War Games was the story of a brilliant teenager (played by Matthew Broderick – still accumulating roles despite our hopes that he had stopped in the early 2000s) using multiple hacking techniques existing at the time, until he finds his way to a simulation game… or so he thinks, as said simulation game reveals itself to be an actual military program designed to launch very real nuclear weapons, and the teenager’s mindless toying with the program takes the entire world closer by the minute to World War Three. That’s kind of a big deal.
I haven’t had the honor to see the original War Games movie yet, but until I do, here’s a fun fact for you: In 2008, thus 25 years later, they made a sequel to this. The new film, called War Games: Virtual Boogaloo-er, I mean, War Games: The Dead Code – can be seen as a sequel nobody really asked for. But we got it, and it deals with computer games, so I had to check it out. They managed not to make it a box-office bomb… by not releasing it in theaters, doing a direct-to-DVD release instead. It was also filmed in Montreal, so there’s that. Hey, who knows, this could be good snark material. Let’s plunge into War Games: The Dead Code, and see if it was worth reviving this film with a sequel.
|No, you are not watching an animated war film by the|
makers of FoodFight. This is the actual quality of the
CGI effects in this film.
Said warhead was launched by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (which I’ll refer to as Homeland Security from now on), specifically by a machine called RIPLEY, who is in charge of detecting terrorist threats to America. So wait, a computer decided to do that? Gee, let’s hope it never goes crazy. (I’ll be ready to take a shot when it does, because it WILL, that I’m sure of. Not even 5 minutes in and I can read through this film’s twists already. Not a good sign.)
|This is Will. Not pictured: Dennis. You'll thank me later.|
|Colm Feore! I am so fanboying right now!|
Ah yes, because everyone knows that gamers stop playing a game when they lose at it, and don’t ever go back to it in an attempt to win. Though, granted, the players need to bet big sums of money to play, so I guess if you can no longer bet money, you can't play. Honestly, this whole thing just smells like trouble brewing. Hint hint: If you know nothing about gaming or gamers, don’t put video games in your plans.
Back to Will and Dennis participating to a chess club. Dennis tells Will about that RIPLEY game he found online, and asks to help him get the money to play. Meanwhile, the teacher in charge of the club is explaining the legendary chess game between Garry Kasparov and the computer Big Blue, explaining that the computer lost due to the human using an unexpected, unconventional strategy. After Will shows some interest, the teacher invites him to join the chess competition, which will take place in Montreal, Canada. Oh hey, gotta give it to this film, it’ll feature the actual Montreal, they won’t pretend it’s Paris like Hollywood did in Smurfs 2. This is also where Will meets Annie D’Mateo (played by Amanda Walsh), whom he immediately takes a liking to. She also suggests that he joins the competition, as long as he can pay the 550$ required for the trip. That evening, Will tries to hack into some of Annie’s accounts using password guesswork (Our hero, everyone! Hacks the accounts of the girl he kinda likes! What a great role model for the kids!). However, she manages to outsmart him with code protection and a menacing video where she actually guesses that it might be him trying to get into her accounts. Smart girl. She definitely deserves to be with someone better than him. And yet she tells him again to come with her to Montreal! Sigh.
That’s when we learn that Will’s mother works at Wyren Chemical, an enterprise that makes air fresheners and other chemical products. For some reason, she also seems always sickly, and germophobic on top of that. Oh joy. As a result, she has some work-related samples of chemicals at home, the sort of thing normal households don’t have, and she also knows a lot about those products.
|This animated woman's proportions are so wrong, she'd|
give Rob Liefeld an erection.
|I always felt there weren't enough games about brutally|
killing all the citizens in a city with biochemical
weapons. But The Dead Code just seems sucky at it.
|The agents of the Department of Homeland Security are|
checking Will play...
By the way, RIPLEY also installs spyware in Will’s computer before bringing the power back on the next morning. The spyware causes Will’s computer to always feature the same animated woman and the message “Play with me, baby” ad nauseam. Because the developers didn’t bother recording more lines. He also checks to see Massude’s bank account sealed by the U.S. Government. Will turns off his computer, but the woman and the message come back on the screen; he unplugs his computer… the message appears ON HIS PHONE. Damn…
|Meet Annie. She will thankfully replace Dennis as secondary|
protagonist for the rest of the film. Yay for that.
|Now pictured: Dennis (in the middle), about to be|
interrogated by cops. I know the situation is dire,
but this made my day.
|No, Dennis, no! You're playing into their plan!|
Dammit Dennis. Such stupidity is big enough to find its way into a record book. Yeah, you better be sorry. You know what? I’m glad we don’t see you much after this scene. The film will only be better off for it. Let’s see what Will and Annie are up to.
|Either the threat levels have been raised in the|
airport, or a convention for policemen imitators
just opened in Montreal.
