eXistenZ

People used to think of science fiction as a combination of fantasy and scientific fact. That’s not eXistenZ.

The latest release from director/writer David Cronenberg, eXistenZ (Dimension Films) is the newer and more popular kind of sci-fi film – an unlikely story that probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future.

In eXistenZ, humans download a game system directly into their central nervous system through a hole in their bodies called a bioport. The game changes every time it is played, adapting to the personality of the individual. The only way to determine the goal of your game is to keep playing.

Jennifer Jason Leigh (Washington Square) plays Allegra Geller, the creator of eXistenZ. She is worshipped by millions of adoring players and despised by the reality faction, a small group that hates her games because of their addictive and mind-numbing effects on the population. She is forced to flee when fanatics attempt to assassinate her. Her sole ally is Ted Pikul (Jude Law, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), a novice security guard sworn to protect her.

A chase ensues, with the unlikely duo of Allegra and Ted seeking shelter in the typical hideaway places: a backwoods cabin owned by Allegra’s friend, an old motel, a deserted gas station. However, the chase then extends into the world of eXistenZ. That’s where the real fun begins.

eXistenZ is Cronenberg’s best film since his 1986 movie, The Fly. The originality of the script hearkens back to his work on Scanners and Videodrome. For the film, Cronenberg created an entire glossary of terms, as well as some nifty – and disgusting-looking – gadgets.

The gamepod, from which eXistenZ originates, is an animal grown from fertilized amphibian eggs stuffed with synthetic DNA. It closely resembles the human liver or kidney and is a distinct character in the film. To activate eXistenZ, Allegra rubs the pod in what appears to be an erotic manner.

In the beginning of the film, Leigh portrays Allegra as quiet and reserved, a nerdy programmer who would rather be at home designing games. Once inside her creation, however, Allegra is bold, sexy and outgoing, much like Leigh’s character in Single White Female. Law’s character takes longer to adjust to the fantastic world but eventually comes around. With his recent performance in Gattaca, Law has carved out a niche for himself in sci-fi Hollywood.

Leigh and Law perfectly fit into their roles. They are surrounded by an excellent supporting cast. Willem Dafoe, fresh off his commendable minor role in Affliction, stands out as a hilarious dim-witted gas station attendant.

The script is ingenious, full of twists, turns and an absolutely unpredictable ending. But some scenes can’t be taken seriously, and create unintentional comedy. Watch for Cronenberg’s jab at the pop-culture mainstay “The X-Files.” In the end, eXistenZ is a completely original film that is sure to dazzle the eyes of the moviegoers.

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