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eXistenZ (1999)
Rated R

Starring: Jennifer Jason-Leigh, Jude Law, and Ian Holm

Rating:
*
out of
*****

Movies that deal with computers or computer related subjects usually portray the machines doing things that they simply cannot do, even if the film is supposed to take place in the present day. eXistenZ, which deals with virtual reality games, takes place sometime in the future. The computers are doing things that computers today simply can't do -- and that's fine since it takes place in the future -- but the computers in eXistenZ do things that I don't think I want computers to do and they do them in a way that can only be described as disgusting.

In the future, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) is "the world's greatest computer games designer." At a seminar that is aimed at introducing a prototype of her latest game, eXistenZ, to a group of fans for testing purposes, an assassination attempt is made on her life. Several people are killed, but Geller escapes into the countryside with a PR rep named Ted Pikul (Jude Law). Geller and Pikul strike up a conversation about why she'd be the target of an assassination attempt. Geller finds out that Pikul has never tried one of her games. The movie then introduces the concept of the "games," which are far different than the PlayStation games you might play in your family room. eXistenZ, the game, is played on a "Metaflesh GamePod," a console that appears to be made of flesh, with umbilical cord-like connectors that attach to a "bio-port" that is installed in the base of a player's spine. The port allows the game to connect to your nervous system, which allows the player to completely experience the game as if it were real.

Geller is concerned that her only copy of eXistenZ might have been damaged in the assassination attempt, so she and Pikul enter the game world to check things out. From here, they introduce the concepts of the game and allow the movie to play with the audience's concept of what's real and what's not. It also shows how the GamePods are made -- with mutated amphibian parts -- and other somewhat unpleasant scenes involving characters in the game.

I never had a problem with the virtual reality aspect of eXistenZ. It's everything else about it that I have a problem with. The characters are flat and completely uninteresting. The movie's way of introducing the film's back story and subject matter is needlessly confusing and completely devoid of anything redeeming. David Cronenberg, the man who's brought the world such seat-squirmers as Dead Ringers and The Fly, has a history of bringing some rather unusual concepts to the screen. Unfortunately, eXistenZ isn't just unpleasant, it's rather pointless as well.

Trivia: In the world of eXistenZ, there is a game called "Hit by a car," which is probably a reference to director David Cronenberg's movie previous, Crash. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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