The young David Lightman does poorly in class,
Yet all of his courses he does somehow pass.
He changes his grades, for he knows how to hack.
With games and computers, he has quite a knack,
So he shows off his skills to one Jennifer Mack.
He learns of a company in Sunnyvale
With cutting-edge games that are not yet for sale.
Employing his talent and unlawful art,
He hacks a computer that learns and is smart
And seems to desire a new game to start.
So David assumes that it’s simply a game
And starts one with Joshua (that is its name).
He plays a new game he has not seen before
About a worldwide thermonuclear war.
And tries, as the Russians, to win a high score.
But, as it turns out, “Joshua” is the WOPR,
An AI whose presence is wholly improper
To some men at NORAD; the WOPR controls
Our nuclear missiles and serves to patch holes
When men can’t be trusted in filling their roles.
The WOPR confuses real life and game play
And makes NORAD think there are bombs on their way.
Then Dr. McKittrick, a WOPR defender,
Realizes that Russia was not the offender,
Instead ‘twas a hacking, domestic pretender.
Before David knows it, he’s labeled a spy
And scooped up at once by the mad FBI.
Back at NORAD headquarters, an unmindful troop
Is ordered to guard him, but Dave flies the coop
And sneaks out of there in a random tour group.
With Jennifer helping his fugitive quest,
They find Stephen Falken, who knows WOPR best.
He programmed the AI and since has played dead.
He’s willing to let doom just rain on his head,
But then he decides to assist them instead.
They journey to NORAD, as WOPR prepares
To launch and to catch the whole world unawares.
The leaders don’t fall for what all the screens show,
And when WOPR tries launching the nukes even so,
It learns of futility through tic-tac-toe.
After testing scenarios, WOPR can say
That the only smart move is to not even play.
It gives up the game and control right away.
Though David caused all this, he’s helped save the day.
WarGames is one of those quintessential Cold War movies that features a compelling plot, decent acting, and some very clever concepts. Featuring Matthew Broderick three years before his star turn in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the film is admittedly dated with its old DOS computers and rotary phone booth but is still just as riveting to watch. Its tale of a smart kid who is accused of being a criminal due to an artificial intelligence may have informed the plot of the previously reviewed film Summer Wars. David’s fortuitous escape from NORAD and his hacking techniques are fascinating, though illegal, and the message so overtly spelled out at the end continues to be applicable in our current world, even without the Soviet tensions of the Cold War era.
The problems with the film are mainly in its frequent profanity and the aforementioned criminal activities, which are obliquely condemned as the story shows the snowballing effects of David’s actions. All in all, WarGames is an entertaining thriller that was timely in 1983 and remains so today as well.
Best line: (speaking of Falken) (Jennifer) “He’s dead?”
(David) “Yeah, here’s his obituary.”
(Jennifer) “He wasn’t very old.”
(David) “He was pretty old. He was 41.”
(Jennifer) “Oh, yeah? Hm, that’s old.”
(I wonder how Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy feel about those lines now.) 🙂
Visual Effects: 4
Other (language): -7
TOTAL: 29 out of 60
Tomorrow: #330 – A Goofy Movie
© 2014 S. G. Liput