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New York City, year 2095. A floating pyramid has emerged in the skies above, inhabited by ancient Egyptian Gods. They have cast judgment down upon Horus (a falcon-headed god), one of their own. With only seven days to preserve his immortality, he must find a human host body to inhabit, and search for a mate. In the city below, a beautiful young woman, Jill, with blue hair, blue tears, and a power unknown even to her, wanders the city in search for her identity aided by a doctor who is fascinated by this mystery of nature. Reality in this world has a whole new meaning as bodies, voices and memories converge with Gods, mutants, mortals and extra terrestrials. Stunning visual effects meld with poetic surrealism of comic-book creator Enki Bilal's fantastic epic story. A ground-breaking step into the future of film-making.
For more about Immortal and the Immortal Blu-ray release, see Immortal Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on November 29, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Director: Enki Bilal
Writers: Enki Bilal, Serge Lehman
Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Thomas Kretschmann, Linda Hardy, Frederic Pierrot (I), Thomas M. Pollard, Yann Collette
» See full cast & crew
Immortal Blu-ray Review
This epic sci-fi mishap is dead on arrival.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 29, 2009
One of the dominant cinematic trends in this soon-to-be finished first decade of the 21st century has been the emergence of CGI as not only a supplement to the traditional filmmaking process, but also as a storytelling medium in its own right. While much of the CGI fare has been geared toward kids—though you could argue that Pixar's productions are truly for everyone—more mature films have also envisioned the "digital backlot" as a means to explore previously un-filmable subjects, using actors shot against greenscreen and months upon months of tedious post-production. Robert Rodriguez, an early proponent of all things cutting-edge, brought Frank Miller's Sin City to life thanks to startling black and white digital backdrops. In 2004, both Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the Japanese-produced Casshern offered heretofore-unseen interaction between live action characters and artificial environments. That same year, French director and comic book artist Enki Bilal released Immortal, a fitting example of how the medium is only as good as the storytelling that it serves. In the case of Immortal, the muddled and ultimately pointless plot is matched by CGI that looks like it came from a videogame cutscene circa 1999.
Loosely based on Bilal's "Nikopol Trilogy" of graphic novels—and only loosely adherent to anything resembling a coherent, meaningful story—Immortal is a trainwreck of a sci-fi film, with, to continue the analogy, severed ideas and bled-out symbolism littering the tracks of the narrative like mangled bodies. It's the year 2095, and New York City is run by a company called Eugenics, that, you guessed it, practices eugenics on the populace. Inexplicably, a giant pyramid appears over the skyline. Inside, anthropomorphic forms of the Egyptian gods Horus, Anubis, and Bastet—I kid you not—play Monopoly. Yes, the board game. We're told that Horus (voiced by Thomas M. Pollard) has been condemned "by his peers" to die—though we're never told why—and that he has seven days to basically hang out in the city and experience the world that he helped create.
Like any self-respecting death/rebirth deity, Horus figures that now is the time to sow his wild (and divine) oats. In his quest for a suitable host body—I mean, the guy can't walk around town looking like a hulking, nearly naked Fabio with a falcon's head—Horus kills several potential candidates before finding Nikopol (Thomas Kretschmann), a former political prisoner who has been recently unfrozen after 30 years in hibernation. Now possessed, Nikopol tracks down Jill (Linda Hardy), a blue-haired medical enigma who has the healthy internal organs of a 3-month- old. Obviously, her womb is capable of carrying Horus' uber-potent seed. Acting through Nikopol, Horus essentially rapes Jill—thrice, only the last two times are apparently consensual—in an attempt get her preggers with a baby deity.
Some other things happen—a hybrid human/hammerhead shark with metal teeth tries to hunt down Nikopol, Central Park becomes an "intrusion zone" that may or may not be the portal to a parallel universe, and a mysterious no-faced character named John frequently shows up—but the central act of the film is Horus raping Jill. It's not graphically portrayed, but it is unsettling simply because there are really no consequences, for either party. Horus gets to be reborn, and Jill is given a magical pill that will turn her into a real human and make her forget all her traumas. Mythology is filled with rapist deities—see Zeus and Leda or Hades and Persephone, etc.—but I'm not sure what Enki Bilal is getting at in this modern reiteration. That same sense of confusion persists through the entire experience. And yet, this isn't a "deep" film with some carefully embedded meaning. It just feels like rote regurgitation of half-hearted philosophy, cherry-picked mythology, and visual cues taken from dozens of better sci-fi films, from Brazil to The Fifth Element and Blade Runner. There's simply no unity or reason to the film's scattershot ideas.
