The one moment from Gamer which stood out to me was the elevator scene, where Terry Crews’ character, Hackman, violently murders two people at the urging of “Gorge”, the person controlling Angie, as well as the chase sequence which follows (through the rave). It’s not a pretty scene. In fact, it is disturbing, which is why it perfectly illustrates an underlying theme of the film: dehumanization.
The widespread nature of technology has caused people throughout the film to be ok with things that an average person today would (I seriously hope) find horrifying. In the scene, two people die. These people are never given a chance to flee and are killed with no regard for them and for no reason. Remember, these are the avatars that are dying, not the people controlling them. In the chase scene which follows, Kable and Angie attempt to hide in a rave filled with more people, and more people get shot as the followers, in the employ of either Castle or the government, attempt to hit Kable. Let me repeat that each one of these people died while being controlled by someone else. This is no accident in terms of the film, either, as these are also unnecessary to the plot. These characters don’t matter to the story, so there should be no reason to bother with this. That’s what makes this even more important and impactful. The filmmakers deliberately used this standard action movie chase scene to highlight this aspect of the society. But that scene is not alone. The spectators of “Slayers”, the players of either “Slayers” or “Society”, or practically anyone else in this world couldn’t care less about those on the other side of the monitor. To the players, the controlled people are not human.
This relates to Martin Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology”, and his description of the idea of “standing-reserve”. Standing-reserve refers to something to be ordered and used. Heidegger initially attributes it to technology, but as technology advances, what technology is in relation to humanity is more difficult to define. In the case of this movie dystopia, technology has superseded humanity in a way. With some people as standing-reserve, they essentially lose their humanity. Heidegger also states “As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall.”
The reason this strikes a chord for me is that this dehumanizing of others is the result of technology. It doesn’t affect the players, nor does it affect the viewers. There is enough distance that it does not matter to them. They can shift their focus elsewhere. This bothers me because it sounds familiar. The internet has many positives, but its myriad of negatives include this sort of thing. The advent of widespread technology has resulted in it being a vehicle for such dehumanization.
Now, I don’t believe that the world will devolve into some sort of Death Race setting where “Slayers” is a celebrated event or even possible, but it does worry me that the current world shares societal similarities. But Gamer uses its narrative and its technology to demonstrate what that world would be like. And while the actual plot of Gamer may be clichéd, it is the perfect method for demonstrating this dystopia in all its glory, or lack thereof.
In terms of a film, I can’t really say I enjoyed Gamer. It was far from bad, as it delivered on its points quite clearly and perfectly. When the filmmakers wanted the viewer to feel uncomfortable, the film did so. When they wanted to demonstrate a point, the film did so. And these points are in fact worth discussing. Is it a movie that I will actively watch again? Probably not.