Immortal (2004)

Immortal is one of those "green screen" films which mixes live actors with intensive computer graphics, ala Sin City. Like Sin City, it is based on a series of graphic novels (The Nikopol Trology, by Enki Bilal), and incorporated the style of the comics as accurately as possible. As with Sin City, the creator of the comics is also credited as director of the film.

There is one important thing which really distinguishes it from Sin City: the director did not have Robert Rodriguez to help out as co-director. Unfortunately, that created a great gap between the technical proficiency of the two films. Immortal has some imaginative science fiction concepts that are inconsistently rendered into film. At its best, it looks like a more sophisticated version of Blade Runner (which was inspired and influenced by Bilal's art) rendered in a blue-gray palette. At its worst, it looks as bad as the cheesy 1980s video game, Dragon's Lair.

The technical strong points are the cityscapes, which convey a poetic sense of human development gone somehow wrong, as if to show that all the technological advances of the future will be used to make the planet a claustrophobic, overly mechanistic, joyless place. When the film is able to show the humans acting in front of essentially motionless backgrounds, it accomplishes what it sets out to do.

There are two areas, however, where the technology is simply too primitive to work:

1. Motion. When the CGI backgrounds have to be brought to life - to represent moving vehicles, for example - the creators just didn't have the skills they needed. The air cars and other such vehicles look no more realistic than the puppet effects in Team America, and in fact there were times when I was looking for the strings attached to vehicles which were only slightly more sophisticated than Ed Wood's pie plates. It's so bad in places that it recalls memories of 1950s movies with the miniature boats in the bathtubs. In fact, the scenes with vehicle motion look and sound like what Sin City would have been like if it had been created in Stalinist Russia: clumsy, clunky, and with the sounds inappropriately matched to the visual effects.

2. CGI characters. Some of the minor characters in the film are rendered entirely with 3-D animation instead of by live actors. There is some point to this. The movie takes place in a world in which humans include ever more synthetic parts, so it is possible that the most synthetic humans would look ... well ... very fake. Unfortunately, I am not talking about realistic 3-D animation, but rather rounded-out versions of 1960s Japanese cartoon characters. Imagine Speed Racer in 3-D.

As you can imagine, the poorly animated motion and the silly cartoon characters make it very difficult to suspend your disbelief throughout the film, and you'll never forget for a moment that you're just watching a show. The problem is compounded a dozenfold by the fact that the live actors perform with a hollow pretentious style, as if they don't understand the words they are speaking. This has the impact of eliminating the realistic characterization that actors normally provide with their voices and replacing it with a constant faux-poetic intonation, as if the actors were reciting English phonetically. Imagine Murder in the Cathedral performed by non English speakers, and rendered in primitive Japanimation.

The plot?

Oh, boy! Let me try.

A flying pyramid hovers over New York City in 2095. Within that odd vehicle, the Egyptian God Horus sleeps. He is awakened by his fellow gods Bast and Anubus, and is given seven days to experience the earth which he created, after which he will be put to death, for reasons not clear to me.

Needless to say, he plans to use those seven days getting laid. This serves two purposes. First, it allows him to implant his seed for his next resurrection. More important, it's fun. Actually, I'm kidding. There is no sense of fun in the movie at all. At any rate, his plans will require a male human body for him to occupy and a female human body ... um ... for him to ... you know ...

Most of the humans of that time have been synthetically altered by an evil corporate entity called Eugenics, and Horus really isn't into the whole artificial body thing, so he needs the body of one of the resistance fighters who conduct an underground campaign against Eugenics. He discovers an ex-con named Nikopol who seems perfect for the job. Nikopol/Horus determines that the perfect host for the seed of Horus is a human named Jill, who seems to be some kind of genetic mutation, possessing power even she does not understand ...

Blah, blah.

The actress playing Jill is Linda Hardy. According to her bio, she was Miss France in 1992.  If that is true, she is either very heavily made up to look tired and used up, or she has been shooting heroin non-stop since the end of the Miss France pageant.

The film has some great moments because of some sublime conceptualization and art design. Unfortunately, that was ruined by technical ineptness, an incoherent plot line, weak acting, and pretentious comic book dialogue. It's a fairly cool movie that cudda been a contenda, but isn't.



  • Linda Hardy (1, 2)


DVD info:

  • Anamorphically enhanced widescreen (16x9)
  • Two lengthy featurettes about the making of the film and the special effects.

Other Stuff: