MOVIE REVIEW | War Games (1983)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s one of the rare occasions when I think a remake might actually be a good idea.”

War 1.jpg
“Goddammit, I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it’d do any good!”

Movies for tweens and a little older are massive business these days.  Every studio is looking for the next YA series of novels to adapt for the big screen so they can makes Hunger Games money.  And to my out of touch eyes, based purely on their trailers, they all look the same.  It’s some sort of dystopian future or alternate universe, and some normal teenager discovers that they’re not so normal after all.  In the 80s, the word “tween” didn’t exist, not every movie was trying to be a franchise builder and teen adventures were based in more of a reality.  Sure, The Goonies was about kids dodging booby traps to find buried pirate treasure, but it was also about kids from working class families trying to save their homes from bank foreclosure.  And in 1983, even the potential nuclear holocaust was kids’ movie fodder, with War Games.

Thanks to Ronald Regan’s presidency, communist fear is peaking again.  When 22% of nuclear weapon launch officers fail to pull the trigger in a secret test, the powers that be decide humans can’t be trusted with the job anymore.  So they decide to build a computer that will push the button, with no worry of pesky emotions getting in the way.

Meanwhile in the quiet suburbs, David (Matthew Broderick) is a slacker in the classroom, but a wiz on the computer in his bedroom.  After using his hacking skills to impress local girl next door Jennifer (Ally Sheedy) by changing their failing grades so they both can avoid summer school, he decides to hack into a computer game company so he can play their upcoming, new games.  Only, he has mistakenly hacked into the Government’s NORAD computer, the computer newly responsible for launching a nuclear counter attack against the Russians if it should ever come to that.  While David thinks he’s playing a game, the NORAD computer and government think the attack is real.

It’s amazing to me that the red menace and perceived threat of nuclear attack was so front and centre in 1983, that it seems like a good premise for a teen adventure flick.  And it didn’t just seem like a good premise, it proved to be a great one.  I was only three when War Games came out, too young to know about it then.  But it spent so much of my childhood and early teen tears as a TV staple, that I feel like most people my age grew up with it.

In this day and age of constant remakes and reboots, I can’t believe War Games hasn’t been updated for the 21st century.  And it’s one of the rare occasions when I think a remake might actually be a good idea.  I really love this version, but so much has changed in the years since that is specifically related to this movie that could make an update amazing.
War 2
In 1983, home computers were only for the biggest nerds and personal modems were almost non existent.  Now, the Internet, and access to it, run most of our lives.  There’s more information and it’s more accessible than anyone ever thought possible even 10 years ago, and we live an age where a country with nuclear capabilities can almost bring down a movie studio just because they can’t take a joke.  C’mon Hollywood, for once remake a movie that could benefit from it.

War Games
Directed By – John Badham
Written By – Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about War Games?
Roger Ebert
The New York Times
Gareth Rhodes

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