War Games Movie – If you’re old enough, as I am, to keep in mind the 1980s then you definitely recall how nuclear war seemed a very real threat. When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, the sensation of impending nuclear danger went away, but not before Hollywood had taken advantage of the feeling of dread and paranoia by making a plethora of films that dealt with either a real nuclear war or at least the threat of one. War Games is just one of these movies and although today it feels rather dated, particularly with its technology, it’s one of the finest examples of the genre.
War Games Movie
A young Matthew Broderick (in only his second film) stars as David, a Seattle teenager and hacker. Using his, quite primitive by today’s standards, home pc he is able to dial in through a telephone modem to his school and alter his grades and that of his soon-to-be girlfriend’s, Jennifer (Sheedy). It is only when he manages to hack in the NORAD defense pc and challenges into a game of Global Thermonuclear War that he causes a significant panic since the computer takes the sport seriously and plans on winning it even it means really launching the missiles.
The moral of this story is a great one (that the only way to acquire a nuclear war is by not having one) but, it dregs up that old theme that’s been around in literature and film for centuries and that is the fear of technologies. The WOPR computer is the contemporary Frankenstein, made by man and now to be the instrument of the destruction. While the home computer gear is of the moment, the WOPR itself is the substance of science-fiction. A computer able to think and reason and communicate via simple English was way ahead of 1983 technology and still beyond ours now. And to paraphrase, computers do not kill people, people kill people (unless I guess if a hefty one dropped on top of you).
All over the cast is excellent. Broderick starts his career as the quintessential 1980s adolescent (despite currently being in his 20s here) and future and he brat-packer Ally Sheedy are adorable together with their budding rated-G romance. Fellow go-to 1980s guy Dabney Coleman has a small but significant part as the guy in charge of the WOPR. The function of Dr. Stephen Falken, the inventor of the WOPR was originally written with John Lennon in mind (that shows how long this script was kicking around) and was subsequently supplied to Stephen Hawking, upon whom it had been partially based, but eventually went to British celebrity, John Wood, who would seem opposite Broderick again in Ladyhawke.
The movie moves along at a great clip and the tension builds through most of it since the military tries to decide whether or not they should retaliate or if they’re really even being attacked. And Broderick has to precede Richard Dean Anderson as a MacGyver kind personality able to escape from rooms using just a tape recorder and make telephone calls with a can’s pull-ring.
With its 80s fashions (gotId love these leg warmers on Ally Sheedy), arcade games and attitudes that this movie made me quite nostalgic. I loved the character of David at the time and wished to model myself after him. Of course all I could afford was a Commodore 64 and Ally Sheedy, or a look-a-like, never wanted to date me because of my abilities with it.
What’s most interesting about War Games is just how misunderstood computers games were. Broderick goes online and initiates a match with a computer that’s actually only a simulation of Russia and the United States having a nuclear warfare. Why does the computer try to actually retaliate? The initial words it says are, “Do you want to play a game?” It understands none of it is real.
This movie works better as a cold war time capsule than a tech one, since every decade comes with a movie with the computer in charge theme.
Produced during the Reagan years, War Games’s message is anti-nuclear warfare. The computer runs through all sorts of situations between different nations assaulting each other in the end, and concludes that the only way to win is not to begin one at the first location. AAWWHH, it is good to know that even way back then, Hollywood was pushing it is politics onto the general public. World War II ended because we fell nukes on Japan. India might benefit from nuking Pakistan. Palestine might gain from nuking Israel. Nuclear warfare is a scary thought, but this film is naive. Sometimes there are winners.
Eric, you phone this movie naïve however, your last paragraph seems incredibly naïve to me. The only real reason we won WWII by dropping nuclear bombs on Japan was because they did not have them yet. If the Nazis or some of their allies had had nuclear weapons that the outcome would have been quite different. Just how you think that it would be beneficial to any of those states you said to start a nuclear war with another nuclear armed nation is beyond me.
Now let’s get to the film. It is definitely a time capsule of the early 80s. It was amusing seeing David playing Galaga at the video arcade. The laundromat where I wash my clothing has an older Galaga game and I was just playing with it the other day while my clothes were drying. The computer technology is intriguing also. I concur that the fear of technology motif is a bit absurd as represented here.
I therefore agree that creating the personal computer the “bad guy” takes away from the realism of the film. It starts off over the realm of plausibility but eventually becomes Science Fiction. I mean c’mon, as advanced as this computer is did it really should play Tic Tac Toe to find out the futility of nuclear war?
I agree that Broderick and Sheedy are adorable together. Unfortunately they would both peak too soon concerning success and talent but in 1983 they were roughly as All-American as you could find.
War Games remains entertaining. The story moves along at a nice clip and the pressure mounts right up until the finish. It has unique characters to root for performed by a talented cast of familiar 1980s faces.