In the distant future, Earth is occupied by ancient gods and genetically altered humans. When a god is sentenced to death he seeks a new human host and a woman to bear his child.In the distant future, Earth is occupied by ancient gods and genetically altered humans. When a god is sentenced to death he seeks a new human host and a woman to bear his child.In the distant future, Earth is occupied by ancient gods and genetically altered humans. When a god is sentenced to death he seeks a new human host and a woman to bear his child.
Confusing? Yes. But it's a lot of fun figuring it out.
Now about the film's production. In 2004, three studios were racing to complete the first major film to be shot entirely on green screen with Computer Generated Imagery added in post. The three films were "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow", "Sin City" and "Immortal". According to IMDb release dates, "Immortal" was first by 6 months (premiering Mar 24, 2004), followed by "Sky Captain" (Sep 17, 2004) and last, but best in my opinion, "Sin City" (Apr 1, 2005).
All three were stylish action films based on comic books (and I deliberately use the term "comic book" to poke at the snobby artistes who insist on differentiating themselves by using the phrase "graphic novel". I mean, come on. "Dante's Inferno", illustrated by Gustave Doré, was a graphic novel. "Alice in Wonderland", illustrated by John Tenniel, was a graphic novel. But anything that has characters talking out of comic bubbles should be fairly called a "comic book", shouldn't it?). Just fyi, on the DVD extras writer/illustrator/director Enki Bilal doesn't seem to have any problem with his work being called comic strips, so he gets bonus points there.
Enki's approach to CGI is the most extreme and probably the hardest to digest of the 3 competing films (or any CGI-live action film I've seen). It begins very subtle with mostly real actors and props inside a transport craft, then we get more CGI in a scene with a live actor having a dialogue with a CG character (I actually didn't realize it for a minute or two), and then it quickly jumps to 100% CGI when we enter the pyramid of the Egyptian gods, done completely in the computer. If you can flow with that transition then you're good to go.
The rest of the film uses similar extreme jumps between live and CG. My favorite scenes were the quieter, less-action-oriented shots using live actors and mostly real props; for example I loved the scenes in the hotel bathroom, an eery, dirty green room whose antique look contrasted with the hi-tech world outside. Another beautifully poetic scene happens when the main character Jill visits the Human Museum and, with childlike wonder, stares at holograms of old silent films projected before her.
These quiet, poetic moments are what made the movie for me. And anyone who enjoyed Enki's earlier film "Tykho Moon" would be pleased as well. Of the 3 competing CGI films, "Immortal" struck me as the most intimate and poetic.
But then we jump to the opposite extreme with scenes of pure CGI action and digital characters, and the contrast can be very disrupting. I agree with what one reviewer said about how the effects range from highly impressive to a simplistic video game, and I think that is the film's weakness: *not* the overall quality of CGI but the way it jumps from great quality to not-so-great quality. But maybe it won't bother you as much. After all, I'm a big fan of the original Star Trek series where we get dramatic scenes of Kirk and Spock talking, then jumping to a plastic model on a string. Audiences took it all in stride, so if you've got your suspension-of-disbelief primed, you should have a good time.
"Immortal" reminded me of the George Lucas overhaul of "THX-1138", a film with depth and poetry somewhat disrupted by CGI action. I could also compare it to "The Lady and the Duke" which was acclaimed director Eric Rohmer's experiment in depicting the French Revolution through CGI. Lastly there's the grandfather of artistic CGI, Akira Kurosawa's "Dreams" way back in 1990 which used George Lucas's studio to create impressive (to this day) CGI landscapes blended with live actors and some of the best Chopin music ever recorded. If you're not CGI-phobic, I recommend all of these flicks. Who knows what cinema will look like 50 years from now. But we owe it to ourselves to check out the possibilities.
- Mar 1, 2014