Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gamer is already one of my favorite movies

Bladerunner was a critical and box office failure when it first arrived in 1982. It is now regarded as one of the most seminal Science Fiction movies in history. It just got a 25th anniversary release on Blu-ray, and there was much rejoicing. If you think Bladerunner is cliche--kiddies--it is only because 8,000 directors have attempted to ape Riddley Scott's masterpiece. Believe me, in 1982, we had never seen the likes of Bladerunner. It was mind boggling.

Gamer will be such a sleeper also. This is a fine piece of science fiction. People will complain that the structure is too closely parallel to that of Death Race. This is true, but only in passing. The spirit of Gamer is the spirit of Bladerunner.

A simple way to view this movie is that it is Death Race done right. Death Race was bit too much of bubble gum pop movie. I love it, but it is fairly empty. Death Race 2000 is a snarky fuck counter-cultural satire. It almost has Sci-Fi meat on its bones, but it owes more to Andy Warhol than Issac Asimov. Gamer is like these movies, but far better. It has real scifi meat. Death Race 2000 and Death Race (2008) are both favorites of mine, but I would resist calling them real SciFi movies.

No friends, Gamer is different. Gamer is a serious minded, dystopian, dark, gritty, ugly, bleak vision of the future. At the core, this movie does what all great science fiction does. It tells us the story of Christmas yet to come if the foreshadows of all these things are left unaltered in the present. It is scary because it is so damn plausible. It arrested my attention because the foreshadows of everything they show us in this film are firmly rooted in the present. It is a precautionary tale. There is a real warning here. Bladerunner was terrifying (and probably still is) for exactly the same reasons.

There was far less of the dire spirit of Christmas yet to come in Death Race and Death Race 2000.

So what is the substance of this movie? Gamer presents a bleak future in which humanity uses the next couple turns of Moore's law to generate super-graphic super-realistic fantasy chambers for the rich and privileged. We use this technology to fulfill our most base instinctive drives for stimulation, combat and sexual pleasure. For the underclass and the criminals it is a different story. They are used as toys to be operated via VR consoles by those rich enough to afford the best of everything.

If you are a dangerous criminal, like Kable, you turn into a first-person shoot toy for young rich kids like Simon. If you are the former wife of a dangerous criminal like Angie (Amber Vallentta) you are turned into the personal Barby for wanna-be transexual males like Gorge. They use you to find out what it would be like to be a real woman--a really desirable woman--screwing around with any and all men on the social scene.

A game like Slayers has about 100 parallels in todays FPS market. A game like society is already well under development in Second Life. There are already many kids like Simon & Gorge who make virtual reality porn halls for themselves in their bed rooms. There are already plenty of members of the underclass who serve as the sexual proxies of the rich and famous.

Like many good SciFi movies, much of this content is presented in a shocking, matter-of-fact way. I wondered if they were just trying to gratuitously titillate with some of the pornographic imagery presented. No, they are not. This is a portrait of what we are doing with all that horsepower Moore's law has provided. It is portrait of Christmas present and Christmas yet to come. It is a bit horrifying to have this slapped back in your face.

So why are the critics bashing this movie? Why do they not see what I see in this film. You need to understand two points about science fiction and critics:

  1. True Science Fiction has the smallest audience of any school of art. The overwhelming majority of all the people who have ever passed through this veil of tears have been illiterate and innumerate. When a piece of work requires physics, chemistry and computer science to comprehend, you automatically leave 95% to 97% of the human race out of the audience. They are neither smart enough nor knowledgeable enough to understand what you are doing. This includes movie critics. Movie critics come from the English departments. They understand iambic pentameter sonets and bullshit like that. They don't understand Moore's law.
  2. Critics come from the English departments and the art schools. As such, they tend to cleave to the precepts of sex revolution. A movie like Gamer focuses on the seamy, ribald, disgusting aspects of the human sex drive. It warns us that unlimited indulgence in this pleasure leads to chaos and disorder. True hedonists don't like these kinds of messages. They don't want anything to interfere with their fun, or drag them down. It is not popular to warn people that there is a dark side to their preferred pleasure. Certainly Gorge is not treated as an object of sympathy or compassion, as the Politically Correct would prefer. It is no wonder that the critics down-graded this film.

Congratulations to director Mark Neveldine. You have constructed the finest piece of science fiction in several years. My hats off to you. I will buy this the second it comes out on Blu-Ray.