Sci-Fi Classic Review: WARGAMES (1983)

all you’ll ever be it really happened hidden away in a military bunker outside of Moscow shortly after midnight on September 26 1983 Lieutenant Colonel stanislav Petrov of the Soviet Air Defense Forces was given an alert from the state-of-the-art early warning system codenamed OKO that five intercontinental ballistic missiles had been launched from the United States toward the Soviet Union tensions between the two Cold War adversaries were at an all-time high following the Soviet Union’s destruction of a South Korean passenger plane a few weeks earlier along with an ominous buildup of forces that had the Kremlin convinced

the United States Was preparing a nuclear first strike therefore when the alerts popped up on his computer screen Lieutenant Colonel Petrov didn’t take them lightly and for several long tense moments the fate of the entire world rested on his actions thankfully for the entire world Petrov suspected the signal was some kind of glitch given the unlikelihood that the United States would start a nuclear war with just a handful of missiles and so he waited for secondary verification of the incoming strike before notifying his superiors verification that would never come after the clock ticked past the

missiles’s projected arrivals Petrov took his finger off the button to wipe the heavy beads of sweat from his brow it was in fact a glitch in the Oco satellite system secrecy and embarrassment led

to this incident being hidden from the public until long after the disillusion of the Soviet Union but now we know that in September of 1983 the world as we know it could have easily been destroyed were it not for the hesitation of a single human being ironically enough just a couple of months earlier Hollywood had warned us of this very thing David

Lightman is your average everyday middle class Suburban teenager playing video games showing up late to class trying to get the attention of girls and accidentally hacking into top secret government computer programs capable of starting World War III though David is sure the nuclear missiles he sent to the United States from the Soviet Union are just parts of a harmless simulation the government arrests him accuses him of treason and refuses to listen to him when he explains what’s really going on as a rogue AI takes the simulation to its most logical extreme and puts the world

on the brink of nuclear disaster it is up to David to break out of government custody and find the designer of the simulation the only man who knows how to stop the war games before we go any further if you could please hit that like button we could avert Global catastrophe if you really do like this video please subscribe as well thank you in advance with that out of the way let’s get back to the subject in hand in 1979 the writers Walter parks and Lawrence Lasker began working on a project called the Genius which

was to be a film about a dying scientist Loosely inspired by Stephen Hawking who finds his successor in a highly intelligent but misunderstood kid while doing research the pair of writers learned about a growing subculture of young computer hackers and they started talking to various experts at the Stanford Research Institute and the Rand Corporation thus the genius began its transformation into war games which considered the possibility of a young hacker accidentally breaking into a top-seeker government computer and nearly starting World War III with the support of producer Leonard Goldberg they shocked the script around to

various Studios that didn’t find it believable the only Studio that showed any interest was mgmua who tentatively agreed to produce and distribute War Games as long as the budget was kept to a relatively low 12 million dollars to direct it they hired Martin breast whose only major credit at the time was the George Burns Heist comedy going in style breast butted heads with parks and Lasker and had new scripts written without their input these scripts took a more dark and serious tone and after principal photography began and dailies were sent to the producers things were

looking pretty Grim for the entire project 12 days into filming Goldberg then fired Brest citing the dry and wooden tone he’d given the story and hired John battum to replace him Adam was a Workhorse television director whose feature film credits included Saturday Night Fever and 1979’s Dracula and after taking a quick look at the existing shooting script he called up parks and Lasker and asked for their earlier script which he felt was far superior the new director was given a couple of weeks to prepare but on the urging of awaiting cast and crew he began

filming just four days later the lead role of young David Lightman was given to Matthew Broderick who at the time was a rising star in theater poised to win a Tony in 1983 for his work on Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs part of prepping for his role in war games Broderick had an arcade cabinet of Galaga installed in his apartment so that he could learn to play proficiently for a pan full of scenes he was also supposed to learn typing as unlike most hacker movies that would follow War Games features people actually typing the exact

letters that appear on the screen but by broderick’s own admission he didn’t put as much effort into that as he did Galaga opposite him as his teenage love interest Jennifer is Ali Sheedy who like Broderick only had one feature film credit to her name in her case it was 1983’s bad boys but would go on to become a staple actor of the 1980s even earning a spot in the so-called brat pack for appearing in The Breakfast Club and Saint Elmo’s Fire I stole your wallet until re-watching the movie for the purposes of this review I

don’t think I ever fully appreciated the work that these two young actors do in war games they come across as surprisingly authentic with a lot of nuance and awkward teenage energy you don’t usually get from younger actors while I don’t want to take anything away from them though some credit should also go to the director John batam who coached them heavily once he came aboard Broderick and Sheedy both worried that they would be fired as soon as batam came aboard but despite having no say in their original casting he knew they were right for the

film even if Martin breast had initially directed them to play their parts with more darness and stoicism it was Batum who encouraged the actors to have fun to act more innocent and to feel free to improvise and I dare say that without these instructions their performances and the film itself for that matter would have no heart the key role of Stephen Falcon the reclusive genius inspired by Stephen Hawking was initially written as a vehicle for John Lennon who was interested in the part during the early days of the Scripps development of course Lenin died in

