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But it's not a PK Dick rehash. Cronenberg spends as much time on the characters and their motives as he does on pseudo-intellectual questions of reality. (The film is also a humorous spoof of computer-game devotees.) Although there are a lot of scenes that lay flat --- instead of moving the plot forward --- the actors are so good, everything is easy to watch. Willem Dafoe is charming and scary as Gas, and Jude Law plays a pitch-perfect resourceful sidekick to Jennifer Jason Leigh. (You also have to hand it to Cronenberg for making the central character female without making her a damsel in distress or an masculine action heroine.)
This is a low-key but excellent movie. It's the kind of film you can enjoy over and over, picking up new bits of detail every time. It's not for everyone, of course. Cronenberg can repel some viewers with gooey special effects and psychological drama. But I think it's one of his best films, and certainly one of the best in 1999.
Believe it or not, seeing a guy getting his face blown in half by a gun firing human teeth and people porting into a game system that looks like a bizarre fleshy body part is rather tame for Cronenberg. Certainly a lot easier to watch than the flesh-eating puke in "The Fly" or drinking fluid out of a fleshy straw on a large bug's head in "Naked Lunch".
One of the reasons I enjoyed this film was it reminded of the mind-bending plot twists of a really good Philip K. Dick story. By the film's end you have no idea what, if anything, is real and not just a game.
Some reviewers found the performances very weak. But often, this is done deliberately: one character named D'arcy Nader is played so cartoonishly that the main character, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, comments on how lousy his dialogue and accent were. Personally, I thought the two lead performances were very good. Leigh gives this picture her all playing a sexy game designer whose whole life revolves around this virtual world she has created. Jude Law is also very good, especially his humorous reactions to all the weird stuff that happens around him.
This picture is particulalrly entertaining if you've ever played a role-playing computer and are familiar with the "game loop" that computer characters go into when you're not speaking to them.
The movie also makes a very strong comment on how video games have de-sensitized us. In one scene Jennifer Jason Leigh shoots a character dead just because she didn't like him, but then she can't figure out if she killed him for real or just in the game. a brilliant comment about seperating fantasy and reality.
This is a very well crafted, highly underrated movie. Possibly the most intriguing science-fiction film of the decade.
Although I was very impressed I don't recommend "eXistenZ" for everyone. It could be described as an anti-"Matrix". Not in an intentional sense since they were being made at the same time, but rather in their respective target audiences. So if you seek it out because you really liked "The Matrix", you may be disappointed.
It has a fairly narrow target audience and because of this it was not aggressively distributed in the U.S. and did much better in Europe. Generally those who really connected to "The Matrix" will find it insufficiently manipulative (requiring too much viewer self-analysis and participation) while those who hated "The Matrix" will hate it for being too manipulative. So if you found "Matrix" generally intriguing but did not go ga-gah over it, you should make it a point to check out "eXistenZ".
It is not really sci-fi or action adventure but a psychological thriller (just as "The Hole" is not a horror film but a psychological thriller). It places Kurt Vonnegut's theme "you are what you pretend to be so be careful what you pretend to be" into an allegorical tale of shifting reality. Do we ever actually exercise free will?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought this was a very under- rated sci-fi movie. I found it very creative and action packed. I have watched it several times and will watch it again in the future.Published 1 month ago by R.J.
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the designer of “eXistenZ,” an ultra-realistic video game, who goes on the run with her bodyguard (Jude Law), pursued by... Read more
A surrealistic psychologically charged "adventure" into a mad world of virtual reality gaming. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Paul S. Racicot
Existenz is about what one would expect from a late nineties, low budget, Cronenberg film. The first half hour is poor but overall, the film redeems itself and delivers on modest... Read morePublished 4 months ago by rbrogan3
It was very entertaining and kept my attention the whole time, but I was disappointed with the lack of clarity and closure at the end. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Annika Beckstead
While eXistenZ is just another video game movie where two people are stuck in a virtual reality world, this one is executed differently. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Bryan
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