Cyberpunk Review » Immortel

January 29, 2006


Year: 2004

Directed by: Enki Bilal

Written by: Enki Bilal, Serge Lehman

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Jill Bioskop: Linda Hardy
  • Alcide Nikopol: Thomas Kretschmann
  • Horus: Thomas M. Pollard
  • Elma Turner: Charlotte Rampling

Rating: 7 out of 10


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Overview: Immortel is one of the 3 all blue or green screen movies made in 2004, and is based on graphic novel, the Enki Bilal’s Nikopol trilogy, one of the best cyberpunk graphic novels ever made. Immortel provides us another cyberpunk dystopian future where an all powerful genetics engineering company called Eugenics has wreaked havoc upon most humanoid life forms. While the movie doesn’t make exactly how this dystopian future occurred, the Nikopol Trilogy (1999) relates that two nuclear wars were the primary cause.  Additional contributors to a further breakdown in an already horribly diseased society include the all-powerful, oppressive Eugenics corporation which appears to be trying to cheat death through various modern “vampiristic” means.  Body modification is the order of the day for most of the masses, who are continually getting skin grafts and organ transplants to mitigate the effects of the various natural and genetically derived diseases that impact all aspects of life. 

Interestingly though, in the graphic novel, Biblal set the time in 2023 - 30 years after Nikopol was sent into space for these crimes.   Clearly, the novel deals with an alternate reality to our own time, whereas setting Immortel so far into the future, Bilal seems to indicate that he thinks this quality of cyberpunk future may be further out than he originally thought.


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In case things weren’t crappy enough, life gets even complicated when the Egyptian Gods’ Pyramid appears - apparently the Egyptian god Horus is about to be sentenced to death by Anubis for his actions, but he is given a final 7 day furlough (one beat of an immortal heart) first. His decides to use this time to find a special woman, one of a few in the universe who can be impregnated by a God. This will allow Horus to cheat death (yes, cheating death is a pretty common theme in this). He has come to earth because his godly intuition tells him that such a woman has just arrived on earth through void between worlds. To do so, he needs to find a healthy host, but unfortunately, everyone he invades his tainted with disease and pollutants - along comes Nikopol to the rescue.  Twenty-nine years prior to the time of the movie (2095), a rebel named Nikopol had galvanized public opinion against Eugenics, and for this, was sentenced to 30 years hibernation. Through an unfortunate accident, his cryogenics pod transport malfunctions and crashes, spilling his frozen body (minus his leg, which breaks off) out onto a bridge.  Horus finds his body  settles on Nicopol because his body, unlike virtually everyone else alive, has not been corrupted by pollutants and synthetic organs.  Horus repairs Nikopol by transforming a very heavy steel rail into Nikapol’s leg. Now, if Nikapol wants to walk (the leg is quite heavy), he will need to abide by Horus’s wishes - which includes a contant need by Horus to take over Nikapol’s body. 


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Horus, the god, and Nikopol the "terrorist" now team up to go in pursuit of a woman with white skin and blue hair (and, um blue "other" parts). It turns out that this woman, named Jill, is very mysterious in that she has no prior memories, and apparently has only been inhabiting her current body for 3 months.  She is guided by a benefactor named John, who appears to be a traveler between worlds.  The story proceeds with Jill being captured and studied by a friendly Eugenics researcher and Nikapol/Horus seeking her out.  Unfortunately, Eugenics has discovered Nikapol’s escape (by analyzing the leg), and have sent genetically enhanced shark-like nasties after him to kill him.  

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Unfortunately, there is too much going on in this movie for it all to be worked out to proper satisfaction. The pacing feels haphazard and rushed, and many interesting threads are simply not pursued to the extent I would have liked. Some scenes simply stick out like a sore thumb, without a real purpose. While I think Bilal chooses the “key” thread to complete his movie, Immortel seems begging for an extended edition type thing, where the extra meat and guts can be properly filled. Instead we are left with many interesting and completely unanswered questions. On the plus side, there is nice chemistry between Kretchman and Hardy - they have some nice love scenes and cool dialogue moments.


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The Visuals: Wow, if there was ever a tough one to rate the visuals, Immortel fits the bill. The background scenery and many of the shots are simply stupendous - really some of the best shots I’ve seen on film are in this. The blue-haired chick, Jill, is totally sexy. Yet at the same time, for whatever reason, only 3 of the primary characters in Immortel are “real,” and the rest are poorly rendered CG characters - about even or maybe a step down from Final Fantasy. Worse, we start off with pretty strange CG Egyptian creatures (where the non-polished effects sort of work), and then jump to real ones, and then spend about 20 minutes with only lousy CG ones before returning to real characters again. Interestingly, the CG characters start getting better near the end. Its almost as if they had a separate company do these and they were learning on the job. The Bottom line with the characters though is that I see no reason why they didn’t use real actors - this would have been cheaper and more realistic. This is an example of someone getting a little too cute with the technology.


