War Games


WarGames was one of those movies that you probably haven't forgotten if you were a pre-teen or teenager in the early 80's. Even though WarGames is usually available somewhere on American cable TV, watching the original cut on DVD is definitely preferred. The opening sequence with Michael Madsen and the recently departed John Spencer sets the tone for a technological thriller set during the nuclear era of the Cold War. "Sir, we are at launch. Turn your key!"

David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) is a teenager with an interest in computers, specifically changing his school grades and playing games. While war-dialing, he stumbles upon a system he assumes to be hosted by a software company. Unknown to David as he runs a "game" called "Global Thermonuclear War", the system actually belongs to the United States Department of Defense and he has just launched a simulation that threatens to launch an actual nuclear attack. Along with his friend Jennifer (Ally Sheedy), David seeks out and finds the simulator's creator, Professor Falken (John Wood) in an attempt to stop what would be the beginning of World War III.

The storyline of WarGames may now be considered predictable, but when I saw it in its initial theater release, it was quite engrossing. Looking now at the technical aspects of the movie, it's still fun to watch for nostalgia; the handset-cradle modem, monochrome displays, and even finding the school computer system's password written down inside a desk drawer... pretty cool stuff to remember having or doing as a kid. Something else to note is that most of David's research on the system didn't involve his computer, Google, or the internet (this was 1983, remember?). He went to A LIBRARY and used 31337 tools such as the card catalog system and microfiche!

The single most annoying aspect of the movie, at least to me, has always been the freaking voice simulator used for "Joshua", the mainframe that is threatening to launch the nuclear attack. Was kinda cool when I was 13, but getting that voice out of my head has plagued me since then. However, it is a necessary part of the movie since it helps humanize "Joshua", who is treated by many of the movie's characters as a semi-living thing.

Other notable cast appearances include Dabney Coleman as McKittrick and Barry Corbin as General Beringer. Both actors' portrayals of hard-nosed DoD personnel are fun to watch, especially Corbin, who slings around phrases such as "get the ICBMs in the bullpen warmed up and ready to fly". The NORAD operations center also seemed believable enough, but always a little smokey. Makes me wonder if military personnel could smoke in the NOCs in '83. ;)

DVD Liner Notes:
Original Screenplay nominated for Academy Award, 1984

For the early scene with Lightman playing the video game Galaga, the studio had Galaga and Galaxian machines delivered to Matthew Broderick's home so he could practice.

The NORAD war room computer depicted in the film was actually... film. Shot frame by frame with colored filters and then rear-projected.

Lyger's Rating: 4

Lyger's Guide:

1 = mafiaboy (raw ass)
2 = Pauly Shore (hey, I liked Encino Man..)
3 = Japanese wrestling (fun to watch for a couple hours)
4 = Mitnick's nipples (whoo-hoo)
5 = OMFG RAWR (you buy it, watch it repeatedly, and sleep with it under your pillow)


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