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Videogame movie reviews: Gamer (2007/2010)


I figure it's time for me to move on to a general film regarding our favourite pastime. Gamer was a big budget movie with seemingly indie promotion, stirring up buzz on a few websites and failing to see widespread for years. Its Tomatometer is very low, in the single digits, I believe. Does it deserve it?

It is the near-ish future, and a man named Ben Castle has brought interactive entertainment to the next level. His two hit games, Slayers, a multiplayer shooter, and Society, a simulation akin to Second Life, have taken the world by storm. Both games rely on a special and unique tecnology, in which players control the bodies of other humans.

But it's okay, because the ones being controlled in Society are "actors", paid volunteers, and the ones being controlled in Slayers are death row inmates who have a chance to get out. If a contestant wins 30 consecutive rounds, the inmate is released. Obviously, this hasn't happened by the start of the movie, but one close to winning is Kable (Gerard Butler).

From then on, it's a conspiracy thriller much in the vein of Equilibrium, where Kable teams up with the Humanz, a group led by Ludacris fighting against the mind control technology Castle may be planning to implement, in order to get his wife and child back from Castle.

Most of the "game" stuff is well implemented. The idea of VR control in massively multiplayer games and a new breed of FPS is an exciting prospect indeed, and they make it seem likely in some manner. They also kind of "get" it, but at the same time, they don't.

For example, they acknowledge what ping is, and it's a sticking point for one of the fights, but the creators don't seem to understand that if ping that cause several seconds of delay in a match exist, it's not professional. Pro gamers work in lagless environments; to have lag in such an event is dumb.

One of the side Slayers also teabags another...or at least that's what the other characters tell us. They got the fact that it's merely crouching repeatedly down, but it looks off, too forced, especially the way his arms are also up in the air and how everyone says, "that guy got teabagged".

While the games front is solid but flawed, there are a lot more problems with the rest of the movie, but chief among them is a lot of the acting. Castle, played by Phillip Michael Hall, or whoever he is (Dexter) acts in a very intrigiung way, miming a blues classic while Kable fights a bunch a goons in his house, but he's not very authentic, which makes it a bit awkward.

The most annoying character is easily John Leguizamo as another con in a similar situation as Kable. He simply does not shut up, constantly muttering to Kable and just being an annoying wad. He doesn't take up a huge part of the film but he certainly leaves a bad taste. There's also a Terminator-alike who's as dull the wit of Brink's AI.

The biggest problem, however, is the pacing. The first half is fairly balanced, having exposition and mystery in between each round of Slayers. However, after that chapter ends, the film moves far too quickply, wrapping up pivotal plot events far too quickly. The mind control mechanic that took Castle years to implement is literally dismantled with one touch screen click. The last 10 minutes finish the movie so fast it's embarassing.

Gamer is fairly ambitious, however. The aesthetic and mood liken to a more gratuitous Blade Runner, although when I say gratuitous I really mean it. The technology is sort of interesting and the overall vibe is quite original.

The pacing is kind of crap, but it's a nice short curio. Certainly not worth all the hate. Mileage will certainly vary, but overall, I enjoyed it and I recommend a rental when you're bored.

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About Lowlander2one of us since 4:06 AM on 05.10.2011

I am an Australian journalism student, currently in his second year. There isn't much out of the ordinary about my upbringing. I'm just a guy wwho has been playing games for quite a while and enjoying them for the most part. My favourite genre is probably the rhythm game genre. Used to be RPGs, but I haven't really connected with any for a while.

I wouldn't consider myself a very theological or philosophical gamer, and I do tire of some of the devates that occure around games. STFUAJPG and all that. That doesn't mean I have nothing to say, just that I'm not the guy you come to for any sort of real opinion on serious gaming issues. My forte is the more spartan, critical stuff, like reviews and lists and what have you. Moost of my blogs have been reviews on game movies at this point, as a matter of fact.
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