What good is having eternal life if you can’t really live?
This is the question that lies at the heart of I Am Mortal, a sci-fi drama that takes the viewer into a future where the human race have achieved immortality through the scientific achievements of The Pilot (Sean Gunn). Set 200 years in the future, violence and cruelty are but stirs and echoes of the past as everyone lives at their peak efficiency. However, this utopia is threatened when, Logos (Abraham Lewis), a young man who seems immune to the ‘gift’ of immortality begins asking questions that few other dare. After meeting a small group of rebels who also question if immortality is how we were ‘meant’ to live, Logos and his new friends attempt to uncover the secrets that the Pilot has been hiding and share them with the rest of the world.
Written and directed by Tony Aloupis, I Am Mortal has solid potential for a sci-fi franchise that wants to tap in to some of life’s biggest questions. This is a world where conversations around purpose and the meaning of life feel like they should be unnecessary and Aloupis and his team do a good job of visually representing the cold science and authority of the Pilot onscreen. Large glass windows and neutral colours make the area seem clean and efficient, as if one is entering into a place of scientific inquest. Here, we are led to believe that the world makes sense. At the same time though, fractured patterns along the walls give a prison-like atmosphere to the facility that immediately communicates a feeling of oppressiveness.
Unfortunately though, there’s also an unintended tepidness to the film, especially through its performances. Though the stakes in this battle for the soul feel endlessly high, many of the characters feel surprisingly calm about their endeavours. (Even the plucky rebels fighting for their freedom feel relatively sedate, despite the odds that they’re facing.) This lukewarm atmosphere makes sense given the Mortal‘s emphasis on a loss of emotion. However, it also affects the relationships between characters and neutralizes the film’s central romance.
Having said this though, although his character never actually leaves his home, veteran Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) seems to be having the most fun as the villainous Pilot. Gunn’s greatest strength is his ability to make any character feel likable and Mortal allows him to import a certain level of sympathy into his role, despite his cruelty.
What makes Mortal interesting though is its desire to engage the question of free well and its relationship to the soul. With the human genome essentially altered by his experiments, the Pilot has created what he believes to be the ideal society. (“I have created Heaven,” he claims.) War, disease, corruption and the rest of life’s evils have all but been eliminated as a result of his work. Even religion has become expendable in that, without mortality, humans have no fear of anything beyond their own existence.
After all, who needs religion if you have scientific achievement?
Though the Pilot has the best of intentions, his elimination of pain and suffering has also eliminated the best parts of life. Forced on each member of society when they reach their ‘peak efficiency’, it is simply expected that people will accept the ‘blessing’ that has been assigned to them. However, this also means that they have lost the right to choose their fate.
Worse than this, love, joy and connectedness with one another have all but disappeared, giving way to a sense of controlled individualism. As such, their inability to die has also left them with an inability to feel. Yes, death may have ‘lost its sting’ but so has the spark to life that makes it worth living. The vitality of the soul and its passions have been removed, leaving a deep feeling of emptiness.
While our lives may be flawed, it also opens up space for the soul to spark.
Leaving its story with an open door for a sequel, I Am Mortal clearly wants to continue its journey. Though the film certainly has its flaws, there are enough interesting conversations and concepts here for Aloupis to continue his vision. However, if that happens, one also hopes that these rebels can show more of the passion that they’re fighting for in their performances.
I Am Mortal is available on VOD on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022.