The Year of Living Remotely

Between The Surrogates, Gamer, and now what’s being touted as James Cameron’s masterpiece, Avatar, this has been a year for pop culture promotion of proxy precepts…

OK, that was maybe a bit too alliterative for its own good. But I find it intriguing that such a robust theme is running through mainstream pop culture, and at the same time that the implications and consequences of surrogate warfare are being served up in daily doses of current affairs. Think coerced and unwitting suicide bombers, private military and security contractors, reliance on local militias in Iraq and Afghanistan. Think robotics in war, remote battlefield participation via drones and mechanoid substitutes for flesh and bone combat. You get the picture.

Trailers have been hard to come by so far (see the Visual Stream section here at CTlab for a couple of tasters pulled from YouTube). Michael Conroy, on the 15 minute 3D trailer that previewed in theatres on 21 August, writes:

The clips flitted from a battle command room, to a frantic forest chase scene, to lush magical glades and soaring, floating mountains between which dragons soared majestically in their hundreds. It’s impossible to describe in words the sheer beauty of Cameron’s realisation of his hybrid world of science fiction and fantasy, but as you observe the sheer scale, magnificence and care that has gone into the creatures and settings, you realise you’re experiencing a perfect moment of fantasy indulgence. You realise that yes, this is what science fiction and fantasy should look like. You may have had the same feeling when you first saw a lightsabre drawn, or those wondrous first moments of magic in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Cameron’s boyhood fascination with fiction really shows, but to me the world feels like some sort of beautiful merging of The Legend of Zelda, Halo and Bioshock. I was utterly awestruck by the majesty of the world presented, for the first time since Peter Jacksons’ interpretation of The Lord Of The Rings.

Interesting, too, that these are all science fiction movies. A cathartic genre?

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One thought on “The Year of Living Remotely

  1. I don’t find this trend all that surprising, to me it’s the extension of video gaming into the realm of movies. Gaming is entirely about avatars and the virtual experience, be it a war game or an exploration/sci-fi one. That Hollywood is finally getting on board this trend, to me, is more about the places you find gamers in society today, or at least the realisation on the part of Hollywood marketers that gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry in and of itself. These kinds of movies are interesting, but they also remind me of a shift in film earlier in the decade, in particular, the German film, "Run, Lola, Run." Lola’s boyfriend had mob problems, and she needed to find money to save his life. The film offered the viewer, I think, 4 different alternatives/outcomes, some where she was successful in saving him, some where she was not. I saw this film as replicating the gaming experience, where the outcome depends on which moves your character makes. Of course, this can be extrapolated to the real world, which is kind of what the point was of the British film, "Sliding Doors." But video games are increasingly created to mirror the real world in a virtual one, something you seem to note, Mike, with your last sentence about reading about violence in Second Life. All these avatarish, proxy film representations reflect the mainstreaming of gamer culture.

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