Rewatched Jul 14, 2012
Marcin Wichary’s review:
Today, WarGames is a nerd’s time capsule, possibly the biggest of them all, a celluloid equivalent of that box you have in your basement with obsolete technology kept out of misplaced sense of attachment, or maybe just because recycling electronics is hard and annoying.
Shall we even try to count it all? Eight-inch floppy disks, early VCRs, microfichés, paper library catalogs, dot matrix printers, galvanic modems, video game arcades with 8-bit shoot ’em ups, first hobbyist microcomputers, ASCII graphics (or was it ANSI?), analogue telephony, public phones, mainframe data centers with tape drives and blinkenlights.
Mr. Moore would be proud: it is astonishing to realize just 30 years later literally none of this exists any more. Without context – and note I didn’t even mention the Cold War – all this makes it harder and harder to understand the movie’s tone with each passing year. Why the extended tracking shot of the NORAD room? Because it was the most expensive movie set back then, a technical masterpiece. What’s up with Ally Sheedy character’s continual embarrassing amazement at simple technological feats of Mr. Bueller? Well, those things were actually pretty doggone amazing back then, this being the audience’s first exposure to computers, hacking, networks. Why the laughable security everywhere? Because no one really thought teenagers with simple hobbyist machines cobbled together from cheap parts would figure out how to hack into places. But they did. Some of them went on to do great things. The others ended up in jail.
If that reminds you of another film, bravo. I get worried about any rumours to reboot this movie (same with RoboCop), just because while it is technically possible to extricate the story from all its technopolitical context, would it still be WarGames? I doubt it. If anything, it was Sneakers that was this movie’s reincarnation. Whether Lightman grew up to be Bishop or Cosmo is for you to figure out.
I’m writing this on a little domesticated pocket computer, so far away from “Whopper” it’s hard to imagine they have anything in common. It is likewise difficult to internalize that our Spotify party playlists, our late night Angry birds sessions, our obsessive Foursquare check-ins all exist solely because we once learned how to wrangle zeroes and ones into submission in order to “win the game.”
The good thing is, you don’t have to. When I watched WarGames for the n-th time yesterday, I noticed quite a few off-hand lines about pot smoking. Perhaps it was some sort of an elaborate inside joke I’m not getting. I never smoked pot in my life, but if you imagine this movie is a pipe filled with geek nostalgia, dude, it is so much fun just to keep inhaling.