him “your mother’s death was not in vain.”
So, it seems like maybe the visions are helpful, although vague, but almost immediately after Theseus finds the bow it is stolen by a warg-like creature that delivers it to Hyperion. What was the point of Phaedra leading Theseus to find the bow, and telling him “In your hands it will bring the Hellenics victory,” if it was soon to be out of his hands and into the hands of the very man they were trying to keep it from? Wouldn’t it have been better for the bow to remain hidden?
And why was Phaedra so willing to give up her visions? I thought they were fairly useless myself, but many characters in this story placed a lot of stock in them, including her sister oracles and the monk who sacrificed themselves and various body parts to protect her and keep her ability intact, only to have her throw it away to sleep with Theseus. At that point he has the Epirus bow, so she believes that he will be able to defeat Hyperion, but that’s clearly not a guarantee yet. They haven’t joined up with anybody else, Theseus is wounded, and she more than anyone should know that the future, though it may look bright right now, can quickly change. So it’s really stupid, not to mention selfish and disrespectful of the sacrifices of her followers, for her to disrobe and say, “You were right, Theseus, my visions are a curse. I want to see the world with my own eyes, feel with my own heart, touch with my own flesh.” (And shame on you, Theseus, for not offering a peep of an argument against this faulty logic, for not even saying “um, are you sure you want to do this and lose your sacred visions of the future?” She offers her justification unprompted, but shouldn’t he have said, “wait, hold up girl, you sure you wanna do this? Let’s think about the ramifications for our current quest as well as your entire future.” It makes me hate both of them.)
Later, when they have joined the Hellenic army and Hyperion requests an audience with Theseus, Phaedra begs her lover not to meet with the enemy, because in her vision she saw him “embracing” Hyperion. “Phaedra, have you never been wrong?” asks an exasperated Theseus before storming off to meet with Hyperion anyway. (And how does she know that the future she saw hasn’t changed now, since she threw her visions away? Maybe shouldn’t have done that so quickly, HMMMM?) In fact, Theseus declines Hyperion’s offer to join him. But later, after the Titans have been unleashed, (oops, I thought that’s what all these visions and blessings of mortals was trying to avoid?!), Theseus and Hyperion are locked in an one-on-one battle that ends with Theseus pinning Hyperion, holding a knife to his throat and snarling “this is the last embrace” before delivering the kill blow.
So in that sense, Phaedra’s vision did come true. Theseus at one point possessed the Epirus bow, which he found because of his mom’s dead body, and he did embrace Hyperion, kind of, to kill him. But did the vision itself really foretell that eventual outcome? Couldn’t it have been interpreted many different ways, if Theseus had joined Hyperion, for example? Anybody could be the dead body. And again, why did the vision lead Theseus to the Epirus bow if he was just going to lose it to Hyperion the very next morning? And in the end the bow is lost again, trapped in Tartarus, so what was the point of anyone having it, ever? Besides the fact that it was used to unleash the Titans, which was the exact thing that everybody was trying to avoid, including Zeus, who spent years in disguise as a mortal just to mentor Theseus just so that he could one day lead the Hellenics in a fight against Hyperion to prevent him from unleashing the Titans.
What. Was. The. Point?