Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator

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4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

ELECTRIC DREAMS Alva tries to figure out what it all means.
Photograph: Douglas Gayeton

Subtitled A Second Life Odyssey, this quasidoc is defined by the crude, PlayStation-circa-1999 graphics of the online community in which it was shot “on location.” The visuals of Second Life (which has also been featured on The Office) already make the film seem dated, which is too bad: Filmmaker Douglas Gayeton’s insights into virtual lifestyles apply equally to World of Warcraft and the text-based “MUD” role-playing environments of the 1990s, and they’ll probably be relevant long after the Star Trek holodeck has become a reality.

Allegedly a series of video dispatches filed by a man who became a ubiquitous Second Life presence after disappearing from his California home, Alva follows the titular figure’s rebirth in the online world and his gradual disillusion with it. Is the virtual universe, Alva asks, any less phony than a real world full of proudly fake products like nondairy creamer? And if your Second Life avatar doesn’t eat or sleep, what’s the point of putting him or her in an apartment with a king-size bed and a Viking-equipped kitchen?

Alva becomes the protégé of a philosophical drifter who puts him on a more spiritual path, but their search for a “creator” is a shallow narrative gimmick: Communities like Second Life are created by the users, and anyone who thinks there’s an all-controlling electronic deity has clearly seen The Matrix Reloaded too many times. Such flourishes aside, Alva succeeds by wasting no time explaining things to newbies, opting instead to immediately tackle deeper questions that have been contemplated to some extent by everyone who’s ever used the Internet for more than bill payment and porn.

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