Dec 25, 2009

[Movies] eXistenZ (1999)

eXistenZ (1999)My partner and I are getting ready to dive into an Aeon / Trinity game with our gaming group. The defunct White Wolf gaming system is all about science fiction story archetypes and I'm pretty excited about it given the science fiction geek that I am. At the same time, it's pretty interesting because of the premise of the world.

The world of Trinity features an interesting mix of traditional technology versus highly advanced biotechnology. This means not just gene splicing and cloning but actually integrating weapons and other elements of technology into the bodies of the players. Biotech of this nature is hardly common in the stories that I have written, a concept that is usually limited to non carbon-based lifeforms or something like the Mycon in the Star Control series of computer games. Ah well, but that's me.

This movie really got into the biotechnology aspect in a way that was more vivid than most. Plus it had a lot of stars I wasn't quite expecting to see all within a single story.

at the 2007 Toronto International Film FestivalImage via Wikipedia

eXistenZ (and the capitalization is important), is a a science fiction thriller that places us in a not-so-distant future where everyone plays these highly evolved simulation games through organic gamepods connected to bio-ports surgically grafted to the base of our spines. In this world, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) of Antenna Research is one of the world's top game designers. She decides to test her latest game called "eXistenZ" with a small focus group. There, an assassin tries to kill her with a completely organic gun that detects all forms of metal detection and thus she now goes on the run with marketing trainee Ted Pikul (Jude Law) as they try to escape the various groups that want her dead along with trying to salvage her damaged gamepod in order to preserve the eXistenZ game.

The story isn't all action-packed no matter how compelling my prior synopsis sounds like. The movie's more of a slow burn and a lot of the story takes place once Allegra gets Ted to try out eXistenZ with her. Thus a lot of the story takes place inside the artificial game reality, and thus you'll get echoes of other science fiction movies like Total Recall and even The Matrix given the whole artificial reality concept and the storytelling device of switching between the various worlds. This makes the story a bit tricky to keep up with but if you keep an open mind and you try to just focus on following the story as the characters present it instead of trying to put it together right away, you should make it through with a decent understanding of the whole story.

The use of organic-based technology can get pretty disturbing. I mean come on, the gamepods are these pulsing blobs of flesh at the first organic gun actually fired human teeth at its victims. The images can get pretty disturbing at times and the movie isn't quite for the weak of stomach. Still, it truly stresses just how alien this world appears to be while at the same time it gives the viewer that slightly low budget horror feel to things without getting too campy.

The story in itself can make your head hurt at times with all the scene changes, character switches and travel between the real world and the game world. You need to be full awake for this one in order to keep up. I guess the greater challenge is that the game is all about real life and so there's no easily discernable clue about whether or not the characters are still in the game or not. This itself is one of the stronger messages of the movie - how quickly the lines blur between reality and fantasy that it soon becomes very difficult to tell the worlds apart.

eXistenZ is a pretty decent and interesting science fiction piece despite it's unusual title capitalization principles. It's a tad confusing but overall remains fairly impressive and it will certainly leave you guessing at every turn. It gets 3.5 Chinese Specials out of a possible 5.

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