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This is a shame, because again, the background scenery, and some of the shots themselves are simply breathtaking. Especially their use of a the various color palettes are simply phenomenal.  Cityscapes are all done in grey-blue hue, whereas various other shots are either a dark gold-blue tone or a neon green-blue tone. Some of the creatures, specifically the Hammerhead “Dayak” shark creature is phenomenal. When he “oozes” out of the bathtub, EVERYONE watching will get the eebee-jeebees! There is a great chase scene similar to the Fifth element where the police are chasing after the two leads while this incredibly cool Dayak shark sleaks after them along the buildings. Its to the point that I refuse to believe that the DG the company who did this shark is the same one who who animated the poorly rendered people.


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The Sound: Immortel comes with DTS sound, which is terrific. Even though this is a French film, the dialogue is in English, so no subtitles (for me) are required, except for in the Egyptian God discussions and the final monologue, which is in French. The score and music choices are absolutely spot on. They continually raise the tone and tenor of Immortel to something interesting and other-worldly. I haven’t searched for the soundtrack to Immortel, but it’s good enough that I
probably will.


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The Bottom Line: I wish there was another thirty minutes of story in Immortel to flush out the blind spots. I also wish they had used real actors for everyone instead of the CG characters. Had both of these happened, Immortel would definitely rate 10 stars.  Both the pacing and most especially the CG characters were bad decisions which hurt the movie. But even having these detractors, there is enough of Immortel to make this a MUST SEE for any cyberpunk fan (and for god sakes, get the graphic novel if you haven’t already!). There are many immersive shots, augmented with wonderful sound, that left my jaw hanging (check out page 2 of this review for more screenshots). I also found enough of a story to really enjoy this - and there’s something to be said for leaving an air of mysteriousness to the film.


Immortel Page 2: More Screen Caps –>>

~See movies similar to this one~


January 30, 2006

ETM said:

You should DEFINITELY track down the Nikopol Trilogy… I had seen some of the artwork before, but only found the graphic novels themselves recently. Now I COMPLETELY understand Bilal’s work on IMMORTEL, because it is so far from the graphic novels, that it must have been an excruciating adaptation to do, while keeping the basic spirit in the movie. I downloaded two versions in PDF format - the italian was 3×40MB in high resolution, and the English version was edited into a single volume with slightly lower res scans, but still incredible - around 80MB. Look it up.

SFAM said:

Oh, I have the Nikopol Trilogy. And I do agree - it definitely adds a bunch more to this, although, the issue of where John comes from isn’t really addressed in the Trilogy, nor really is what Jill is. In fact, she doesn’t come off as different as she is in the graphic novel as she does in the the movie. Also, Nikopol comes off as a far more shallower guy in the Graphic novel than he does in the movie.

But again, there are still some scenes that just stick out like a sore thumb, like the scene where Horus goes to get money and gets shot - I’m still not getting the significance of that scene.

February 27, 2006

Rufus (Once Mighty) said:

I really don’t understand your problems.
I grew up weeping at “M.A.S.H. with some mashed potates on my plate accompanied by a lamb chop and some stewed brussell sprouts.
Why are you people so adverse to brilliance, particularly the reviewers.
Fuck…I’d have killed for stuff like this when I was a kid you ungrateful Cunting Ingrates.

SFAM said:

Averse to brilliance? I dunno - I (the reviewer) think I explained my review pretty well. Incidentally, a 7 star rating qualifies as a good movie. Check the “Bottom line” section why it’s not rated higher. If your point is that every cool movie deserves a 10 star rating, then I don’t know what to tell you. If your point is that you think my giving it a 7 star rating means I don’t like it, then your wrong - I liked it a lot.

February 28, 2006

Neuromancer said:

Very weird movie (thats a plus for me).
Some of the visuals are stunning while some others are, well, quite horrible to be honest.
Having to think a story through is part of the fun but in this movie there were just too many holes for me to make my own interpretation. And no, i haven’t read the comics but that really shouldn’t be needed to enjoy a story.
I agree with you sfam, if only there was more. Maybe an extended edition on DVD will do this one more justice. I would buy it…

SFAM said:

I agree Neuromancer, although I’m guessing we don’t see that. An EE of this would require lots more CG dollars, and I doubt it made enough to justify that. And yeah, some of the visuals were stunning and others were far from it - its a strange movie where you get that.

