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Set in the near future, a time when mind-control technology has taken society by storm. Humans control other humans in a mass-scale, multiplayer online game. Reclusive billionaire Ken Castle has created the controversial form of entertainment, "Slayers," a hugely popular game that allows millions to act out their innermost desires and fantasies -- online -- in front of a global audience. Gaming has evolved into a terrifying new dimension- mind control-manipulation-people playing people. At the center is Kable, the superstar and cult hero of "Slayers," the savage, ultra-violent first person shooter game. Kable is controlled by Simon, a young gamer with rock star status who continues to defy all odds by guiding Kable to victory each week. Taken from his family, imprisoned and forced to fight against his will, the modern day gladiator must survive long enough to escape the game to free his family, regain his identity and to save mankind from Castle's ruthless technology.
For more about Gamer 3D and the Gamer 3D Blu-ray release, see Gamer 3D Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 29, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Gerard Butler, Amber Valletta, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, Aaron Yoo, Logan Lerman
Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
» See full cast & crew
Gamer 3D Blu-ray Review
"Game Over" indeed.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 29, 2013
The worlds of film and videogames seem more inextricably linked than ever, what with cross platform releases that typically sees videogames based on films but which of course has included films based on videogames. Even auxiliary aspects like the technology used to either view films and/or play videogames has become homogenized, for at least some Blu-ray aficionados prefer Sony's PlayStation 3 (soon to be 4) as their "all in one" system to handle both types of entertainment (this is not—repeat not—a "paid advertisement" or endorsement, simply a statement of fact). There have been a glut of high profile films that have either outright exploited the world of videogames (Tron, Tron: Legacy 3D) or at the very least alluded to a videogame ethos in either plot or references to an all encompassing alternate reality (The Matrix and its sequels), so that's perhaps one reason why Gamer might seem a bit old hat. But there are probably even other reasons involved for the déjà vu feeling hovering around large swaths of the film. Gamer takes "a little this-a, a little that-a" approach in terms of borrowing any number of elements from previous properties, including films as disparate as The Running Man to Battle Royale to Death Race to The Condemned, not to mention a processed green screen look that often plays like a souped up, contemporary version of 300 (not so coincidentally starring Gerard Butler, also the hero in Gamer). This isn't to say there isn't entertainment value to be had in Gamer, for there certainly is, but it's an ersatz sort of engagement that may leave some yearning for the originals rather than this often faded copy.
Gamer posits a world where videogames and television have become interchangeable (aren't we there already?), with a tycoon named Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall, Dexter) having cashed in on the trend first with a game/show called Society and, later, another outing called Slayers. Castle's great innovation was his invention of nanites, miniature computers which are implanted in various peoples' brains so that they can be controlled by players. What this means is that the games (shows) feature real life people engaging in activities that are being controlled by external players. While Society tended to traffic in hedonism, with lots of outrageous sex and other illicit behaviors, Slayers upped the ante considerably into more violent life or death fare by making the participants death row inmates who have a chance to win their freedom if they can survive thirty rounds of intense battle scenarios. The only participant to make it very far is Kable (Gerard Butler), a man with a past (could it be otherwise?) who is within a handful of wins before he'll finally be set free, hopefully to reunite with his wife (who has been reduced to participating in Society as a sex toy) and daughter, who has been given up for (forced) adoption. Kable has become a sort of Everyman celebrity courtesy of his "appearances" in Slayers, something that worries the powers that be, especially as Kable gets closer and closer to his ultimate goal.
Playing into this "condemned man attempting to win his freedom by killing people in a videogame" scenario are several other simultaneous arcs, including a suspicious television host (Kyra Sedgwick) who is out to expose Castle for what she believes is nefarious activity, as well as a counterinsurgency to Castle's empire known as Humanz, with a hacker (Ludacris) who regularly shows up to interrupt the scheduled program as well as to interact with Kable's controller, a nerdy kid named Simon (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Kable ultimately breaks free of the game and attempts to wreak havoc on Castle, especially after he learns that the reason he was imprisoned in the first place is intimately connected with Castle's mind control technology.
