Movie review: “Wargames: The Dead Code”

We were in luck: a brand-new movie was on the shelf at the local DVD rental!

WarGames: The Dead Code (see trailer on YouTube) is the sequel to the 1983 sci fi film WarGames (see trailer on YouTube). The 2008 film was written by Randall Badat and directed by Stuart Gillard.

The plot of the sequel is so similar to the previous movie, that I felt the sequel was almost like a rewriting of the original movie, basing it in the early 21st century, and updating it to fit in with current computer technologies and to take into account the new big threat to world civilisation: the ‘global war on terrorism’.

In 1983, David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) played a game called Global Thermonuclear War against a military artificial intelligence computer called Joshua or W.O.P.R. (War Operation Plan Response). His sidekick is a pretty girl called Jennifer Mack (Ally Sheedy). All in the spirit of the game, they ‘launch’ Soviet missiles in the direction of the United States and send off a whole host of submarines. What they don’t realise at first is that their activities are being observed with an increasing sense of panic by NORAD (North American Aerospace Defence Command), which is convinced that this is not a simulation but real.

After escaping from the FBI who has captured Lightman, he and his girlfriend track down the creator of Joshua, one Professor Stephen Falken. They enlist his help in persuading WOPR to stop playing the game by tricking it into playing tic-tac-toe against itself, thus learning that it is an unwinnable game. WOPR applies this same logic to global thermonuclear war, going through all available options until it comes to the conclusion that the only outcome is total annihilation. As this runs counter to its most basic premise (to stay alive), Joshua shuts down, stating,

“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

25 years later, Will Farmer (Matt Lanter) is the computer hacker whizkid; his sidekick Annie is played by cutesy Amanda Walsh, and his best friend and fellow wargamer Dennis is played by Nicholas Wright. Farmer gets into trouble with the authorities by entering an online simulation wargame called ‘The Dead Code’ which is about terrorists launching a biochemical terror attack on the United States. His activities on the internet are monitored by a military AI supercomputer called R.I.P.L.E.Y., which runs these simulation wargames in order to identify, track down and destroy possible terror suspects across the world. You can guess where it’s going.

All in all, pretty good. But I actually thought that the original movie had been more nailbiting, despite the old-fashioned computers (although they were pretty awesome in those days of dual-boot floppy drives and miniscule monitors!).

If you want to see a couple of snippets from the 1983 movie (but rather go and see the original!):

  • Scene where David and Jennifer start playing the game: YouTube
  • Scene where Joshua plays tic-tac-toe against itself: YouTube

I’m definitely going to try to see the original WarGames again.


Other movies we’ve watched in June: 

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