Tuesday, August 31, 2010

War Games

The other day I was playing tic-tac-toe with Elliot and got the urge to watch War Games.  I don't know if this really launched Matthew Broderick's career, but it certainly gave it a boost.  The movie was huge when it was released in 1983, and it remains relevant and compelling today.
The story involves a military computer that runs war simulations.  It takes on a mind of its own and the U.S. military starts to believe the simulations are real, and the computer wants to initiate a launch of nuclear missles.  All of that was triggered by David (Broderick) hacking into computers looking for a video game company.  On David's shoulders rests the task of saving the world.  The technology is terribly dated, as you would expect; there have been tremendous changes in computer in the last 27 years.  But War Games broke new ground in its potrayal of the hacker culture.

I thought I would watch it with my kids.  I'm glad I didn't.  Even thought it stars a teen heartthrob of the day, it's really a movie for teens and adults.  The language and a few of the references deem it unsuitable for my kids.

Remember the scene where, in biology class, Broderick suggests that the origin of asexual reproduction came from the teacher's wife?  In my memory, I had pictured that in Ferris Beuler's Day Off, but it's actually in War Games.  Right actor, wrong character. 
The WOPR.  This was made of wood, painted to look like metal.
A special effects guy sat inside, controlling the display with an Apple II computer.

One other thing I didn't remember: In the first scene we see a shift change at a missle silo.  In the corridor outside the control room, we see a sign that says, "Anyone urinating in this area will be discharged."  Is that sign really found in military installations?  Is it necessary?  Has anyone ever been discharged for that offense?  Just wondering. . . .

This is a great movie.  I am biased because I saw it and loved it at an impressionable age, but I dare say it's a bona fide classic.

Bottom line, 3 1/2 stars.

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