Wargames was a pretty decent film. It’s always fun to see an A.I. decide to go off the deep end and take everyone down for the count. What do you do when it has truly gone mad right? I do think the kids hold it back a bit though especially when they don’t think of basic solutions to some of these issues. For example, the whole time I was waiting for the main guy to just type in “I surrender” or “I forfeit” and the game could possibly end that way.
The movie starts with a surprisingly serious scene as it appears Russia has fired some nukes at the USA. We see two guys getting the codes ready but at the last second one of them is unable to pull the trigger. His partner even prepares to shoot him over it. We then see that this was all a test but of course they failed it so now the government wants to make things more automatic. They put an A.I. known as Joshua in charge of the nukes but its actual name is something so long they abbreviate it to the WOPR.
We then cut to the actual main character of this, David. David is a computer whiz who likes to keep testing his limits. He is now at the level where he can even hack into the school systems to change his grades which is fortunate because he’s a bit of a slacker and has been consistently failing in his classes. That definitely can’t be allowed to stand and so he is now going to get an A in these classes. He decides to show off to his friend Jennifer and improves her grades as well. One day he hears about a game store opening up so he decides to hack their computers to play some games.
Instead he ends up hacking the government by mistake and challenges Joshua to a game of nuclear war. Their battle will be epic but David doesn’t really understand the rules and quickly grows bored. Of course to Joshua this is very real and he starts causing chaos. This sinks in when David sees this on the news and now he is in danger of being captured by the government. Can he find a way to turn Joshua off/end the game or is it curtains for him? His one hope may be to find the creator of Joshua, the legendary Falken.
So like I said, at no point does David think to just tell Joshua that he surrenders once he finds out that this is real. I feel like that would have been the best thing to do instead of asking things like “Are we still playing?”. He wastes his opportunities spectacularly and this ultimately ends up making things worse for everyone. If he had just made a basic move before then the whole film could have ended early. I also thought he didn’t do a great job explaining the government.
Not to place all the blame on his side, they were barely listening to him too. I loved all the scenes with the government though because that kind of thing is always up my alley. I was glad that the army general got to feel validated in how he kept saying that automation was a bad idea because it does always turn out that way in these films. With something as serious as nuclear weapons I think it’s fair to say that this should stay a manual process. There are ways tech can help of course but don’t give it full control.
As for Jennifer, she was a solid character. She at least tried to resist the urge to cheat initially even if it overpowered her in the end. Jennifer also didn’t give up as easily like when she suggested swimming back to town, only it turned out that David couldn’t swim. She was definitely a much better protagonist from the two although I wouldn’t say any were great or anything. It would have been cool if she stuck to her guns and decided to take her grade fair and square.
Then we have Falken who has basically written humanity off to be exterminated. Nice guy eh? I’m impressed that he was able to resign from his fairly important job in the army without a hassle but this isn’t a conspiracy movie or something like that so I suppose it tracks. By the end he helps out a bit in at least keeping the government from making the wrong move but it’s quite telling that initially he was just going to watch as humanity was wiped out. I did agree with him on at least one thing though. If a nuclear war happens you want to be at a primary target location so you are obliterated immediately instead of slowly through nuclear fallout.
As for the A.I. Joshua, the computer was pretty neat. I thought he did a good job of staying one step ahead of the humans at all time. At the end of the day he just wanted to play something fun and did request Chess a few times. David is the one who made sure that wasn’t possible. I don’t blame Joshua for not liking Tic Tac Toe though. It’s definitely not a game that’s fun to play after you figure out how not to lose.
WarGames is a film that tries to balance being aimed at kids while still having a grown up vibe at times. I would say it handles this pretty well too. I still say the very first scene was surprising in just how serious it was relative to the rest of the movie. Because of that you do wish that it could have just focused on the grownups the whole time. Personally I do think this would have made it the better experience in the end. The kids just tend to hold the experience back with these things.
Overall, WarGames is a good film. I was definitely entertained while watching it. Yes, some scenes may be a little unbelievable like David actually sneaking off of a government compound but the movie never gets silly or anything like that. By and large I can also see how this hacking would be possible since back then people just weren’t super tech savvy and I’m sure there were back doors everywhere. Even now it feels like nothing is secure with how each company constantly gets hacked. It’s always easier to attack than to defend after all and it’s also a better call for why you want your nukes fairly isolated. Just have detailed plans and avenues to get contact to the people in the silos.