March 1, 2006

ETM said:

The genesis of this project must have been totally weird… on one hand, you have an extremely popular european graphic novel trilogy, very well known and loved… on the other - the movie which is obviously geared towards America, since it was transplanted into New York and greatly simplified… so - Bilal had problems with the adaptation, which didn’t really have to explain everything, but since it was meant for the western audiences - it would have been a lot better if it did. I don’t know, it is in any case a very strange beast indeed.

SFAM said:

This movie is even stranger if it was made for the US, as it never had a release here. I agree though - you’d think it would be in French so I’m not quite sure who the audience was.

July 25, 2006

erc1452 said:

SFAM said:

Hi erc, yeah, the CGI characters really did detract from Immortel - without that decision I’d definitely agree that this movie should be at least an 8, possibly more. And while the Nikapol Trilogy does provide more context, you still get a sense of mystery to it - Nikopol is still just as much a victim of circumstance.

ETM said:

The graphic novel provides a basis for the CGI characters - they are simply meant to bee too damn weird for any kind of makeup to do the trick. Bilal sure has created some incredibly bizarre “people”, and the movie has nothing on the novel. ;)

BTW, SFAM, did you check out Bilal’s previous films? Especially TYKHO MOON, as it may have some of the elements you seek in a CP film:

Granted, the reviews mainly suck, but I think it is worth a look.

SFAM said:

Hi ETM, no, hadn’t seen that one or any of his others for that matter. I’ll have to look these up.

July 29, 2006

Muad'Dib said:

By the way, that “cat-chick” is called Bastet, if I remember my mythology correctly.

Haven’t seen the movie, though. Actually I was quite surprised when I saw your rating, because everybody else seems to hate this movie. Well, i guess I just have to risk a look sometime and make up my own opinion.

SFAM said:

Maud’Dib, I’d be willing to bet that those that hated it did so due to the CG characters. The backgrounds by and large are excellent. Apparently a separate company did the CG characters versus the one that did the backgrounds. In any event, it was a truly stupid decision to make 70% of the characters poorly animated. However, the movie as a whole is still very enjoyable - um, at least I thought so. :)

July 30, 2006

Case said:

You’re not alone here, SFAM. I thought it was an incredible film. In fact, I probably would have bumped it up to an 8, personally. I tracked down an import disc long before this ever came to the states and thought it was worth every penny I spent. This was “Fifth Element” done right, to me.

August 6, 2006

Hugo said:

Possibly one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. But absolutely brilliant. I had no qualms with the special effects, though I thought the dayak looked a little fake (it was a guy in a suit, you could tell!).

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t completely blue/green screen though. There were definitely some physical sets and props.

SFAM said:

I actually loved the Dayak - he was totally cool going along the building-scapes.

Actually, in terms of sets and props, there may have been a very few number of these (chairs, etc.), but the movie itself is fully green-screen/blue-screen, at least its advertised as such. Hugo, what did you see as actual sets?

August 7, 2006

Hugo said:

“In the future, a group of happless College girls are stalked by the Dayak - a betentacled, red-skinned hammerhead shark bred to kill!”

It could work :P. Jill’s room and the adjoining bathroom. Someone I just can’t believe they’re CG (if they were, then this thing should be winning awards :P).

November 26, 2006

Neurotica Divine said:

Seeing it many times I’ve begun wondering if the “body modification” as you call it, namely “Eugenics” isn’t the rationale behind the “bad” 3D characters. Have you noticed that the bad 3D characters are the ones most subscribing to “Eugenics?” But with that said, I still can’t figure out why the god characters also are rendered in 3D though! Also, knowing Bilal’s other films and the actors he likes to work with, many of his favorites must have been filmed to make these 3D characters… so… he must have had the ability to use real actors… but chose these 3D versions instead.

November 27, 2006

ETM said:

I think (and reading the graphic novel, this becomes clear) that the level of “disfigurement” Bilal put into his characters could not have been done with live actors on their budget. But the characters in the movie are nowhere near as hideous and messed up as some in the graphic novel, so I have to say it looks like there’s been some sort of compromise made mid way.

November 30, 2006

Neuromancer said:

Quite strange the “evil corporation” is called Eugenics considering the meaning of the word. I fail to see why the philosophy of breeding a better human race is refered to in the story.

Weird movie. Weird indeed.

December 3, 2006

ETM said:

Bilal always incorporates a lot of criticism, sarcasm and irony into his work. Eugenics as a theory is not inherently bad, but it has been used as an excuse for horrible things in the past… also, what could be a better name for a company which “improves” humans with synthetic body parts? The hideous “improved” creatures running around Immortel’s world are their version of the future of the human race, and that is something that’s a grim constant in Bilal’s vision of the dystopia we’re evolving into.

