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Review: eXistenZ (1999)

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Steve Kong

Oct 14, 2000, 2:05:49 AM10/14/00
eXistenZ (1999)
Review by Steve Kong
The Hard Boiled Movie Guide

Hollywood always seems to release movies that are similar to each other
back-to-back or near back-to-back. Take for instance the mad-bomber phase
when Hollywood released both Speed (good) and Blown Away (bad)
together. Or when the animated bugs took the screen with A Bug's Life
(good) and Antz (good also). Well, in 1999 there was a phase when
Hollywood decided to release two movies about alternate or externally
generated realities together. The first was a hit, and I loved it, it was
The Matrix. The second I skipped and waited for DVD and that was
eXistenZ. I finally got to see eXistenZ on DVD, am I glad I waited.

eXistenZ is the name of a virtual reality game developed over some five
years by the world's most famous and best game developer, Allegra Gellar
(Jennifer Jason Leigh). After an attempt on her life, she is on the run
and is being protected by a PR geek named Ted Pikul (Jude Law). In order
to save her game, she has to go into it and play why she has to play the
game in order to save it, I don't know and I don't remember the movie tell
me either. So, she and Ted Pikul enter eXistenZ to play the game and save it.

Unlike most virtual reality or alternative reality movies, eXistenZ takes a
different approach to "jacking in." Instead of the standard fare of
plugging into a computer, eXistenZ resides on an organic thing it's hard
to describe, but, in the movie it looks like a melted rubber mask from some
monster movie that moves and makes little noises that you might expect out
of a doll. The organic pod is plugged into the game player via a bio-port
located at the bottom of the players back and it gets plugged directly into
the player's spine. All of this is good and fine, it's actually pretty

What's not to like about this movie? Well, to start off, I think director
David Cronenberg has some sort of fetish with alien flesh or raw
carcass. I was disgusted by most of the movie (not to mention I lost my
appetite when I watched the Chinese restaurant sequence). Cronenbery just
piles on the flesh, bones, and carcass throughout the movie and it reaches
a point where I just said to myself, "Aw, this is complete crap."

It doesn't help that the script is completely predictable. The idea behind
the script is standard fare when it comes to stories about alternate
realities. It is much like The Matrix's in that it leads the viewers
through some alternate realities and then leaves the viewer to wonder what
reality the characters are really in. Are they still in some alternate
reality? Or are they in the "real" world"? Well, although both eXistenZ
and The Matrix are predictable in that sense, at least The Matrix had some
intriguing ideas behind it (albeit a little stupid like the
humans-as-batteries idea) and it had some kick-ass action sequences to
boot. eXistenZ had neither. The movie is about carcass about flesh. It's
about two people wandering through something that at any given point if
they were killed, I wouldn't give a damn. The story is so thin that I
wondered halfway through the movie what the point of them playing the game
was and like I said before, that was never explained.

The main actors Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh wander through the movie
like their characters. Maybe they were just doing it for the extra cash, I
can only hope they were. Especially for Jude Law who gave such a wonderful
performance in another sci-fi film Gattaca, it was disappointing to see him
in such schlock as eXistenZ. Leigh does what she can with her part, which
is a part that has no excitement, no real character.

I've never been a fan of eXistenZ writer/director David Cronenberg and
eXistenZ does not help to move me into his fan club either. Cronenberg is
one of those auteur directors who love to do things differently, which I
have nothing against. Some of the best directors go against the grain of
Hollywood and make some of the best and most innovative films. But,
Cronenberg seems to try way too hard at it. He tries to be way too
different. Maybe he's making the film for himself, I don't know, but
eXistenZ was not entertaining at all. It was predictable and
disgusting. I wonder how Cronenberg got the green light on this project.

So, was there anything that I did like about this movie? Yes, only one
thing. That was the haunting score by Howard Shore (The Game). Howard
composes a wonderful score that is wasted on a terrible movie.

Skip eXistenZ, save an hour and a half of your time. This film is just
garbage that's not worth watching. If you want an alternative-reality film
fix, then go rent The Matrix. Or if you want a film that will screw with
your head about a different reality then go rent an older film named
Jacob's Ladder. eXistenZ is like a lot of the mutant animals in the film,
an ugly mutated version of something that could have been beautiful. Skip

Steve Kong

not all film critics are the same.
i'm your hard boiled movie guide.

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