It’s weird to think of the eighties as being so far away from us now that Hollywood’s mining them for remakes.
So I guess with Conan and Red Dawn ready to go, WarGames, a pretty big flick from 1983, was about due as well. The new twist is that King of Kong director Seth Gordon will be helming the new version.
WarGames came out at a time when home computers were just starting to arrive, and it also hit the screens at a time when the world was becoming aware of the dangers of computer hacking. (Not to mention before glasnost we were still terrified of the prospect of a nuclear war.)
WarGames was released via MGM, which has apparently been going remake mad with plans for Carrie and Robocop. Both are fine films as they are, and no remake is needed for either, but I think I’m preaching to the converted here.
Software technology wasn’t what it is today, so the technology in the film is definitely low tech by today’s standards, but I think at the core WarGames holds up as a pretty good movie. It had good onscreen chemistry with Matthew Broderick and Alley Sheedy, terrific cinematography from William Fraker (Bullitt, Rosemary’s Baby), a pretty strong script by Walter F. Parkes (who later became a DreamWorks executive), and Lawrence Lasker, and it was directed by dependable Hollywood pro John Badham. (Saturday Night Fever, Blue Thunder, Short Circuit.)
As WarGames director John Badham recalled, “When this movie came out, many reviews said, ‘This is complete bullsh*t. Nothing like this could ever happen,’ and ‘This is ridiculous.’ And I started to get worried that Larry and Walter had made up more of this than they were copping to!
“And then along comes, I think they called them The Milwaukee 414, it was like the area code of Milwaukee, and it was a bunch of kids that hacked their way into the defense department’s computer. Were they inspired by WarGames? Maybe, maybe not, I don’t know. They certainly had to have enough knowledge to be able to do that. That’s pretty impressive stuff, and I’d say it happened within three or four weeks of the movie coming out.”
When Badham was asked why WarGames was still remembered long after its release, he said, “I really believe that when you’ve got strong characters in a movie, that’s what sticks in your mind. When you strip away all the cotton candy and whipped cream on top, it’s the characters that are the foundation that makes you feel you had a real connection with the movie.
“That’s the feeling I had about Saturday Night Fever. People remember the wonderful, brilliant dancing and stuff like that, but when they see it again, people tell me, ‘I remember why I liked those characters so much. There was a depth there.'”