The lack of coherence spills over into the film's willy-nilly use of CGI. Nikopol, Jill, and Jill's doctor Elma (Charlotte Rampling, with a ridiculous haircut) are played by live actors, but the rest of the cast is comprised of not-quite-photorealistic avatars for whom the term "uncanny valley" must have been invented. In theory, the decision for whether a character should be live action or CGI seemingly comes down to whether or not that person has had any genetic or body modification. It's a choice that at least makes some sense, though several of the CGI characters would've been much better and more fully realized if real actors had been cast instead. All of the models vary in consistency and levels of detail, as if several dozen animators were set to work without ever having the chance to consult with one another on a unified look for the film. The animation is stiff and the facial movements vaguely creepy, but the human actors aren't much better. Granted, they're given some truly dreadful—and dubbed—dialogue to work with, but Thomas Kretschmann and Linda Hardy are about as vacant and unconvincing as their digital brethren. I wish I had a few good words about Enki Bilal's weirdo sci-fi film, but the best I can do is call it harebrained and very occasionally visually interesting.
Immortal Blu-ray, Video Quality
Okay, you say, maybe the film is terrible but it should at least offer some stunning high definition imagery, right? Unfortunately, no. Immortal shall live forever on Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that's dull and indistinct. I'm not sure if it's due to the compositing process or some post-production blundering, but Immortal only looks marginally better than a poorly transferred standard definition release. Overall clarity is remarkably soft; textures are mucky and undefined, edges are blurry or else ringed with heavy black outlines, and fine detail is only middling in even the sharpest of the film's close-up shots. Though I'm not sure, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the picture here had been upscaled. I'm assuming the softness is an attempt to make the actors blend in better with the CGI backgrounds, which also accounts for the artificial grain that's been layered over the digital shots and that sometimes contrasts with the natural grain from the 35mm film used on the live action elements. The film's color scheme is appropriately bleak, with a predominantly grayish-bluish-greenish cast that's only broken up by fleeting flashes of strong color, like the man-shark's red skin, Jill's crazy blue hair, or the green haze inside the bar. Black levels and contrast are adequate, but don't expect a vivid, eye-popping picture. As you'll notice from the screenshots, the image has been windowboxed on all sides, presumably to protect from televisions that over-scan. On your television, the black bars may or may not be visible.
Immortal Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Okay, you say, the film is terrible and the picture quality is beyond bland, but Immortal should at least contain a decent audio experience, right? On this point, I'm obliged to partially agree, as the film is given a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that proves to be the sole highlight of a package filled with low moments. For a movie filmed entirely on a so-called "digital backlot," Immortal has a fairly lively soundfield that's populated by immersive ambience and crisp, clean sound effects. The surround channels don't exactly clock overtime, but you will hear hover- cars racing through the rear speakers, along with public service announcements, impressionistic audio flourishes, and place-establishing noise. I was at times impressed by the film's dynamic range (although, in hindsight, I was probably just looking to be impressed by something, anything), which encompasses a surprising amount of LFE rumble and a clear high-end. The dialogue, however, is a mixed bag. The dubbing, especially for Linda Hardy, is overly noticeable at times, and I found the opening voice-over narration to be strangely muffled. Still, everyone is easy to understand, even if what they're saying doesn't really make any sense. Equally baffling is the presence of two songs by Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Ros, who should know better than to attach their music to such a monumental failure of a film.
Immortal Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Making of Immortal (SD, 30:32)
Here, we're taken through the many technological processes required to bring comic book artist Enki Bilal's fractured vision to the screen, from the character design and early animatics, through rotoscopy, motion capture, green screen backgrounds, composites, and final post-production touches. Along the way, we meet many of the animators and designers who worked on the film, who all comment on the brilliant mind of Enki Bilal. I dunno, maybe he bribed them.
Special Effects Featurette (SD, 10:52)
Considering how the making-of documentary is nearly entirely focused on the film's special effects, this featurette is incredibly redundant.
Includes standard definition trailers for Sukiyaki Western Django, Blood Brothers, Cyborg Soldier, and War, Inc.
Immortal Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Immortal is a movie that has Egyptian gods playing board games in a pyramid above New York, half human, half shark hybrids swimming through sewage pipes, and bizarre three-way sex between a human, a pixyish, pale-skinned waif, and a falcon-headed deity. If it sounds like the premise for a truly mind blowing cult sci-fi film, well, sadly, it could've been. Instead, Immortal is a dull and aimless procession of empty-headed ideas, all rendered with CGI that wouldn't look out of place on a Nintendo 64 cartridge. This is misguided sci-fi at its worst, feigning poeticism and profundity, but offering only an incomprehensible mess of half-assed symbolism and repurposed mythology.
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Immortal Blu-ray, News and Updates
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First Look Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Morgan Freeman and John Cusack film 'The Contract' to Blu-ray on October 28th. Also revealed is that they will bring both the 2008 remake of 'Day of the Dead' and the 2004 Belgium film 'Immortal' ...
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