Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Movie: The Gamers: Hands of Fate (2013)

The main thing I want to convey is that you can watch this movie for free if you act quickly. And you should. But first ...

Full Disclosure #1: I’ve got history with the primary mover and shaker behind it, co-writer/co-director Matt Vancil. We put in time in the videogame salt mines together. So believe me when I say Vancil is one of the funniest people I know. I’m also friends with several members of the cast.

Full Disclosure #2: I backed the movie on Kickstarter, where it was, for a time, the most funded feature film in the website’s history. What wrested the title from it? A stop-motion project written by Academy Award winner Charlie Kaufman and produced by Community creator Dan Harmon. Which, in turn, has been supplanted by Spike Lee, Zach Braff and Veronica Mars. So believe me when I say Vancil and his colleagues at Dead Gentlemen and Zombie Orpheus were crowdfunding when it meant something, dammit.

Hands of Fate is a romantic fantasy adventure comedy that takes the Gamers characters from the realm of RPGs (role-playing games) into that of CCGs (collectible card games). Speaking of which, this would be a good time for ...

Full Disclosure #3: I’m not a gamer. At all. I had to look those terms up. I had no inkling of how Dungeons & Dragons even worked until I saw 2008’s The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. After watching these movies, I have zero interest in ever playing games of either the RP or CC variety. But that lack of knowledge didn’t diminish my enjoyment one iota, because what the film has in spades – and what it’s fundamentally about – is passion. Recently, I was sitting in a minor-league ballpark in Tacoma having an intense conversation about how defensive baseball metrics like UZR are unreliable and the now-critical stat Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is dependent on the performance of a non-standardized hypothetical athlete. Everybody’s got their something where (almost) nobody knows what the hell they’re talking about. In my case, I have several. (See: film noir, crime fiction, cocktails, the aforementioned baseball ...)

Bringing me to the first thing I love about the movie: its refusal to water down its content. It’s aimed squarely at the hardcore gaming community, larded with jokes that only the cognoscenti will cognoscent. But Vancil and his cohorts trust that in making the details of their subject specific, the underlying emotions will become universal. Plus there’s the added anthropological benefit of translating the lingo; early on, Rosemarie said, “I feel like I’m watching a movie in Lithuanian.” And she liked it more than me.

I also love its ambition. The Gamers: Hands of Fate develops characters from previous films and unfolds in worlds real and imagined that frequently collide. At times it’s overly ambitious; there are clunky subplots and complicated ideas introduced without sufficient set-up. (An extended edition is in the works.) But for its occasional stumbles the movie brims with enthusiasm for the notions it plays with, and sets up tantalizing possibilities for future installments.

Above all, I love its humor. I said Vancil was funny. At its core, the movie is about a guy who falls for a girl, immerses himself in her favorite thing, and gets more than he bargained for. Including an army of the undead. What’s not to love?

The Gamers: Hands of Fate is streaming in its entirety for free via YouTube through Saturday, August 31, after which it will be available for a pittance. It’s a holiday weekend. You’ve got time.