“ Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / To Be Announced / Director: John Badham / Actors: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, Barry Corbin ... / Blu-ray released 2013-01-07 at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment „
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I love this film, ever since I first saw it back in the mid 1980's. It was one of the earliest 'computer thriller' genre films, and although obviously very dated now it was pretty cutting edge for its day. The central focus of the film was a supercomputer, and themes such as a world wide network (pre-internet, pre-household pc obviously), hacking, computer coding etc are all in there. It is a film I have a lot of nostalgia for, but would my forty-something, jaded eyes still enjoy it as much as my teen self. We'll see....
A little bit of background first. WarGames was originally envisioned as a darker themed film, dealing as it does with nuclear issues (quite the contentious subject in the 80's, with CND and all) but the original director was fired and replaced with John Badham, who was happy to take it down a more family friendly route and inject it with a healthy dose of both humour and teen adventure. This was after the original director had fired the original writers, who were then re-hired after the original director was fired (try saying that fast). The film starred a young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, both soon to be members of that 80's John Hughes teen movie club. They actually do really well in those central roles, and the supporting cast is equally good, especially Dabney Coleman. Fashions and music age, but good performances never do.
The films plot revolves around an interesting theme of man vs computer; at the films beginning a soldier manning a missile silo is unable to press the button to launch the U.S nuclear missiles (it was a drill but he did not know that), so a computer expert is brought in to automate the process and take out the human element to make it safer. The nuclear arsenal is now computer controlled.
We then meet teenage computer whiz David (Broderick), who we know is a whizz as we see him changing his school grades on a computer, hanging around arcades, tinkering with (ancient) pc's etc. One of David's missions is to try and hack into a computer game company, but he mistakes another company for the one he wants, and they turn out be a defence contractor which he unknowingly hacks into. Thinking 'Global Thermonuclear War' is a new game, he challenges the computer to a game of it, causing the real world defence HQ to go into meltdown; luckily it was all a simulation, and David is taken to the HQ to question. He starts to realise the computer is still trying to win the game, but now in the real world, with real missiles...after much drama, the computer is finally stopped by its original creator, who the plucky teens have helped track down (he was supposedly dead).
I still love it. There a few things I noticed this time round as an adult I didn't originally notice, such as the theme of the film is that humans should be wary of giving total control to computers (this was pre-Terminator's Skynet by the way), yet it is Joshua, the supercomputer, who tells us that global thermonuclear war is unwinnable. Also, he is 'supercomputer' yet cannot distinguish between a simulation and the real world! I suppose you have to allow for artistic licence...it is still a very enjoyable film, still genuinely quite exciting towards the end as the countdown gets closer and closer to 0. It has dated, but that adds to the charm, seeing all that old computer tech just made me more nostalgic.
This blu-ray is excellent value for money. Really sharp picture and audio for a nearly 30 year old film, and some nice extras (though they have been on previous dvd releases I think). A really informative, chatty commentary track by Director John Badham and writers Walter Parkes /Lawrence Lasker, 'Loading Wargames', a fantastic retrospective documentary with interviews with all the main participants (director, actors, producers etc) and genuine insights, a hacker documentary, a tour of the actual Norad base where WarGames was based on, and a couple of trailers. Really good, value for money extras.
I would definitely recommend this film, and this blu-ray. It is not one of those films that seemed good at the time but no longer is, it still stands up as both a good piece of drama and as a historical curio.