WarGames: Still Alive

04-Oct-08 10:53 AM by
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There is sometimes little difference between "sequel" and "remake". Teen Wolf 2 and Evil Dead 2 are examples of films with plots that changed little from the original, regardless of differences in context or quality. Such movies often suggest a disrespectful grab for more money based on an unexpected hit; rarely do these sequels offer anything new to please fans who want more, but not more of the same.

After watching the trailer for WarGames 2, I figured this straight-to-DVD sequel to be another such retread. For the most part, I was right: after playing an online game, a high school student is mistakenly targeted by the government as a security risk, overlooking the computer that aims to kill millions. Oh, sure, some of the details have been changed. RIPLEY (the sequel's version of the 1983 artificial intelligence Joshua) does not seem mistaken about reality vs. fantasy; "she" (as her developers constantly refer to her) seems to be doing exactly what she was programmed to. She also has access to, and control of, almost any electronic resource, including from security cameras and traffic lights to unmanned planes and orbiting satellites, and will use them for what she deems the betterment of mankind. In these regards, she is more akin to Forbin's Colossus than the malicious Skynet or malfunctioning HAL. Little else of interest plays itself out in the first hour, which follows the WarGames formula with little originality or innovation.

Shall we play a game?: RIPLEY's suite of games is eerily familiar, with one notable addition.

Shall we play a game?: RIPLEY's suite of games is amusingly familiar, with one notable addition.

It's only in the last third of the film that the superficial references to the 25-year-old predecessor that The Dead Code finally reveals itself as a full-blown homage to the Eighties. This is not WarGames: The Next Generation — no actors appear in both films, and no one is revealed to be David Lightman Jr. What we end up with is a celebration of history that will make retrocomputing hobbyists jump for joy. It's like watching the first three seasons of Enterprise only to see the show remember its roots and pay tribute to its legacy in the fourth season. I actually found myself cheering for Dead Code protagonists, suggesting an emotional involvement that's rarely evoked by big-budget Hollywood films. I was almost sorry to see it end.

WarGames 2 has some consistent failings: for example, it should be grateful this review is not part of the "Security Goes to the Movies" series, as artistic license resulted in plenty of silly technological foibles. At least the actors, young and old, do their best with a corny script. All that said, the best reason to see this movie is if you're a fan of the Matthew Broderick original. In the game of trying to best that unbeatable cult hit, The Dead Code finds its groove in conceding: the only winning move is not to play.

Shall We Play a Game?

02-Jul-08 5:00 PM by
Filed under Films; 7 comments.

In 1983, personal computers were in an exciting infancy. The Apple II, Commodore 64, TRS-80, and more made for a diverse digital landscape in which to explore, create — and hack. We didn't know what "security" meant other than simple passwords, and the necessity of direct connections in that pre-Internet era exposed many vulnerable machines.

A quarter-century later, networking and security have evolved barely beyond recognition of those early days. But this July 24th, you can journey back to a simpler time with the 25th anniversary of a seminal geek classic:

WarGames 25th anniversary event

According to the Web site for the WarGames 25th anniversary event (which also gives a film synopsis — for all three of you who haven't seen WarGames yet), "The event will include never-before-seen interviews with cast and crew on how the movie was ahead of its time and its relevance today." Just as when Star Trek: TOS returned to theaters this past November, WarGames is a one-night, one-time-only engagement — one that happens to coincide with KansasFest, the only remaining Apple II convention. So I'll be seeing this film with folk who actually remember the days of the acoustic coupler and won't need to go far to research how accurate this film is!

But every silver lining has its cloud: this celebration will include a preview of the sequel, coming to DVD a week later.