Film (1983). Sherwood Productions/MGM/UA. Directed by John Badham. Written by Lawrence Lasker, Walter F Parkes. Cast includes Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, Barry Corbin, Ally Sheedy and John Wood. 113 minutes. Colour.
Teenager David (Broderick) attempts to use his computer to hack into the programs of a Computer Games manufacturer. Accidentally – after a week's research from which he deduces a secret password that will give him access to the system – he breaks into WOPR, the giant Department of Defense computer with which the American defense forces will, if necessary, direct the operations of World War Three. Unable to distinguish between game theory and real life, WOPR, in playing the game of Global Thermonuclear War with David, almost sets off Armageddon. The film is briskly directed, with an ingenious first hour and so engaging a narrative sweep that the gaping logical holes in its plot may become evident only at a second viewing. Plausibility is somewhat hampered through the crudely drawn character of Falken (Wood), WOPR's creator, who thinks we all deserve to die anyway (like the Dinosaurs), and appears to change his mind only because David's girlfriend (Sheedy) is cute; the metaphor of World War Three as Videogame is both amusing and tritely reductive, and became an sf Cliché in the 1980s (see Cyberspace). Badham is a good action director whose films often collapse into ethical confusion on any examination of their superficially liberal credentials.
The novelization is WarGames (1983) by David F Bischoff. [PN]
see also: Cinema; Virtual Reality.
Previous versions of this entry