They meet outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral, a real place in Montreal, where Will explains his plan to crack the government network to find out what happened to his mother, now suspected of bioterrorism. In an Internet café, Annie distracts a man who Will recognized as a notable credit card thief, and Will uses the guy’s set-up to hack into RIPLEY. There, Will finds what happened to his mother. Did I mention Homeland Security had no qualms in harming this woman (possibly with chemicals) badly enough to put her in the hospital?
|Even if they didn't do anything to her, an image like this|
sure makes it hard for Homeland Security to look good.
Look, if there is one good thing in this movie, it’s that neither side is portrayed as a straight-up villain. Will gets tangled up into this whole thing due to bad choices (thank you, Dennis) and a (very, very silly) string of coincidences, and Homeland Security… well, in looking for potential threats, they’re just doing their job. Sure, you can disagree all you want, you could say they have no business spying on the American population this closely, nor should they use such a stupid idea as an online computer game to detect instances of domestic terrorism. Nor should they put all of their faith in a single AI, no matter how advanced and/or powerful it is as machines can, too, make mistakes, overreact to data or make wrong decisions. And the people at Homeland Security in this film are supposed to be the human part of the equation, but still rely far too much on RIPLEY. Which, by the way, has carte blanche to hack into the surveillance systems of literally ANYWHERE in the United States, and even does it in Montreal, which is in Canada, out of their jurisdiction. But despite all these blatant issues, a case can be made that they’re just doing their job. There’s a lot of wrong in the way they do it, but they’re not technically “villains”… well, until they felt it was called for to send a middle-aged woman into the hospital, and we’re never told what they did to her. That’s just nasty.
|When you make your supercomputer look this|
ominous, you know you're looking for trouble.
After discovering the picture of his mother, Will and Annie get chased again by Homeland Security, and escape into the Jacques-Cartier subway station, into the tunnels. There, Will realizes that the agents are using Annie’s phone to locate them, so he throws it onto the passing subway. This prevents them from being located and also fools RIPLEY, leading its creators to believe it might not be all that trustworthy (since it hid information from them)… and even when it cannot hear them, it can read their lips, thus it knows what they’re saying about it. Well, that’ll teach you to make a HAL 9000 rip-off! As if that was not enough, the higher-ups at Homeland Security are also starting to doubt RIPLEY due to its overreaction as the chemicals in the Farmer home were mostly products involved in the creation of mouthwash and other household supplies.
|Gee, maybe it wasn't a good idea to run away in the|
Will and Annie are still hidden in tunnels of the subway when Annie explains that she asked the guy at the Internet café about RIPLEY. The man knew enough to do some vital exposition: RIPLEY replaced a system called WOPR; this was the computer in the original War Games. The creator of that system, Stephen Falken, helped in the creation of RIPLEY, but killed himself shortly afterwards.
After the two come out, they are accosted by that old man Annie bumped into at the airport. He tells them to join him at his truck, and only says he’s “a gentleman who nearly started World War 3”. They go there, and Annie recognizes the man as Stephen Falken (played by Gary Reineke). The old man explains that he faked his own death – raise your hand if you saw it coming; hey, you there, at the back! You didn’t raise your hand. You must not have heard what I said. I said, “Raise your hand if you saw it coming that the old guy was Stephen Falken”- Oh, you’re raising it, good! We’re all on the same page. Excellent, this plot twist was so bloody obvious that everyone figured it out. Of course, it kinda helps that it was also in the original War Games, with the same character no less. Also helps that the revelation happened not even 10 minutes after that plot point was exposited.
Falken says that he found them by sticking a tracker on Annie’s scarf when he bumped into her at the airport, and that he has been trying to stop RIPLEY for a while now; his faked suicide let him go unnoticed, allowing him to keep an eye on Homeland Security’s activities. And now, Will and Annie have to leave with Falken, since the old man knows someone who can help them defeat RIPLEY… (I’d ask to raise your hand if you think it’s WOPR, but if I did that for every obvious twist in this film you’d just spend the rest of the review raising and lowering your hand.)
You know what, this has been going on for long enough. How about we wrap this up Monday, hm? See you then! In the meantime, I’ll watch some good films. As in, “films better than this one”.