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Several Reviews Of Enki Bilal's IMMORTEL!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

We’ve gotten a ton of e-mail about the trailer for this one, and I understand why. Every year, we see more and more low-budget titles with ambitious and beautiful FX work in the trailers, and they’re always mixed bags. Sometimes they really work, and the films themselves live up to those trailers. For example, I dug NATURAL CITY when I finally saw it last week. Sure, it’s a shameless BLADE RUNNER rip-off, but it’s a good one.

Here are a few reactions to IMMORTEL that may help temper some of the rabid reactions to the trailer:

Hey Harry,

I emailed you before about this movie, but never saw anything about it. I'm sure that if you saw the trailer you would be interested.

Here’s the official site. I emailed you about the trailer 4 weeks ago. Yesterday I was in Brussels en had a chance to see it.

Immortel is the brainchild of Enki Bilal, a famous french comic book artist turned director. The movie is losely based on his comic work and is pretty weird. The story is set in a futuristic new york (think flying cars, weird space ships, light newspapers etc. etc.) And for some reason the old egyptian gods (flying pyramide) have come back incognito. (it is a pretty weird story so bear with me here) Horace is looking for something and descends into the city. From there we meet a blue haired girl (complete with blue tits, see I knew I could get your attention), a guy with an iron leg who fell out of a cryogenic prison and a host of CG characters. If I sound confused it is because I am. I leave the story for what it is and let you decide for yourself.

On to the look and feel of the film. Something weird is going on here. If you look at the trailer you can see it looks pretty cool. But for some reason they decided to have half the cast as CG characters. And some of them are pretty nice, others absolutly stink. Then there are animatronic characters (pretty bad) and real actors. Now the city and the flying cars look amazing, really unbelievable. But the real actors don't really fit in for the most part. I think they split up the effecrts over a couple of houses and it shows. The quality varies wildly and ruins the film a bit. But all in all it's weird experience and one (dare I say it) worth seeing.

I was thoroughly weirded out by this movie as shows from my review. I'm curious what you think.

If you use this call me Rob Gordon

Rob, we haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but here’s another reviewer who might be able to help you work out exactly what it is that you’re feeling. Hold on, buddy! Help’s on the way!

Hey Harry,

As usual, you're still the man with the plan, site is a treasure to behold daily, congrats, kudos, many thanks and fond blessings.

Once again, despite my change of pseudonyms, it is my great pleasure to review a film most of you have not seen... because it’s French. And I might as well break the news to you: this isn’t going to be a rave. In fact, I am utterly disappointed, maybe the expectations were too great but Enki Bilal’s third film IMMORTEL (AD VITAM) is a perplexing, underwhelming piece of work whose theatrical life should be ephemeral.

And it’s quite a shame, considering the work invested by so many on this project (the film boasts 200+ animators). The film was going for a realistic blend of CGI sets and CGI characters with real actors. It ends up feeling like a sendback to 1998: pre-Phantom Menace days (although that film was light-years ahead of its time FX-wise, despite its many shortcomings). And let’s face it, we are in a post-Gollum era of FX, we’re not ready to go back to shitty, approximative CGI characters.

Let me just say on a personal note that I believe sci-fi is the best genre ever (I know, I know, that’s childish and shallow but screw the naysayers) and film noir is my second favorite genre (you guessed it: 2001, Blade Runner and Brazil still rule in my book). I totally fit the bill as the “targeted audience” on this one.

Whatever, here’s a brief plot overview:

New York City, 2095 AD, has been culturally sliding in genetic manipulations galore, because its senator is an ally (or actually a pawn) of the great EUGENICS corporation. The elections are about to be held in a tense climate: messages signed by “the spirit of Nikopol” are urging New Yorkers to rebel against Eugenics and... an alien pyramid has been mysteriously hovering over the city for the past few weeks.

In it are a bunch of Egyptian gods, hybrids with animal heads and human bodies, who have decided that Horus, the eagle-headed god, has but one week left to live. So he needs to find a woman with whom the gods can procreate (apparently, they seem to be very rare) in order to impregnate her and prolong his immortal status.

Meanwhile, a fellow named Nikopol (Thomas Kretschmann, of the Pianist), a rebel enemy of Eugenics who has been condemned and frozen thirty years before, accidently escapes from his hibernation prison. Horus gets a hold of him, explains his plan to the hapless hero, and they set out to find Jill (Linda Hardy), the blue haired mutant whom Horus wants to impregnate. They’re chased around by various Eugenics agents, followed by a weird detective on the lookout for a serial killer and examined medically by Charlotte Rampling, a doctor who works for Eugenics.

If this sounds a bit complex and long-winded, that’s because it is. In fact, I did have trouble understanding the ramifications of this film. Perhaps this is because Bilal has tried to condense a comic-book trilogy in a 100-minute film, perhaps it’s because I’m just too damn shallow and dense or perhaps the script sucks in the first place.

Although, by definition, you never know when you’re an idiot because that would make you clever... I would opt for the third explanation. To me, the script sucked, despite some interesting elements (notably incorporating Egyptian gods in a futuristic, urban environment; post-humanist stances; the nature of mutants). In short, the plot is rather too slow and too fast at the same time (think Matrix Reloaded): you’re bored but there are too many subplots jumping at you. So story-wise, I’d be inclined to say it’s a muddled, tedious mess.

The fact that characters appear and disappear five minutes after their introduction is a pretty good hint that Bilal has a storytelling deficit.

Visually, the film is very uneven: ranging from gorgeous (the gods, the cityscapes and Linda Hardy’s breasts) to boring and clunky (CGI characters, straight out of a PS2 game, next to them, Final Fantasy was uber-perfect). For some strange reason, some characters which could have been played by live actors with a little makeup were made CG and looked terrible. It’s FX overkill and it cheapens the film’s overall look. Think Mamuro Oshii’s Avalon without the interesting visual innovations.

Sad to say all this, I really had high hopes that this could be something new for CGI-heavy films. But again, the Achilles’ heel in this turd is the story: you feel no connection with almost all of the characters (save Jill), the plot quickly wears your patience because of its knots, there are zero action set-pieces (a crime for such a genre film, despite what pretentious French critics think) and a corny ending to boot...

Immortel is like Matrix Reloaded without the cool action set-piece (intended singular): soul-less, pretentious and boring. Those are too many stumbling blocks for any charitable viewer to remotely like the thing. And there’s no Agent Smith... Awwwww...

Should you choose to publish this, you may call me Sorry As Hell.

Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news, SAH, but thanks for sending in the review, anyway.

"Moriarty" out.

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