Saturday, September 05, 2009


Gamer is what happens when you give the two guys who made both Crank movies a bigger budget. It absolutely earns its R rating, which makes me happy; I was heartily sick of PG-13 horror and sci-fi movies. Plotwise it's Death Race and The Condemned and The Running Man and probably a double fistful of others rehashed (basically, any recent dystopian reality-TV satire), with the high-concept twist that video game nerds are controlling meat puppets, but everyone works hard to sell it, and there are some surprising faces (Milo Ventimiglia, Keith David, Zoe Bell) in small roles. Terry Crews makes a good nigh-indestructible antagonist, and Michael C. Hall is a fun psycho supervillain. Gerard Butler is no Jason Statham, of course.

Here's the thing, though: Why is the idea of using a real person as a puppet appealing? It's such a common SF trope, and I don't get it. (Of course, I don't play any video game more violent than Super Mario Brothers, either.) In Gamer, the teenager who operates Gerard Butler's character is barely sketched-in; we see that he's got an annoying little sister, and expository dialogue reveals he's got a mother and father, but basically he's just a faceless kid (not literally) who's really good at video games. At this point I'd much rather see a story that addresses the class issues so often elided in SF from the bottom up. Remember the famous William Gibson quote - "The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed"? There's been too much focus on the gleaming high-tech overclass in SF. I think the next big movement, if creators are smart, could be underclass stories. It's being done to some degree - Sleep Dealer arrives on DVD this coming Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to checking it out. And District 9 was a great example of how SF can explore poverty, and of course the labor perspective was intermittently represented on Battlestar: Galactica. But by a huge margin, the dominant perspective is like that offered in Charles Stross's Accelerando (which I'm getting close to finishing): the people who can't afford to upload their consciousnesses and become metahumans are seen as dead-weight, or antagonistic. But somebody worked on an assembly line to build all those spaceships and high-tech weapons, and I'd like to read their stories.

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