While most ’80s movies see their cinematic weight flicker as the years go by, others are able to withstand the passing decades and still pack a punch. Such is the case with “War Games” and in this 25th anniversary edition packed with worthwhile extras, our society’s current addiction to computers and all things techie makes the film’s premise feel fresh and relevant.
In what was 20-year-old Matthew Broderick’s first starring role, “War Games” focuses on two high school friends (pre-“Breakfast Club” Ally Sheedy is his gal pal) who tap into a U.S. defense computer that accidentally begins a countdown toward nuclear war. That the pic came out while Cold War tensions still ran high — President Reagan was in his first term of office and the Russians could never be sure if he wasn’t going to launch a preemptive attack, according to the commentary — gave the storyline life-and-death consequences.
In the excellent 45-minute featurette “Loading War Games,” pic’s writers and actors look back at how the film came to fruition and the problems throughout shooting. While director John Badham says it remains one of his two favorite projects (he declines to state the other), it was actually Martin Brest who began as the helmer on set but was fired a few weeks in by United Artists. Studio’s complaint was that the tone was too dark and it was looking for much more light-hearted fare.
In came Badham, but Broderick and Sheedy had grown attached to Brest and had a hard time loosening up in front of the cameras for their new director. In a bedroom scene in which they’re tinkering on the computer, it took Badham nearly a dozen takes to get the young thesps to feel joyful and less stiff. From that point on, the chemistry between actor and director flourished.
Other extras include “Attack of the Hackers,” which describes how breaking into computer systems was a mostly new concept when “War Games” originally arrived on screen, and how the connotations of hacking weren’t as devilish then as they are now.
“Inside NORAD” describes the area in Cheyenne, Colo., where the United States has a large national defense command, while “Tic Tac Toe: A True Story” examines how both complex and simple the game can be.
Commentary participants are Badham and writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter Parkes.