“The Ancient Gods Have Returned”
Directed by Enik Bilal
Starring Linda Hardy, Thomas Kretschmann, Charlotte Rampling, Frédéric Pierrot
New York, 2095. Central Park is an inapproachable ‘intrusion zone’ and a giant pyramid hovers over the futuristic skyline. Genetically altered humans live side by side with the unaltered, but as second class citizens, while political power resides with the CGI elite. When the Egyptian god Horus (Thomas M. Pollard) is sent to spend one last week on Earth before being executed for a crime that is never really specified, he inhabits the body of altered rights activist Nikopol (Kretschmann) – after blowing up several less acceptable bodies – and goes in search of Jill (Hardy) a white-skinned, blue-haired woman who is capable of bearing him a child.
With the assistance of Jill’s masked guardian John (Pierrot) and scientist Dr Elma Turner (Rampling), Jill assays the difficult course of managing a budding relationship with Nikopol while he is sharing the body of a self-obsessed psychic date rapist and she is completing her metamorphosis into a human woman from… something else, at the same time avoiding a dogged police inspector, corrupt CGI politicians and giant, red, flying shark monsters.
Then Jill becomes human and forgets everything, Nikopol goes back to prison and Horus is executed. A year later, Nikopol finds Jill in Paris and they flirt with weird Egyptian poetry. Seriously; complimenting someone’s saliva is technically talking dirty, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what the phrase means.
What’s wrong with it?
Immortal takes a miniseries worth of ideas and doesn’t so much condense them into a single movie as shove them all in a grinder and serve them up as the motion picture equivalent of a very dodgy sausage.
There’s this whole subplot about a corrupt CGI senator and his corrupt CGI adviser (whose idea of formal officewear appears to be a longish jacket two sizes too small, barely belted closed over her crotch,) but it’s never clear what their actual corruption deal is, only that the adviser has apparently manipulated the senator into it. And then he gets killed by the gods. Their only direct relevance to the plot is that they imprisoned Nikopol and send the shark monsters after them.
And I don’t know why some of the characters who are supposed to be regular humans are CGI.
Horus is a colossal jerk. He blows up seven people while looking for the right body, gives Nikopol a metal leg far too heavy for him to walk with and mind controls Jill into having sex with him. While his crime is never specified; if not rape then I suspect it may be aggravated douchebaggery.
What’s right with it?
The film is immensely stylish, with a distinctive look. The CGI isn’t top notch, but then this was one of the pioneers of the all-digital film set, along with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Cassherne, both released in the same year.
The actors are all pretty good.
While it seems a little odd that Jill would fall so rapidly for the guy whose body is being used to god-rape her, Nikopol at least has the correct reaction to realising exactly what Horus has done (vis, telling the Lord of the Horizons that he’s a jerk.)
How bad is it really?
Immortal has a rambling, overstuffed plot, but the plot isn’t really the point. It’s a gloriously stylish film, and broke new ground technically. It’s just… really weird.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Nikopol’s excoriation of Horus’s rapey ways is memorable, if nothing else because I was worried that the film was going to gloss it over.
What’s up with…?
- Is the blue falcon at the end baby Horus? Given that Jill forgot everything when she became human, how weird was it giving birth to a bird of prey?
Production values – Probably pretty swish for the time, but the CGI hasn’t dated well. 12
Dialogue and performances – The performances are all pretty good, but the dialogue is a weird mishmash of genres, from stock political thriller phrases to Ancient Egyptian love poems about spit. 11
Plot and execution – The plot is monumentally overloaded with dead-end subplots and random weirdness. 15
Randomness – Floating pyramids, space portals, falcon babies and baths full of blue tears. 12
Waste of potential – On the one hand, there are enough ideas to have made several better films. On the other hand, it’s a unique piece of film-making. 10