Ben X Nik Balthazar

Ben X Nik Balthazar
Though this story of an autistic teenager who finds social acceptance within the virtual world of an online role-playing game has some interesting moments, ultimately the material is too stereotypical to stand out from other similarly themed stories.

Ben (Greg Timmermans) suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism that makes it difficult for the afflicted to have normal social interactions. Outcast from his peers and bullied for his differences, Ben finds friendship within the online world of Archlord, where he assumes the role of Ben X, a powerful warrior. In real life, Ben is being pushed to his limits by two sadistic bullies (Titus de Voogdt and Maarten Claeyssens) and in order to escape the torment decides to enact his final escape plan.

Though the filmmakers do try to give voice to people suffering from autism and show the difficulties they must overcome, the end result is that Ben is an introverted social misfit who sits in his room and plays videogames. This stereotypical character may be required to tell the story but the gaming sub-plot itself isn’t necessary and feels like lazy character development designed to draw in actual gamers, who will in-turn be put-off by the clichéd portrayal of their hobby.

The whole theme of "socially awkward, nerdy guys playing videogames” needs to be put to rest. Gaming is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year, mainstream activity enjoyed by people from all walks of life. The filmmakers’ use of the actual Archlord game does lend authenticity to the film, though at times it feels a little like an misguided, extended advertisement. (I don’t see many people wanting to be like Ben, regardless of how sympathetically his character is portrayed.)

While not actually a bad movie, Ben X will most likely not appeal to the North American teenage gaming audience, who typically aren’t rushing out to theatres to watch a heart-warming, Belgian, subtitled movie. Older gamers might be interested, if only because they can see what the kid from The Wizard would have grown up to become. (Equinoxe)