It takes real swagger – or real stupidity – to end your ultra-low budget feature on a cliffhanger; fortunately for writer/director Joe Lujan, the second of his Immortal Wars trilogy is already in production; either he knew the sequel’s funding was in place, or he just got really lucky. There’s precious little about this first instalment, other than the lack of a satisfying resolution, to warrant a follow-up.
Basically Fantastic Four meets The Hunger Games, The Immortal Wars is set in a future where humankind has rounded up mutated Deviants – ‘Humans have blamed all the wrongs in the world to Deviants’ the website informs us – and now Dominion Harvey (Roberts) is using his Dominion Industries to televise fights to the death staged between the innocent abnormals, mostly conducted using cheap fist-fire effects, often in green or black. When (stage-name) ‘Trikalypse’ (Gerhardy) and ‘Iro’ (Kilgore) find themselves in adjacent cages, they hatch a plan – by ‘plan’ we mean ‘We’ll wait until we get paired up for a fight – if that happens – and then we’ll think of something’ – to overturn Dominion and free Deviant-kind from his tyranny.
There are many things you can forgive about movies made for pennies, if there’s enough creativity involved to paper over the cracks. When Tom Sizemore turns up for a single scene before disappearing from the picture altogether, you can forgive him for not bothering with the rest of the pay check after completing his first day’s work. When Eric Roberts appears only off-screen for the first half of the film, before then walking into a mid-shot during a moment of intense low drama, you can forgive him for not having been around to shoot those days and turning in a voice performance later.
But when a film is made up entirely of compromises, it gets rather wearing. All the daylight sequences include bizarre fire and shimmer opticals, and almost everything indoors is filmed in total darkness, punctuated only by neon lamps that try and give a futuristic feel. The fight scenes feature a host of ineffective in-camera Matrix-style slo-mo effects, and the acting varies between iffy and whiffy – and in the case of Roberts and Sizemore, probably sniffy too.
An end credit reads, ‘Based off the characters from the Ravage Reign Universe’, which says everything about the amount of thought that’s gone into this. And if the promotion proudly proclaims this is based on a comic book series, that’s squarely in the hope that potential viewers will see the words ‘comic book’ and expect a certain level of imagination. Turns out Lujan is responsible for the comic books as well as the films, plus a couple of ‘TV’ spin-offs too. That’s a lot of universe for one man. Too much.
THE IMMORTAL WARS / CERT: M (AUSTRALIA) / DIRECTOR: JOE LUJAN / SCREENPLAY: JOE LUJAN / STARRING: ERIC ROBERTS, TOM SIZEMORE, BILL OBERST Jr., SHAUN GERARDO, JACKIE GERHARDY, TAYLOR KILGORE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AUSTRALIA)