Opening Day, 2nd row center, impatiently and excitedly tapping my toes. C’mon! It’s 4:30! Whatever happened to the big promise movie theaters made a few years back to start movies on time, the time printed in the paper or posted on the web? Pffffft. Anyway…
The lights go down and the sensory assault begins. Let me say right off the bat, I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It just plain LOOKS cool as hell. Gerard Butler doesn’t kick anyone into a hole but he kicks some serious ass. He was right when he claimed that “Gamer” would make “300 look like a walk in the park.”
It’s not that “Gamer” is necessarily more violent than “300”, it’s just more visceral. “300” never focused on the gore. There was blood, lots and lots of CGI blood, but that wasn’t the focus. The violence was highly stylized, the movements balletic. A sword impaled a body in slow motion and splashes of red filled the screen as the impaler did a sort of martial pirouette. Even when an arm was being lopped off, the camera didn’t zoom in on a gushing geyser spewing from an artery. It was almost comical when Spartans walked through the bodies of their fallen adversaries piking the nearly dead while holding a conversation with their leader, who was himself chomping on an apple. “300” was about the battle itself; camaraderie, and the selfless sacrifice of the individual in service to the greater good.
Essentially, “Gamer” is about one man’s survival. He’s just trying to make it through, his motivation is getting back to his wife and child. It’s personal. The “battle” scenes are fast and furious, over the top and over before you know it. It all comes at you at such a frenetic pace it’s nearly cartoonish. At one point Kable himself stares in wide eyed wonder as a flaming car flies through the air. (This is where all of the behind the scenes info we’ve been privy to since the beginning actually served me well. I appreciated what the actors went through just to get those shots on film.) The blood in these scenes splashes across a face and sometimes the camera so that you know it’s definitely not CGI, but neither is it lingered on. (There are a few shots of a more realistic type of gore but they are there for a reason, meant to give a character an object lesson.)
The “real” violence is as personal as Kable’s quest; up close and usually one on one as he tries to tear through the impediments in his path. Gerard Butler goes through the entire movie covered in dirt, blood, and sweat. He’s a very real, very human mess. As I said to a friend, I think he did a tremendous job of stringing together little moments into a complete performance; Kable/Tillman is a character not an action figure, even if the movie is a thrill ride.
Both “300” and “Gamer” were made by madmen; hyper-kinetic fan boys who walk the walk. Self-described adrenaline junkie Zack Snyder trained alongside his actors so he could get into the Spartan mindset with them. Former hockey player Mark Neveldine hung off the back of a moving truck on roller blades, a camera in his other hand, to get the shots he wanted.
Both Snyder and Neveldine/Taylor, each in their particular styles, have created images whose themes reflect the pop culture Zeitgeist. (Is “Turn me loose” the new “This is Sparta!”?) When asked repeatedly if his movie was a product of the current conflict in the Middle East, Snyder denied it and pointed to Frank Miller,who wrote the source material. In my opinion, if that’s what someone sees in that film, it says more about them than the movie. And that’s not a bad thing. “Gamer” has real social commentary underneath its hard exterior. It’s a cautionary tale aimed at its core audience with ripples that extend outward to contemporary society as a whole.
The consensus on Gamer right now is that there is no consensus. It’s polarizing. You either love it or you hate it. Some won’t be able to get past the idea of violence or maybe the shaky hand-held camera gives them a headache. Personally, I’m ready to buy another ticket and get back on the rollercoaster.