Starring: Yann Collette, Thomas M. Pollard, Thomas Kretschmann, Linda Hardy, Joe Sheridan, Frederic Pierrot, Charlotte Rampling
Reviewed by Jeremy Silman
Rating (a 1 – 6 scale): 4.5
How would you react to a movie that features a hot alien female that is raped repeatedly by a man who is possessed by an ancient Egyptian god so she will give birth to his hawk baby? If you’re a science fiction buff, and if you love movies with large doses of striking effects (1,160 to be precise) and brooding mood, then this might be just what you’ve been dreaming of.
Based on a celebrated three part graphic novel series called The Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal (who also directed this film), the story takes us to 2095 New York City, where an enormous pyramid is seen mysteriously floating in the Big Apple’s skies. Shot entirely on green-screen, we’re dragged into a dark world of mystery and wonder where aliens and humans have blended together in a true futuristic melting pot.
The story revolves around the ancient Egyptian god Horus, whose immortality has run its course. With just seven days left to exist, his only chance is to impregnate a female and reincarnate through the resulting child (oddly enough, this was exactly the plan I had formulated for my old age). Unfortunately, mating with a human won’t produce the desired result, so the search is on for an alien that is compatible with his own species. This backdrop brings in the blue haired alien Jill (Linda Hardy), the political prisoner Nikopol (Thomas Kretschmann) who is released from a floating cryogenic stasis-pod by Horus, a mysterious being (named John – not exactly the kind of alien name we’ve gotten used to on Star Trek) who guides Jill to her ultimate fate, the corrupt Mayor and his minions (all CGI) who unwittingly try to get in the way of Horus’ plans, and a Eugenics scientist named Elma (Charlotte Rampling) who studies Jill in rapt fascination.
Such interesting characters living in such a fascinating city must create many questions. Where did Jill come from? Who is John? What does he really want? What was in Nikopol’s past that made so many powerful people fear him? What (if anything) did Eugenics have to do with Jill’s existence? Sadly, none of these questions are answered.
For American audiences who have been raised on mindless fare that touts action or, conversely, moral meanderings that adeptly beat down intellectual curiosity, the somber but intelligent tone of Immortel will be either a treat or a curse. However, the possibility of meaning is a far cry from true philosophical exploration, and it seems that Bilal – whose graphic novels used European locations to house the study of futuristic forms of fascism – lost his focus in favor of the sheer lushness of his movie’s surroundings.
The first of three 2004 releases to be shot in this manner (blue/green screen), Immortel’s imagery and imagination far surpasses Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow. While the Japanese-made Casshern has some astounding scenes that rival those found in Immortel, the French film is intellectually more engrossing and, as a result, far more thought provoking and satisfying (though one must admit that the robot hunter vs. robots battle scene in Casshern is an action fan’s dream). Unlike Sky Captain, which was filled with flesh and blood actors, Immortel only uses a handful of real people, instead populating its Blade Runner cityscapes with CGI beings that are sometimes jarring and other times awe-inspiring.
Ultimately what could have been an masterpiece of eye-candy and food for the brain fell short, leaving us with a visual feast and intense mood that will linger long after the movie ends, but also a mind filled with questions and potential, none of which were actualized.