Friday, July 17, 2009

Not Fit For Sci-Fi - Immortal (2004)

I feel I have to clarify my title right away: I don't mean sci-fi the genre; I mean Sci-Fi the cable channel. There's a big difference between this movie and the kind of third-rate crap that channel pumps out. How many movies about Megalodons do we need? How 'bout that barn burner The Poseidon Adventure starring Rutger Hauer, Adam Baldwin and Steve Guttenberg? See, that's exactly what Immortal is not. It's obviously low-budget, but I think the filmmakers used what they had available to them as best they could, and the final product is pretty damn cool. To me, that's a defining characteristic of any good sci-fi film: coolness. Of course, I'm not saying that style trumps all. Not by a long shot. But for this genre, it goes a long way to bridge any gap that may arise between a film's merits and its shortcomings. That may sound a bit weird, and I'll elaborate further. But in a nutshell, Immortal is worth looking at for its unique visual design and cool characters, even if the story doesn't do everything it's supposed to.

In fact, I'll get the story out of the way first. It's not that great. The potential was there, but for whatever reason(I have my guesses: budget and time constraints), its lack of cohesion is painfully obvious. The film centers around the Egyptian god Horus and his human host, played by Thomas Kretschmann. For an unknown reason, Horus is sentenced to death by the rest of the gods, and he has a week to do whatever he wants, I guess. It's not clear why the gods would let a death row inmate roam around freely, but, as I said, the story isn't this film's strong point. So Horus inhabits a human body and bends the host to his will. Again, for some reason, Horus wants to find a certain girl. The only reason I can surmise after watching it was that Horus just wanted to fuck. Alright, but why her? It doesn't make a lot of sense, honestly. Another thing I should mention - and this really only matters in terms of coolness - but in the future, society is mixed with genetically engineered humans and aliens. Like I said, though, not a whole hell of a lot is explained, so forgive me if I'm a little sparse on the details. About ten seconds of it reminded me of Blade Runner. Anyways, some shit happens and then Horus goes back to face his sentencing. Sorry, I won't spoil any more of the movie.

Here, you see the Egyptian god, Horus, come through with his female captive/lover, and Horus' human host, Nikopol.

But who plays Horus, you ask? Well, cgi does. That's the thing about Immortal. It's a mix between live-action and full cgi. For example, in one scene you'll be watching two actual people acting in a real environment, and in the next scene, the environment and everyone in it is entirely cgi. Then the film will mix the two together. Sometimes you can't tell the difference(the fully cgi bartender looks awesome), but other times it's a little jarring when the effects don't quite convince the way they should. Sometimes it looks great, but then the animations and overall quality of a lot of the humanoid character models are noticeably low-budget. But overall, I think it gives off a really interesting and futuristic vibe, which is obviously crutial for a sci-fi movie set in the future.

Another aspect of Immortal that I loved were the characters. Almost every single one was interesting to look at, even if their motivations or goals weren't very clear. The best character would have to be a genetically engineered shark who basically works as a bounty hunter for the government. His name is.........wait for it............Hammerhead. I'll let you guess his species of shark. But he really is a bad-ass character, if under-used. For some reason, Hammerhead consists of fully practical effects, while Horus is cgi. Both are central to the story, which, again, makes the effects a mixed bag. The girl Horus lusts after is another main character, and she's played by an actual woman(Linda Hardy). She's not human, and as far as the doctor who examines her can determine, her organs place her at about 3 months old. But she's a grown woman, so the story tries to add depth to her character by using her mysterious past as a part of the narrative. The problem, again, centers around me not knowing what the fuck was going on.

Hammerhead. Fucking cool.

I will say that from scene-to-scene, I understood what was happening. The problem was with the overall cohesion of the narrative. The over-arching story made absolutely no sense. Apparently, in the near future there is an Egyptian pyramid free-floating in the sky, and no-one knows why. They try to investigate for a moment, but nothing really comes of it, and its presence remains a mystery. But that mystery also extends to the entire point of the film. The ending, just like the rest of it, is bizarre and not explained. No, I'm still not going to go into a lot of detail, because I do think Immortal is worth at least a rental. I hate this cliche, but it's really not for everyone. If you want to see across-the-board amazing effects, this won't do the job. If you want a satisfying narrative, this won't do the job. But if you want an original take on traditional myths and a cool cast of characters, Immortal is my prescription to your pain.

Oh, and if you're interested in a little bit of movie trivia, the director of Immortal, Enki Bilal, was a demon illustrator on the 1983 Michael Mann movie, The Keep. We've talked about this movie before, so I just thought I'd throw that out there for the more discerning readers. As for Immortal, I'd give it a try, if only to see an experiment that almost fired on all cylinders, but a couple of them blew out before they were supposed to. But that's okay to me. In this case, it was the thought that counted.

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