arty sci-fi romance
Trivia Was one of several films around the world that were the first to use an entirely "digital backlot" i.e. the actors were all shot in front of blue- and green-screens with all the backgrounds added in post-production.
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3rd Jun 06
Jill's an alien, Nikopol is possessed by a lustful Egyptian God and the major is thawing flying killer shark things out of cryo. Not your typical movie, I think you'll find.
Digital film making is here to stay, like it up lump it, so we'd better get used to it. But the extent to which you digitize a movie can have a serious effect on that movie's emotional connection to its audience. Bad stop motion monsters and obviously wobbly sets can look shit, but they can also, in their own right, be quite endearing. At least you know that if a certain rubber monster looks crap, or if a certain space ship looks like it was made on Blue Peter, someone has actually gone out there and made the bloody thing as opposed to just sat at a computer and ran a few algorithms. I mean, why build amazingly ornate forced perspective miniatures when you've got a whole bank of CG models at your fingertips?
That's the trick actually; bad or over dependent use of CG can make film makers look real lazy, which is why I was a little worried when I found out that Immortal is 100 percent digital where only some of the characters are played by real-life actors. Yeah some; half of the peripheral characters in Immortal are just pure CG with a human voice over, which takes some getting used to.
Let's talk plot. The setting is New York circa 2095, where everything has gone all Fifth Element, albeit with much darker hues. Jill, a blue-haired, blue-skinned alien, who came to Earth by stepping through some kind of warp gate in Central Park, has been arrested as an illegal immigrant. But luckily for her, Charlotte Rampling's lesbian doctor character takes a shining to her, gets her a care in the community apartment and gives her a course of pills that'll turn her human. Meanwhile, in a huge pyramid hovering over the city, a couple of Egyptian gods are debating the fate of Horus, who apparently is the god who created women, but has recently fallen from grace. He knows his days are numbered and so must find a female to mate with before his time runs out and thus propogate his line, but first he must find a host male to use as his flesh who also has the strength of character to cope with possession by an Egyptian deity.
And this is where Nikopol comes in. He is a revolutionary rebel leader who was caught 30 years ago and has since spent the time between in a cryogenic suspended animation jail, right up until a daring escape at the beginning of the film. It's a bit of a botch though actually; in the ensuing gunfight everyone dies except Nikopol, who just gets his one of his legs blown off at the knee. Seizing the opportunity Horus steps in, quickly moulds Nikopol a leg out of raw steel with his bare hands and attaches it. He also gives Nikopol the power to walk with this ridiculously heavy leg as if it was his own flesh, but only if Nikopol does his bidding, which of course in this case means mate with Jill.
There's more to it than that, but that's the general idea, and these are the main characters which carry the movie. And they do a good job; Jill battles with increasingly strong human emotions that she's never experienced before, especially her feelings for Nikopol. Nikopol in turn has strong feelings for Jill, but his efforts are often interrupted by Heron's impatience, and his attempts to court her invariably turn into Heron taking over, and what was a seduction quickly turns into rape. Then Heron has to go and erase Jillís memory so Nikopol can approach her again, but Jillís part psychic, meaning she can read Nikopolís memory of Heron taking him over and raping her, but she canít remember it herself. As you can tell, they obviously have lots to talk about.
Along side we also get Charlotte Ramplingís doctor character whose role is largely peripheral but she does have some interest conversations with Jill as they rationalize what it is to be human. Apart from that the only characters worth mentioning are the Mayor and his Lucy Liu look-a-like oriental assistant. Well, Lucy Liu except for the fact that these two characters are purely CG, which is at first incredibly off putting, but bizarrely acceptable by the end of the running time. What with Nikopol being a former revolutionary and essentially a fugitive, the Mayor is desperate to catch him and so thaws several hunters out of cryogenic freezing just to hunt him down. And these guys are weird; part human, part hammerhead shark but bright red all over and very deadly. The first guy has a rather well done showdown with Nikopol on a transporter (donít worry, Heron steps in and sorts it all out), but the second guy, who is practically all flying blood red shark with added tentacles, is the real scary one. If youíve ever wanted to know what a Fifth Element style flying car chase would look like, where the pursuer is this flying shark-octopus thing, then youíre in luck.
That said, Immortal is by no means a sci-fi action movie. It has a few good CG render action sequences that are really well done, but theyíre not strong enough to carry the film. Essentially this is an arty sci-fi movie of the finest order, with strong enough performances by the principal cast to distract you from the fact that this flick could easily be considered a digital experiment. All good arty sci-fi movies have a love story at their heart and this is no different, but itís quite reassuring to know that, for once, you do actually want to know how things play out and arenít just counting the seconds to the next set piece. This probably comes from the source material though; luckily for us Immortal is actually based on the comic book series of the same name from 1980 and has been brought to the screen by the guy who wrote it, Enki Bilal. And considering this guy wrote the original comic, adapted it to a screenplay and directed it too, heís done a pretty good job.
So if youíre the kind of guy who, like Enki, likes a good old fashioned arty sci-fi love story with a bit of action (but not too much), then you might really enjoy Immortal. Considering it is practically all CG, it does have a rather human feel too it, which is a pleasant surprise. One interesting bit of trvia about Enki is that the graphical style of the Immortal comic book (published in 1980 donít forget) was a direct influence over the look for both Blade Runner and Stargate, and once youíve seen the film that is painstakingly obvious. Thatís some achievement, I think youíll agree.
Versions The UK's Optimum Releasing version has a couple of good documentaries on it so I'd go for that one.
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