Our obsession with an apocalyptic ending to human life has been a recurring theme in narrative, stretching from pre-biblical epics to modern film’s frequent portrayal of disastrous events that destroy humanity forever. We spend the entirety of our life existing, making our inevitable death equally fascinating and frightening. Looking towards religion, or some other form of narrative, as Kermode suggests, comforts humanity in giving life a sort of significance that transcends our day-to-day existence.
The film, Gamer, provides both an apocalyptic setting consistent with the writings of Kermode, and a demonstration of humanity’s fixation on this armageddon. In Gamer, economic downturn forces the American government to accept bailout from celebrity scientist/game maker Ken Castle in the form of the game ‘Slayers’. Accepting bail from a radical billionaire such as Castle certainly suggests fallout in the global economy. Additionally, the willingness of the people to forfeit bodily control and subsequently subject themselves to humiliation in return for a paycheck in ‘Society’, illustrates that 2024 (year the film takes place) is perhaps the darkest moment in human existence so far.
One specific moment that resonated with me in the film occurs following Kable’s first battle (that we see, really 27th). Other soldiers are attempting to converse with Kable about the just finished battle. When a soldier comments on the speed with which Kable reaches the save point, another, clearly anguished, soldier interjects, “So the fuck what? No one’s getting out of here alive!” Here, this soldier displays a more extreme example of the same fate given to every human, in the end no one survives. The soldiers in ‘Slayers’ exist in an apocalyptic world.Throughout the battle scenes in the film, quick, jumping camera cuts, dark lighting, and loud explosions and gunfire contribute to this feeling of hopelessness. Each soldier chases the same virtually unattainable goal, salvation. These human players are sentenced to spend the remainder of their lives in a state of uncertainty, engaging in meaningless combat for the chance to be set free. Faced with their impending death, they literally have no choice but to fight in a series of battles under the control of an unknown gamer. While perhaps not a direct metaphor, parallels with religion, and Kermode’s view on it, clearly exist here. Just as religion seeks to provide meaning for our time living on earth, ‘Slayers’ gives inmates a reason or motivation for the remainder of their time. Like us, the soldiers always reside in a moment of crisis, fighting for a salvation that they cannot be sure that they will attain, or that it even exists.
Humanity has long focused much of its energy on the end of the world. Whether this obsession stems from a primal fear of death or a natural curiosity for things we have not seen, it is apparent that the end of life captures our attention in a way that few other events can replicate. In The End Kermode acknowledges this fascination: “They fear [death], and as far as we can see have always done so” (pg. 7). Just as Gamer includes apocalyptic elements, so too does it capture the public fixation on death and the apocalypse. The panning shots of massive crowds watching the game around the world, along with the repeated displaying of billboard type advertisements that illustrate the celebrity status of both Kable and Silverman (the gamer controlling him), demonstrate that the public not only follows ‘Slayers’, but are emotionally invested in the outcome and consider themselves fans of certain players. Additionally, the suggested difference in popularity between ‘Society’ and ‘Slayers’ shows us that even in the “virtual” world, death and apocalypse pique human interest more so than socializing and even sexuality.
Overall, Gamer, though perhaps not intended as a film for deep analysis, does hold weight symbolically in showing apocalyptic imagery and human obsession with death in the same vein as Kermode’s discourse The End.