Worth A Look: 42.11%
Pretty Bad: 5.26%
Total Crap: 3.95%
13 reviews, 74 user ratings
It is rare to find a film that engages a bit of one’s grey matter. ExixtenZ is such a film.WARNING - In order to review this film and discuss its meaning, I have to reveal the ending. So . . . if you don't want to know what happens in the end, please don't read this until after you have seen the film.
"This is one weird ride."
The movie begins with a group of fans testing game-designer Allegra Geller’s new virtual reality game, ExistenZ. As the game begins, a member of a radical group called the Realists tries to assassinate Allegra. He fails and is killed. Security guard Ted Pikul helps Allegra escape and they both go into hiding.
When they get to their first hiding place, Allegra tells Ted she wants to play her game with him to make sure it still works. However, Pikul can't play the game with her because he never had a bio-port installed. (A bio-port is a hole in a person’s spine which the game plugs into.) Ted has one installed.
Allegra and Pikul then go to a ski lodge run by Allegra’s company. They hook into her game pod, and end up in Darcy Nader’s Game Emporium (The second game.) In that game they buy tiny game pods and insert them into their bio-ports. This takes them to a location called “trout farm” (the 3d game). At a certain point the second and third games interact with the first game, and they all become one game world. At the end Allegra leaves that game and jumps to still another game.
I believe the message of the film is that virtual reality, if it is as good as the game in the film, can be very dangerous. It can be very hard for the player to know the difference between fantasy and reality. This is shown in two places in the film. First,
when Pikul returns to the ski lodge after pausing the game at the Chinese Restaurant, he says, “I’m not sure here where we are is real at all. This feels like a game to me.” Secondly, the confusing nature of Allegra’s game is emphasized after Allegra shoots Kin Vanokur. Pikul says, “What if we’re not in the game any more.” It is important to note that Pikul says, “if we’re not in the game”; he doesn't say “we’re not in the game”.
There is strong sexual imagery in the story. Examples being the phallic symbolism of the pod’s cord being inserted into the body, the nipple-like protrusions on the pods which must be flicked to start the game, and Allegra telling Pikul that new bio-ports can get excited because they want action.
There are many things about ExistenZ which in some films would make them stupid, but are appropriate for Existenz. For example, there is a lot of trite dialogue, but this a something that computer games do have. Also, the killing of the assassin in the opening scene may seem over-the-top and unrealistic, but over-the-top violence is a characteristic of computer games.
The movie even makes fun at itself. Allegra says of a character in the game that he is, "Not a well-drawn character, and his dialogue was just so-so." Also, when kissing Pikil, she calls their behaviour a plot device: "a pathetically mechanical attempt to heighten the excitement of the next game sequence."
The characters in the film are somewhat like normal people, but they are also weird. This made me feel unsettled watching the film.
Allegra is crafty, insinuating, spontaneous, independent, and inventive She talks to her game pod as if it’s alive, seems to feel sorry for it when it is diseased, and calls it her “baby”.
Pikul is a nerd and seems slightly confused by what is going on, but he is still willing to carry out his mission. (His mission being one of the twists in the movie.)
The set design helped sell the weirdness of the film. There was no advanced technology as you see in many science fiction films.
The film has a particularly macabre atmosphere, particulary seen in the workings of the trout farm and the Chinese Restaurant. Other examples are the gross looking bio-ports, and the disturbing computer games in Darcy Nader’s shop. Games such as: “Hit by a Car” and “Chinese Restaurant – Will you make it out alive?”If you are of a philosophical bent, and enjoy thinking about life, nature, the universe, and everything, you will love this film.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1322&reviewer=228
originally posted: 01/01/03 00:47:29