January 4, 2007

Carlos Olivera said:

the year is 2095: a woman named Jill is arrested by agents of a corporation named, Eugenics. there, works a doctor named Emma Turner who’s fascinated in Jill because she has a body like that of a 3-month-old baby. “THEORETICALLY: JILL COULD HAVE BEEN FROM ANOTHER WORLD. SHE COULDN’T REMEMBER A LOT FROM HER PAST BECAUSE OF THESE SUPRESSANTS BEING GIVEN TO HER.”

at that same time, a pyramid flies over New York where Central Park can be seen as an arctic wasteland. back in the pyramid, Horus awakens & is given 7 days to experience Earth. Horus sees Nikopol & finds the latter to be the perfect host in his quest to find a divine being whom he must impregnate in 7 days or he loses his immortality as a consequence.

April 5, 2007

James NIGDEF said:

I watched this movie after being lured by the great-looking screenshots. What a disappointment! In motion the CGI looks cheap and plastic, and even though you can tell a lot of work went into modelling Bilal’s universe the inept animation and complete disregard for proper use of lighting and camera motion make it look like a bad videogame.

Apart from that the dialogue is pretty cliche, the pacing random, CGI characters ugly and the story doesn’t make much sense.

The only positive thing I found about this movie is that I ended up reading the comic books which are amazing in both their story and aesthetics (the drawings are gorgeous). I guess Bilal is just not good enough a filmmaker to translate his talent to the big screen.

[ETM] said:

You’re being too harsh, James. Why do people always feel the need to exaggerate when they don’t like something? The CGI is highly uneven, as SFAM properly noted, but “bad videogame” is just too harsh.

[…] Bilal of course provided us with the Nikopol Trilogy graphic novel and Immortel. Here’s the trailer, which certainly looks […]

August 13, 2007

Anonymous said:

I’d love it if they came out with an Art Of Immortal book. The drawings in the extras are waaaay too cool.
Did I say I’d “love” it? I meant to say I’d drool constantly.

August 20, 2007

chromedog said:

I like this movie. Part Final fantasy, part Fifth Element and part egyptian mythological melange. Yes, the cg people were of uneven quality, but I’ve seen worse, and they’re better than most of the video games I’ve played (I’m not the type to upgrade his video card every year JUST to play the latest games).
Yes, I have read the Nikopol graphic novels - they definitely helped to make sense of some of the movie.

October 30, 2007

Farbod Jz. said:

Perfect Sacred Mystical Love.
I wish this movie was for real… i wish this world was in another level… the freedom of soul….
and the soundtrack brings me down to my knees
abd the john … the black man who gone to the void … ?! who was him ?! he void itself ?! a big bang ?! … a what … ?
but i just wondered one song is missing in the soundtrack disc…
the song when jill attempts to her room for the first time …
something like deftones or what … any ideas ?!?!?!

January 18, 2008

El Brujo said:

and the 2 all blue or green screen movies made in 2004 are?

January 27, 2008

Klaw said:

Casshern would be one…

I agree the CGI characters in this utterly ruin it. But my issue would be, the whole movie is so synthetic and sort of random in the way an anime works, it would have been better with all CGI animation. The inclusion of human actors only underlines the failings of shifting styles of animation. (Ultra realistic to ultra generic video game level low polygon characters) Overall a very interesting concept, very beautiful photography (tinted colors, high dynamic range) and I liked the 2 Egyptian gods playing Monopoly with the city. Reminded me of OMNI magazine illustrations from the early 80s.

August 21, 2008

synthetic_creature said:

i totally loved this movie with its setting and visuals (visuals always get me :) but i mean, what totaly ruins it imo?? -beyond the mediocre rendered cgi characters is the damned lobster/shark/..thing!! WTF. haha i mean, here i was, accepting the movie as a serious kind of presentation until this killer lobster comes out to hunt down and kill nikopol. i guess it all somehow relates to the initial graphic novel/story whatnot, but imo, that almost kills the movie. still, the amazing visuals sustained it for me. love the environments and concept.

September 29, 2008

Mr No1 said:

Watched it yesterday and it was better than expected. I didn’t have a problem with CGI characters and normal ones acting together. In fact, I liked it. The CGI characters were better made than I thought after reading the review, and the “blind spots” give the film mistery.

September 30, 2008

Stormtrooper of Death said:

Downloaded Immortel. I like the graphics/visuals a lot. One of the best i’ve ever seen. But the movie is sometimes difficult to follow.

October 6, 2008

Timeless_Wanderer said:

I liked this movie, but I agree that the plot was full of holes and a lot of the scenes seemed to have little relevance. The CG really reminded me of Omikron the Nomad Soul, but that might just be me. I think I’m going to read the Graphic Novel to understand more of the holes.

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