There are people out in the world who believe that we, as human beings, are living in a simulation. That we are avatars in a larger video game being played by something else, that coincidences in our lives are glitches as some part of construction, and that we can spot the seams of this world if we pay close attention. To these people, who base their entire life perspective on something they call “simulation theory,” movies like “The Matrix” and “The Truman Show” are more truthful to the big picture, and are texts that can be be used for reference. The same goes for the works of Philip K. Dick and their adapted movies, as Dick was a large proponent of the theory who spent a long time trying to understand his own thoughts about it.
It’s unclear watching the film whether Ascher believes all of this, but it’s more that he wants to invest in this theory and pass it along. He becomes a type of interpreter for this point-of-view, using his encyclopedic pop culture knowledge to accompany elaborate different theories and relay the experiences of his select “witnesses” through gripping, trippy animation sequences. Accompanying the words of interview subjects presented as cartoonish sci-fi avatars (with shields, sharp teeth, space suits etc.,) they relay beliefs of how maybe we are just a brain in a lab, a body in a sea of pods; these talking-avatars are often well-spoken, and the documentary is in turn informative and entertaining about a concept your possible overlords may have not wanted you to consider. Ascher uses an impressive, vivid trove of pop culture clips to further illustrate the documentary’s colorful tangents, capturing our existence as a scene in “Starship Troopers,” or “Star Wars,” or a “GTA V” “funny fails” video, the latter involving 100 monotonous people being pushed off a platform in the sky by a bulldozer.
I believe that this type of skepticism is healthy. If you’ve ever lost an item that seemed to just vanish into thin air, you might too have that feeling, that no other explanation is possible than some gap in some reality swallowed up my damn mailbox key. But “A Glitch in the Matrix” does not, until much later in the movie, get behind the true type of antisocial mindset it takes to deeply see the world as a type of false reality, and the human beings around you as certain products of it. There’s a vital sociological element that’s missing about how life experience could cause someone to view existence with such a lens, and Ascher’s documentary can feel like an erratic, however meticulously illustrated “explainer” YouTube video without it.