Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Mention the word “Rockstar” and the word “controversy” is not far behind but when it comes to the BBC’s latest docudrama, the controversy is coming from Rockstar’s court for once rather than surrounding them. The Gamechangers is a dramatic retelling of the controversy encircling Rockstar during the making and release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and whether it be the choice of Daniel Radcliffe as the star or the BBC’s artistic license, Rockstar is not happy. While I am not a huge Rockstar fan, I do feel very passionate about the “video games cause violence” debate and of course that’s the fuel to the BBC’s stolen car of a story. Having said that, I do have faith in the BBC, so that’s why this week I’ve decided to take an unbiased look at The Gamechangers.
I have to be honest, right from the get go I tended to err on the side of Rockstar, the BBC didn’t have the permission to tell the story and they had chosen Daniel Radcliffe to star. Now while Daniel Radcliffe is a fine actor, no matter how hard he tries, he is always going to be Harry Potter. It’s the role he was born to play, the one and ONLY role he was born to play. After actually watching The Gamechangers my opinion has not changed, while he does a fine job, he is Harry, no matter how many “accio beardus” spells he casts. The same can be said of the rest of the cast, everyone does a find job, nothing more, nothing less.
As far as the storytelling goes, I’m a big recycler so “fine” is the word that’s coming to mind again. Terrible American television recreations aside, it was like any other docudrama that you have no interest in, you wouldn’t go out of your way to watch it but if nothing better was on then you would give it a shot. For example, there is some terribly forced dialogue in which Daniel Radcliffe says “come on little brother” so the audience is given the chance to tell the two bald white men apart. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t work and by the end I just gave up trying to differentiate the two and just thought of them as the bald ones. On the other had there is some very clever time period clues, like this Street Shark in the background of one shot that screams early 2000s. Are you listening Boyhood? That is how you acknowledge the year, use a cool prop that the audience has to find for themselves, don’t hover over an old mp3 for what seems like twelve years. Before I go, I must get a mention of the film’s ending in, the scene where Daniel Radcliffe swaps from his reality to the reminiscent blocky 3D world of 2004 is very impressive.
While the setting is very impressive, the characters on the other hand feel a bit off. Everyone at Rockstar is too BBC in their talk about video game violence, crime and sex and the balance between video game nerds and American culture obsessives feels a bit off. No matter how hard I try, I don’t think I could explain this oddity better than former marketer for the games, Brian Baglow who in his rage tweeted this;Angry tweets are a lot of fun aren’t they, if you want another one, here’s what Rockstar had to say after the airing;
The most impressive aspect of The Gamechangers is how unbiased the BBC is when it comes to the violence in video games debate. Throughout the hour and a half, the hero and villain roles kept being reversed. First Rockstar were held up as gods for their revolutionary video game, then it quickly changed to a scene where San Andreas was made out to be responsible for turning a teenager violent. Then we’d jump back to Rockstar and they were being attacked for something they didn’t do and making some very clear arguments against video games influence on violent crimes and on it went. Sam Houser (Daniel Radcliffe), the head of Rockstar and Jack Thompson (Bill Paxton), the attorney responsible for the lawsuits against Rockstar would alternate between victim and villain from beginning to end. This made me think of the days were my “English” teachers would try and tell me that the BBC and ABC are the most unbiased sources in the media and while that is not completely true, The Gamechangers is some very strong evidence in the BBC’s favour. As an audience member it is very refreshing to be able to make up your own mind, rather than to have an agenda force down your throat. Alright, I do realise the irony of that statement and as a gamer myself I tend to fall on the side of Rockstar but I think if you are even reading this you understand that video games are not designed as a sleeper agent’s killer manual. If you are reading this from the other side than why you mad bro?
In summary (that high school English is seeping through again), The Gamechangers is nothing special and more than anything I think a big deal has been made out of nothing, Rockstar should just calm their tits. The only people that will truly enjoy this will be the people in the middle. Rockstar fanboys and fangirls will hate this and I think similarly, conservative video game protesters will want to rage quit The Gamechangers. Hey, why not get the two together to watch this and we might finally find peace. So if it’s GTA you want then go and play GTA V and if it’s Fox News you want then go and turn on Bill O’Reilly but leave The Gamechangers where it belongs in the annals of docudramas past.
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