Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 2/10/00
1983 (1998) - MGM
review by Brad Pilcher of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
114 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided,
single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer,
audio commentary (with director John Badham and writers Lawrence
Lasker and Walter F. Parkes), film-themed menu screens, scene access
(32 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0),
subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned
"What you see on
these screens up here is a fantasy... a computer enhanced
Wargames was a film destined
to be popular with kids, depicting adults as bumbling idiots and
serving up witty and irreverent teen characters. That may be why
this movie remains such a nostalgic classic. But the film shouldn't
be discredited - it's got clever dialogue and a plot that is fun to
follow, even if it does come off as contrived beyond belief.
Basically, the United States puts its nuclear warheads under the
control of a central computer at NORAD. A computer geek, Matthew
Broderick, accidentally breaks into that central computer while
trying to find games to play. Broderick somehow starts up a
thermonuclear war simulation, sending NORAD into a panic, thinking
it's all real. From there, the computer goes on an ego trip and
tries to launch a real nuclear war... and Broderick has to work fast
to stop the end of the world.
Never mind that, despite its willingness to pay a million dollars
for a toilet seat, the Department of Defense would never hook such a
computer up to the public phone networks. Who cares if computers
were nowhere near this advanced in the early 1980's? The story is
just scary enough to get the audience to suspend its disbelief and
come along for the ride, and what a ride it is. We see Broderick
originate his grade-changing ways, which he would later use to great
effect in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
This movie is also slightly more realistic than modern films in its
hacking. Things like wardialers show up, as well as backdoor
passwords and other techniques that were used extensively before the
Internet got so huge.
The characters are, at times, stereotypes lacking much depth.
Luckily, they don't need too much depth for the story to putter
along, and the high school romance of Broderick and Ally Sheedy is
just that - a high school romance. It's shallow and it's overblown,
but what young love isn't? The message behind the movie is simple:
we can't always trust our machines. And it's mixed nicely with a
debunking of futility.
Technically speaking, I'm very impressed by this disc. It never
blows you away, but considering the film was 15 years old when this
disc was released, you have to be happy. Unfortunately, it lacks an
anamorphic transfer, but much of the print defects have been
removed. The theatrical trailer even looks nice, despite somewhat
more noticeable print defects, which are to be expected. The audio
is also nothing stellar, but is well done considering the source
materials. This movie was released in 1983 folks! All of the
advances in movie sound weren't here yet. Lucas was finishing up his
original Star Wars trilogy at
this point, so you shouldn't be expecting sound on the level of more
modern films. But what you get is a solid sound experience in a
strong 5.1 remix.
The extras are also nice, if nothing too spectacular. A theatrical
trailer, circa 1983, is included and is a nice touch. It's also in
the right aspect ratio, which is something I worried about
considering the era. I remember opening up Tron
and seeing a cropped trailer with abysmal video quality. This
trailer left me smiling. There's also a very nice commentary track.
Director John Badham joins writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F.
Parkes to comment on much of the movie. It's striking how much these
guys remember the technical aspects of the subject matter, and it's
interesting to hear them talk about an era of computing so many of
us completely missed.
Before hackers were a panic on early-90's newscasts, and before the
Internet was even called the Internet, Wargames
depicted computers as cool and hacking as intrigue. In so many ways,
this film was years ahead of its time, but it still remained true to
the time it was made in. That's a nice balance to strike, and a pre-Ferris
Broderick is never something to miss. If you want to wax nostalgic,
be it about computers or just the 80's, then pick up
Wargames very quickly.