New York, 2095. A strange Pyramid appears floating in the sky above the city. The God Horus, who has the body of a man but the head of a bird, has been condemned to death for rebellion & given seven days on earth before he must die. Scared of death, he sets about trying to create an heir – but since as a God he is unable to procreate, he must find a receptive human he can possess. Then, he must locate a woman capable of bearing a God’s child, & there’s only one alien woman Jill (Linda Hardy) with white skin & blue hair in the city that fits the bill. There is a powerful Eugenics corporation in the city, & a group of rebels are trying to rally support against them, following the principles of Nikopol (Thomas Kretschmann), who is now in captivity for inciting the rebellion. An accident allows Nikopol the chance to escape, although he loses his leg in the process. He meets Horus, who fashions him a new metal leg that is so heavy he can’t walk, unless he allows Horus to possess him. Horus then uses Nikopol’s body to locate & rape Jill, which causes complications when Nikopol regains consciousness & finds he is falling in love with the alien, who initially has no memory of the previous night. At least, I think that’s what was going on. It’s all somewhat strange & only vaguely explained.
‘Immortal’ ranks alongside the likes of ‘Casshern’ & ‘Sky Captain’ as one of a recent bunch of films to use live action actors on a CG background. Beyond even those films, it also has many characters that are entirely CG, in a videogame cut-scene style that is sub-‘Final Fantasy: Spirits Within’. At first I thought this was a cunning stylistic device, whereby human characters were human, but the mutants, Gods & aliens were all realised in CG, amplifying their otherworldly strangeness. But no, several human characters are CG too, & the films key alien Jill is played live-action – it all seems somewhat random with no clear strategy behind the stylisation. Worse, the pretty rubbish CG characters are unconvincingly “real” creations & sit uneasily alongside the flesh & blood performers. On the other hand, much like ‘Sky Captain’ & the ‘Star Wars’ prequels, the live action performances (even from normally reliable actors) are every bit as wooden & unconvincing as those of the CG characters. It’s not helped with this being a French/Italian production but having everyone struggle with delivering their dialogue in English. And what dialogue. Maybe it’s a translation issue again, but the film is stuffed with such clunky, cringe-inducing dialogue that you can scarcely comprehend how the actors managed to keep a straight face whilst delivering it. It’s laughable when it’s not risible, like the plot, which meanders along with no real direction or momentum, taking in far too many disparate elements that it doesn’t bother to deal with in any satisfying manner. At first, it looks as though the film is going to a fascinating & haunting look at the joys & vitality of life from an unusual vantage point – an immortal suddenly have to come to terms with his own demise. But instead of a hypnotic sci-fi companion piece to Wim Wender’s awesome ‘Wings of Desire’, the film instead meanders along with risible sex/rape scenes & half-assed attempts at action whilst not really doing anything particularly interesting.
So – slow, baffling & directionless plot, lack of complexities or “meanings”, wooden performances & unconvincing CG actors – it’s a terrible film then? Well, almost. What just about saves the film from complete disaster is some wonderfully inventive touches & beautiful visual stylisation. There are some genuinely imaginative moments here if you look for them, such as the strange creature that lives on (in?) the bathroom wall, or the hammerhead shark creature. And whilst it clearly borrows from the likes of ‘Blade Runner’ & ‘The Fifth Element’, the vision of a future NYC is captivating & beautifully realised (although quite why – like ‘Sky Captain’ – it’s so devoid of colour is beyond me). Ultimately though, ‘Immortal’ is a tough film to recommend, since its alternately fascinating & frustrating nature will doubtless leave most audiences cold. Still, if you can wade through it’s myriad flaws, there’s enough inventive detailed touches & wonderfully surreal visuals if you’re looking for something a bit different & defiantly un-Hollywood. It might make more sense if you’re familiar with the comic books it’s based on (created by the films’ writer-director Erik Bilal), but otherwise this must go down as something of a misfire – but at least it’s a noble misfire.
‘Immortal’ arrives on UK DVD courtesy of Optimum Home Entertainment, with a good strong anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that shows the visuals to good effect. Audio is either Dolby 5.1 or 2.0 (English) with occasional English subs burnt in for the brief lines in a foreign language. Thankfully, they’ve managed to avoid making this one to avoid by putting in some nice extras, including a pretty good “Making of” (36mins), “Making of CGI” (10mins), plus trailer & stills galleries.