While the fundamentals of Gamer are sound, if pretty cliché ridden by this time, the film's execution (no pun intended considering the copious body count) is pretty haphazard. Co-writers and co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (the Crank franchise) don't trust their storytelling enough to let it unspool without a lot of visual gimmickry. The film is a nonstop assault of quick cuts, reducing so-called "montage theory" to something akin to "salad shooter theory". The two also favor whip pans and "jiggly cam" antics to the point where some viewers may want to arm themselves with Dramamine before diving into the proceedings. A lot of the dialogue here is pretty risible as well, leaving the film to rise or fall on its action elements. While the battle scenes are viscerally exciting, they, too, are hobbled by Neveldine/Taylor's (their preferred billing) penchant for unending edits that never allow the viewer to properly orient themselves. What remains is a noisy jumble that may involve those with attention deficit disorder but which never really rises to spectacular heights.
Gamer 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Gamer 3D is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with both MVC (3D) and AVC (2D) encoded 1080p transfers in 1.73:1. I'm a bit at a loss as to how to properly explain the odd 1.73:1 aspect ratio, not just because both transfers display in 1.78:1 (something that readily happens due to overscan) but also because the first Blu-ray release of Gamer featured a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This may have something to do with the side by side 2D/3D presentations, but I've personally never seen anything quite like this before. (Our screencapture process takes an absolute 1:1 screenshot which reproduces actual aspect ratio, irrespective of how it's ultimately displayed.) All of this said, the 2D presentation retains a nicely sharp and well defined look that offers excellent fine object detail even within an aggressively color graded environment and with contrast tweaked just as aggressively. This digitally shot feature offers the clean, relatively textureless, appearance that is a hallmark of the Red One camera, but offsetting that aspect are some vividly saturated colors and commendable amounts of shadow detail. Some of the contrast has been pushed to the point where the entire image is kind of fuzzily soft due to glowing whites, but generally speaking this is a stellar video presentation.
Things don't fare quite as well with the repurposed 3D conversion. While there's decent enough depth offered throughout this post conversion, what really hobbles the dimensionality is co-director Neveldine/Taylor's penchant for insanely quick cutting and rapid camera movements, many with the ever popular "jiggly cam" look, all of which deprives the image of depth if for no other reason than shots aren't held long enough to really establish things properly. The best scenes here are the brighter lit sequences, notably the Society segments, where foreground objects are clearly separated from the background elements. The dark sequences, which unfortunately include most of the battle scenes, tend to suffer, as there simply isn't enough light to generate a sense of dimensionality.
Gamer 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Gamer 3D's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is everything that the film itself isn't: involving, immersive, bombastic and totally satisfying. While a lot of this track is excessively busy, with whiz bang foley effects careening through the surrounds to really astounding levels at times, nothing ever sounds crowded and prioritization is very smartly handled. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the most effective surround activity comes in some of the more relatively quiet sequences, including some of Kable's scenes in his jail cell, where the oppressive muffled sounds of the prison poke through the side and rear channels. LFE is really impressive throughout this feature, most obviously in the really floorboard shaking battle scenes where nonstop barrages of gunfire and explosions almost punch at the listener with air pressure changing force. Dialogue is very cleanly presented and is quite directional some of the time. Dynamic range is extremely wide throughout the film.
Gamer 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
THe first release of Gamer came jam packed with supplements, only one of which has been ported over to this release:
Gamer 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Gamer 3D is all style and no substance, and unfortunately that style is so discombobulating so much of the time that it's frequently more annoying than anything. The film has the kernel of a good idea, albeit one that's been done to death already, but with nonstop quick cutting, ridiculous dialogue and absolutely no character development whatsoever, there's not a lot here other than sound and fury signifying nothing, or next to nothing. The post conversion 3D is okay, but certainly not spectacular enough to warrant double dipping on an already questionable title.
Gamer: Other Editions
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Gamer 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Gamer 3D Blu-ray - February 11, 2013
Lionsgate Films have officially announced and detailed their upcoming 3D Blu-ray release of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's Gamer (2009), starring Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, and Ludacris. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores ...
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