February 7, 2006
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High
Key Cast Members:
Overview: Existenz is one of the really good twist-your-brain VR game movies. ExistenZ allows us to imagine a rather strange future where games themselves potentially tear down the fabric of humanity. David Cronenberg, master of the weird, has Jennifer Jason Leigh starring as Allegra Geller, a game designer who creates VR games that are inserted directly into the spinal cord from an invasive “game pod” modification into the middle back vertebrae. Entire sets of players use living “game pods” to interact in the VR games. In this movie, Allegra is doing a “focus group test” on her latest game called eXistenZ. Everything appears fine until all hell breaks lose when one of the players gets up and tries to Kill Allegra for destroying the fabric of society.
As the movie progresses, Allegra and Ted Pikul (played by Jude Law), an unsuspecting marketeer are thrown together during the escape. While on the run, Allegra talks Ted into experiencing eXistenZ. To do this, he needs to get a game pod installed in his back. Things go from bad to worse as they attempt to get a pod from a shady guy, and significantly damage Allegra’s game pod, which has the only copy of ExistenZ anywhere on it. As the movie progresses, Cronenberg makes sure the viewer never really knows if the characters are in the very real looking game, or are actually in reality.
The Plot and Pacing: The plot is more than passable in eXistenZ, the action is good, and the acting is above average. Jude Law, Leigh, Ian Holm and Willem Dafoe are very solid and engaging in selling this story. The pacing gyrates from massively wierd head-spins to periods of calm and reflection. All in all, it’s enough to keep you captivated.
The Bottom Line: ExistenZ asks the question whether we truly know when we are in reality or not? This is interesting in that if direct VR type connections get made to the human nervous system as Kevin Warwick’s work suggests might be one day (soon) possible, this question becomes significantly more pertinent. All in all, this makes for a wonderful cyberpunk flick with some terrific scenes and interesting thoughts. With a production budget of only 15 million, the visuals are not always high tech (there are a few cool beasties though), but the story serves to aid in suspension of disbelief.
Tags: cyberpunk movie review ExistenZ