December of 1980 so the part was instead given to British character actor and multiple Tony award-winning stage performer John Wood also provides the voice of Joshua shall we play a game oh but he reads his lines backwards the last word first first word last not actually speaking in Reverse to flatten his affect sorry to hear that Professor yesterday’s aim was interrupted the great Dabney Coleman plays the antagonistic Dr McKittrick and Barry Corbin plays General Behringer God damn it I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it’d do any good other notable actors include Maury

chaiken and Eddie deason as the geek’s Jim and Melvin Mr Potato Head is this the potato head back doors are not Secrets yeah but Jimmy you’re giving away all our best tricks John Spencer is Captain Lawson and Michael Madsen in his screen debut as Lieutenant Phelps including the work done under Martin breast some of which did make it into the Final Cut of the movie filming took place between August and November of 1982. largely in and around Seattle at Big Bear and Los Angeles and California and of course at sound stages in Culver City it

was a fairly uneventful shoot with one Jeep accident actually being written into the script after it happened while the NORAD exterior was meticulously recreated to look as authentic as possible the war room set where most of the film takes place is wildly larger and more elaborate than the actual War Room through which a handful of the production crew did manage to tour all of the video screens with primitive computer effects put together under the supervision of Michael Fink had to be perfectly synced at the start of each shot not only to ensure continuity but also

to match frame rates to prevent flickering the larger screens were all done with film projectors both front and rear facing while the 84 smaller screens were all videotape controlled by a single Apple II computer the filmmakers did strive for accuracy but they made a few pretty big errors such as getting Defcon completely backwards and conflating NORAD the sac in the Navy still the military advisors including norad’s real General at the time General hardinger fully supported the underlying premise of the military side of the film the notion that humans should never be taken out of the

loop no matter the crisis the Air Force however opposed the movie on the grounds that it would create panic over what was seen as an impossible scenario involving accidental nuclear war now of course as we’ve already learned those fears were a lot less fictional than we wanted to believe and indeed after the film’s release President Reagan a fan of the movie and family friend to writer Lawrence Lasker signed the nation’s first cyber security directive based on Research his administration did on the plausibility of the war games scenario the writers also approached the hacking side of

the story with realism at the Forefront with one of their big cheats the program David uses to call every phone number in a given area code later becoming reality earning the name War dialer in reference to the film this scene with the pay phone caused headaches for the phone industry too because it demonstrates a trick that really did work and in the years that followed companies started melting plastic seals between the phone parts to prevent them from being taken apart While We’re stopped let me just take a minute to thank my patrons their support really

makes this channel possible so please if you like these videos consider joining my patreon to get access to bonus content vote on future topics and more you can also give me a one-time contribution by clicking on the thanks button below also if you want even more content from me I’m the co-host of a couple of different podcasts the streaming Heap and from here to paternity which are available wherever you get your podcasts and I have a novel called Paradox that is available through Amazon if all else fails though you can always check out my website

at where you’ll find written reviews of plenty more sci-fi Classics in both film and literature now then with all that Shameless self-promotion out of the way let’s move on war games released in June of 1983. to good reviews and great financial success earning 79.6 million dollars at the North American box office and becoming one of the most profitable films of the year the movie was not without controversy with the subsequent rise of the hacking subculture at least partially blamed on war games this in turn LED Congress to pass the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

of 1986. looking back almost 40 years later though it’s hard to conclude that war games is to blame for any of this as it merely predicted the seemingly inevitable not that any of the controversy hurt the movie quite the opposite really it was a huge cultural hit that still resonates and is still referenced today and it skyrocketed its young leads Matthew Broderick and Ali Sheedy into super stardom though it’s only direct sequel is a direct to video forgotten relic of the mid-2000s the film has inspired countless other filmmakers and writers over the years personally this

was one of those VHS tapes I nearly wore out from watching it so many times as a kid and it really cemented a lot of my general world view about computers the military and geek culture in ways that as an adult I still think are both valid and positive it also showed me the most ingenious way to butter an ear of corn as an awkward child who liked video games and who had a friend down the street who claimed to have hacked into a Russian satellite that later malfunctioned and crashed into the ocean this movie

really spoke to me on an emotional level seemed to understand me better than I understood myself that’s because at its heart beneath all the early 80s hacker lingo Hollywood style military melodrama and plausible sci-fi speculations War Games is first and foremost a character piece it’s about a disaffected kid with a lot of smarts but not a lot of good grades with weird parents and even weirder friends and with almost no experience in talking to girls he doesn’t know where he could possibly fit into the world until he meets the deeply broken and disillusioned Falcon who

is a near perfect image of what David could become it is David with the not insubstantial help of Jennifer who pulls Falcon away from fatalism and regret and it is Falcon who teaches David that he could not only have a place in the world but could be critical to its future from a historical perspective this all reflects the Cold War mentality and the very real fear Society had of nuclear Armageddon but it only works because it shows the importance of the human element shows how it is our Humanity not our technology that will ultimately save

us thankfully the cold war is over now and there’s no chance anybody will set off World War III with the Reckless threat of nuclear weapons anymore um yeah and that’s all for today my fellow earthlings if you’re watching this in the future from a post-apocalyptic nuclear hellscape let us know in the comments if you know where we can find clean food and water thank you for watching and until next time when we’ll catch back up with Fiction’s most famous Submariner this is the Unapologetic geek telling you to never be ashamed of what you love as

long as you’re not hurting anybody foreign we’re gonna barbecue tonight you want to invite your little friend David foreign

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