Immortality In The Movies: Gift or Curse?

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The ability to exist for eternity is a double-edged sword. On the plus side you’d get to witness every amazing innovation in all fields of human (and possibly alien) endeavour. Conversely, you’d have to put up with the very real possibility of every single one of your favourite films being remade with one of Justin Bieber’s descendants in the lead role. With In Time out this week, in which time itself becomes such a precious commodity that the obscenely rich are able to buy immortality, we take a look at how some of cinema’s most famous immortals have coped with everlasting life…

*Film appearances:* Over 200, notably Dracula (1931), Dracula (1958) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

*Played by:* Various, including Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman

*Background:* Ancient nobleman and bloodthirsty shapeshifter Dracula lives in a spooky old castle in the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania and sleeps in an uncomfortable-looking box in the cellar. He enjoys his own company but can be a bit of a ladies’ man, and likes capes, darkness and human blood, preferably fresh. Not a fan of garlic, holy water or crucifixes.

Immortality: Gift or Curse?** **Not so much immortal as merely undead, Dracula embraces the lifestyle afforded to him by vampirism, wearing outlandish capes and suits of armour just because he can. Unfortunately he can’t comfortably show off his threads in daylight, so he remains forced to stay indoors watching Cash In The Attic and Loose Women. If that’s not a curse then we don’t know what is.

*Film appearances:* Clash Of The Titans (1981, 2010), the upcoming Immortals

*Played by:* Various, including Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Luke Evans and, er, Kellan Lutz

Background: Having created pretty much everything from the infinite reaches of the cosmos to those flying ants that only seem to appear for one day a year, the gods loaf about on Mount Olympus, bored out of their infinite minds, playing chess and teasing mankind.

Immortality: Gift or Curse?** **The gods of Mount Olympus are the very definition of the idle rich, so it’s clear they’re quite happy with their immortality thank you very much. Occasionally the boredom gets too much for them, which usually results in either some poor soul on Earth suffering a terrible tragedy or a spot of good old-fashioned Kraken-releasing, which is the most fun you can have when you’re a god.

*Film appearances:* Highlander (1986), Highlander II (1991), Highlander III (1994), Highlander: Endgame (2000)

*Played by:* Christopher Lambert

*Background:* Born in Scotland in 1581, Connor MacLeod discovered he was immortal during a fight with The Kurgan, a monstrous, nearly-600-year-old immortal with a fabulous line in skeletal armour. Banished from his clan just for being different and/or a witch, MacLeod was left to walk the Earth forever more, confusing centuries of mortals with his bizarre Franco-Scottish dialect.

Immortality: Gift or Curse? A mixed bag really: spending eternity traipsing about beheading other immortals– there can, after all, be only one – must be a glum and solitary lifestyle. On the other hand, he got to hang around with Sean Connery, and when he finally lopped off The Kurgan’s noggin he could at last claim the prize of telepathy and mortality. Sadly MacLeod’s future stretched out over several dreadful continuity-contradicting sequels, so it seems like his curse was never lifted after all.

*Film appearance:* Beetlejuice (1988)

*Played by:* Michael Keaton

*Background:* The ghost with the most is called upon by Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) when they’re inconveniently killed and the world’s most awful people move into their house. While the plan is for Betelgeuse to scare the bejesus out of the unwanted occupants, he’s got his heavily-kohled eyes on kooky goth teen Lydia (Winona Ryder).

Immortality: Gift or Curse?** **Nobody seems to have enjoyed the eternity of the afterlife more than Betelgeuse, who had a great time during the Black Plague and appears to have spent most of his death watching The Exorcist, his favourite comedy. Unfortunately his people skills haven’t improved, and as a result he’s going to have to buy a much smaller hat.

*Film appearance:* Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

*Played by:* Robert Eddison

*Background:* The Grail Knight spent 700 years sitting in a cave with no obvious toilet facilities but an awful lot of cups, so you should listen to him when he tells you to be careful about choosing which one you want to drink from.

Immortality: Gift or Curse?** **Seven centuries reading the same book doesn’t seem to have dampened the Grail Knight’s spirits, although he’s understandably weak and his skin has gone a peculiar shade of blue. Still, he’s a man of God and is more than happy to have been chosen to guard the Holy Grail for so long, although his relief when a dashing but strangely garbed archaeologist appears to relieve him of his burden is palpable.

*Film appearance:* Death Becomes Her (1992)

*Played by:* Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn

*Background:* Actress Madeline and writer Helen are bitter rivals for the affections of a plastic surgeon (Bruce Willis). Their vanity leads them to make use of a potion of eternal youth, but when they’re both mortally wounded they find that maintaining their own disintegrating carcasses is more trouble than it’s worth.

Immortality: Gift or Curse?** **The novelty of being a wow at parties by being able to turn your head round 180 degrees or pass a bowling ball through a gaping hole in your own abdomen soon wears thin for these imbecilic immortals. When Dr Bruce refuses to maintain their crumbling cadavers they end up having to cake their rotting flesh with paint, and no man wants a woman who smells like a corpse at Kwik Fit.

*Film appearance:* Groundhog Day (1993)

*Played by:* Bill Murray

*Background:* Stranded in his own personal hell - Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania during the annual Groundhog Day celebrations – cantankerous weatherman Phil Connors finds himself living the same day over and over again, and even repeated and increasingly elaborate suicide attempts can’t stop the cycle.

Immortality: Gift or Curse?** **In the ultimate examination of the ups and downs of immortality, Phil initially revels in his invincibility with a very friendly waitress and a lot of cake. Then ennui sets in and immortality becomes nothing but a massive pain in the arse, but when Phil begins to see the value of infinite time on his hands, he sagely uses his gift to better himself; help other, less fortunate people and nob Andie Macdowell.

*Film appearance:* A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

*Played by:* Haley Joel Osment

*Background:* Created by a benevolent boffin to give childless or bereaved couples the chance to nurture, David is the unnerving, almost-real boy who’s dumped at the roadside like an empty fag packet when his adoptive mum decides he’s just too weird. With only a gigolo-bot and the world’s greatest teddy to keep him company, David faces an eternity searching for a mother’s love. Pass the tissues, will you?

Immortality: Gift or Curse? David takes immortality in his stride, happily sitting on the ocean floor chuntering at a statue for the best part of two millennia. When he’s eventually rescued by hyper-intelligent robots, he gets his wish and spends a perfect, single day with his mum, who finally returns his unconditional love. David’s immortality may (ultimately) have been a gift for him, but for the rest of us it’s the catalyst for floods of tears.

*Film appearances:* The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

*Played by:* Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving

Background: The elves of Middle-earth spend their time mooching about ethereally in forests, brushing their long hair, practising archery and telling each other dwarf jokes. They are a peace-loving people, but catch one in a bad mood and he’ll turn you into a giant pin cushion before you can say mithril.

Immortality: Gift or Curse?: By and large, the elves seem reasonably happy to be immortal, although that happiness has often been interpreted as unbearable smugness by other races. They do suffer the age-old problem of immortality though, which is the pain of watching a human lover grow old and wrinkly and dead. Fortunately they have the option of becoming mortal in such circumstances, although their parents inevitably disapprove. And when they get a bit tired and fed up, they can always bugger off "into the west", which we assume is like Florida or Eastbourne - i.e. a nice place full of other past-it types.