Movie Name: eXistenZ
Studio: Canadian Television Fund
Release Date(s): April 23, 1999
MPAA Rating: R
Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is the top video game designer for Antenna Research. Her new game eXistenZ promises to be a big hit, but a demonstration goes wrong when assassins try to kill her. Now, Allegra is on the run with security guard Ted Pikul (Jude Law) who hasn’t been sold on the intimate connection between gamer and their game pod. Ted and Allegra must find out who is trying to kill them and the secret could be in eXistenZ…but entering the gaming world could leave them questioning if they are still playing a game!
Directed by David Cronenberg, eXistenZ is a sci-fi horror action film that is often falls under the “body horror” subgenre. Cronenberg allegedly based the concept on Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwā on Salman Rushdie after his writing of The Satanic Verses. The movie did receive critical acclaim but a small box office return.
eXistenZ is a movie for gamers, but also a movie about the horrors of technology. As someone who has gamed all his life, it is interesting to see how gaming has changed over the years and how aspects of eXistenZ continues to develop into reality.
eXistenZ has a roaming plot (which allegedly scared MGM away from making it). The movie is layered and you could easily argue that it is too layered. It almost becomes a joke by the end as the game within a game within a game continues to unravel.
The basic themes of the movie however are more and more realistic with today’s gaming. Games have become much more plot based and there is a lot of technology fear as we as a people begin to get more “intimate” with the technology…people can barely sleep without their cell phones now.
The movie also has some weird acting swings. In the game, the characters are more cartoonish and the acting is more wooden. This makes sense and is appropriate for how real interactive games work. The “real world” acting however is a bit too cartoonish as well (if it is really the real world)…I would have liked to have seen it toned down more to show the extreme. Fortunately, the movie has a good cast with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Christopher Eccleston, Willem Dafoe, Sarah Polley, and Ian Holm.
The movie could have been a bit more visually stunning. The film was relatively low budget, but I would have liked to have seen a more distinctive eXistenZ video game world. This would This would have distinguished it more and made the turn a bit more of a shock when it turned out it was all a game (but it would have lost some of the “are we still playing” moments that also were good).
eXistenZ is a worthy film for fans of Cronenberg. It feels like a direct descendant of Videodrome and could exist in the same world. The movie I feel got a little buried and I wish it had done better. Like all Cronenberg films however, it has developed a small cult following over the years…or is it all just a game that we’re stuck in?
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