WarGames 2: The Dead Code DVD review

Mark is a computer geek, so any sequel to WarGames had better feed his inner nerd or suffer the consequences...

War Games 2 - a phreakin' shame.

I know it’s currently fashionable to love the 80s, but amongst some of the film dross produced in that decade are some solid gold nuggets, like WarGames.

It might have been technically surpassed with its simplistic fake CGI graphics, but the movie had some great performances by Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, and skilfully directed by John Badham.

I mention that movie only to contrast the diabolically awful, direct-to-the-bargain-bin DVD that is WarGames 2: The Dead Code. If you expected to see anyone familiar, like even an extra, from the original movie then forget it – because nobody signed up for this. At one point in the film Josha, the W.O.P.R. and Dr. Stephen Falken do appear, but they didn’t even convince John Wood to reprise his character. I don’t think David Lightman or Jennifer Mack is even mentioned, despite their centrality to the first War Games.

What we have here is an almost verbatim retelling of the first film, except it’s done with much less charismatic actors and much less style or panache. Matt Lanter, who plays our geek of the week, Will Farmer, is entirely forgettable. As is his romantic interest, Annie (Amanda Walsh). Mr. Lanter is especially bad, looking and acting like all the bland teens that Disney clones for its American TV shows. Of the younger cast members the only distinctive one is Dennis Nichols, who plays Will’s geek friend Nicolas. I say ‘distinctive’, but I actually mean irritating to the point of wanting to pause the movie just to task a Predator UAV to hunt him down. His character so annoyed me, when later something unpleasant happens to him and his mother I was overjoyed, for at least three seconds. This and a brief bit where Josha said, ‘SHALL WE PLAY A GAME’ were my only moments of pleasure in this whole sorry exercise.

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The kids are all pitted against Colm Feore (Lord Marshall, The Chronicles of Riddick) and his paranoid terrorist hunting computer R.I.P.L.E.Y. Ok, so W.O.P.R. was an inside computer joke about a real system called B.U.R.G.R – so what’s the deal with R.I.P.L.E.Y.? Err, well it seems to have something to do with Matt Damon, because he was the Talented Mr. Ripley, and the computer at one point says ‘Good Hunting Will’… Maybe there are other references to Matt Damon movies, but I’ve got no idea what they’ve got to do with this production, it’s obtuse in the extreme.

This appears to be them ticking the ‘geek’ box for referencing other films, without actually understanding why when this is done well it can be entertaining. They had plenty of opportunity to reference WarGames, and yet it’s almost forgotten. Even worse they’ve decided that the target audience is computer nerds, and so they throw in references to World of WarCraft and other geek pastimes, without making the characters remotely sound like they understand what they’re talking about.

For anyone interested or involved in computers their portrait of systems and how they interact is laughable. At one point Will used a technique that Lightman used in the original film to ‘phreak’ a phone, except that only worked when the telephone system was tone driven, and it’s been digital for donkey’s years – DOH!

Everyone uses product placement Apple Macs, and you can get wirelessly connected in any location on the planet, the techo-bollocks is turf thick wall-to-wall.

And how does it all end? “The only way to win is not to play”, exactly the same as the first movie. That pretty much sums up the entire vacuum of imagination that the Dead Code was still born into.

This gets a US release in July, and sometime later in Europe. Please, please buy the 25th anniversary edition of WarGames and not this promotional advert for the merits of thermo global nuclear war.

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1 out of 5


1 out of 5