Tag Archives: Video Games in Movies

Review: WarGames

Director: John Badham
Year: 1983
Score: 8/10

The WarGames movie tie-in version of the arcade game Galaga features Matthew Broderick's face staring out at the player in an effort to cause distraction.

The WarGames movie tie-in version of the arcade game Galaga features Matthew Broderick’s face staring out at the player in an effort to cause distraction.

This sci-fi(ish) thriller could very easily have not stood the test of time given how reliant it is on computer technologies that are supposed to seem futuristic. However, it still holds up, primarily because it’s really good fun, with a perfect tone and the right balance of humour and techno-thrills.

Young Matthew Broderick (several years before he was Ferris Bueller) is a great asset, nailing the role of David Lightman, the bright high school student hacker who’s quickly in over his head but manages to pull MacGyver-esque stunts to get out of any fix and solve problems his seniors just don’t understand. Other members of the cast are also good, especially Dabney Coleman, who rarely disappoints. Also look for John Spencer (The West Wing) and Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill) as the pair of missile launchers in the prologue.

A few minor criticisms: despite being one of the first mainstream movies to feature a hacker as a protagonist (a step forward in the fight for equality for nerds and geeks!), it nonetheless perpetuates stereotypes about computer nerds (Exhibit A: the scene featuring two of David’s nerdier hacker friends); David’s parents’ lack of concern about (or knowledge of) his activities, even once he’s been effectively taken into custody by government agents, is hard to believe; and there’s a bit where the love interest played by Ally Sheedy has a moment of stupidity that seems jarringly out of character, seriously asking David whether his detention by the authorities was “because of what you did with my grade?” despite already knowing that his hacking had caused a temporary military crisis. Just ignore these minor quibbles and enjoy the ride as I did.

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Review: The Parallax View

Director: Alan J. Pakula
Year: 1974
Score: 6.5/10

I believe this is the first appearance of a video game in a movie - and it's being played by a chimp. Subtext?

I believe this is the first appearance of a video game in a movie – and it’s being played by a chimp. Subtext?

Interesting conspiracy thriller starring the ever-reliable Warren Beatty. It conveys a great sense of paranoia, but it’s let down by the final act, which doesn’t properly deliver on the promises of the build-up. I wanted to know more about the Parallax Corporation (e.g. who’s behind it?) and I wanted Beatty to have more success is busting the conspiracy wide open, even if eventually he was doomed to fail. The most interesting scene by far is when he watches – and we see – a fascinating assassin training slideshow made up in large part of bizarre imagery. Worth watching if you’re a fan of Beatty or you’re into conspiracies.

Review: Silent Movie

Director: Mel Brooks
Year: 1976
Score: 3.5/10

Video games: the butt of bad jokes since 1976.

Video games: the butt of bad jokes since 1976.

The worst Mel Brooks movie I’ve seen, this is an almost entirely unfunny parody of silent films. It’s loaded with celebrity cameos that are presented as though they’re making fun of celebrity cameos, but they don’t help. There are lots of sight gags (what else can there be, really?), none of which land. It clocks in at only 87 minutes but feels interminable. I get the feeling nobody had the heart or balls to tell Brooks this was an idea worthy of a short film (or sketch) at best, not one worth stretching out over an entire feature-length film. The one bright spot is a brief appearance by the brilliant Marcel Marceau. Avoid unless you’re a Brooks completist.