Bullet Points: WarGames: The Dead Code
In 2008, MGM released WarGames: The Dead Code, a follow up to the 1983 Matthew Broderick/Dabney Coleman film, WarGames.
With 25 years between the movies, I had to wonder if this was a sequel in the vein of Road House 2: Last Call or if it was a total remake by MGM, like they did a few years later with Red Dawn and Robocop.
It turns out WarGames: The Dead Code was actually a bit of both.
- Our Hacker: In this direct to video outing, Matt Lanter plays the too smart for his own good high schooler, Will Farmer. Farmer is a computer whiz. He knows them inside and out. And he’s been known to do a little hacking along with the usual things teenagers use their computers for, like gaming and stalking classmates they are into on social media. Farmer ends up getting caught up in a perfect storm when he plays a game on a high stakes gaming site known as Ripley. In actuality this gaming site is a front for a government super computer known as R.I.P.L.E.Y. that was designed to sniff out terror cells. When Farmer makes it past level 5 in “The Dead Code” game he selected he instantly gets on R.I.P.L.E.Y.’s sh*t list. Things get worse when it is discovered the computer Will was playing on was in communication with a computer in Syria (the computer belonged to Will’s neighbor of Syrian descent and Will was cleaning it for viruses). Add on to that that Will’s mom works at a chemical plant and would often bring her failed experiments for the next Formula 409 home with her. Plus, Will’s dad was killed while working for the government, building in motive for the Farmer family to hate the government. And if all that wasn’t enough… Will was going on a class trip to Montreal, so it gave the appearance that he was fleeing the country. When in actuality he was just going to get close to this chick named Annie (Amanda Walsh). The two do get close as Annie gets caught up in Will’s misadventures as the two evade the authorities that have labeled them bio-terrorists or as Annie so eloquently puts it, “the bio-chem version of Bonnie & Clyde”.
- No Falken Way: The thing that makes WarGames: The Dead Code a sequel to the original is the inclusion of the character Dr. Stephen Falken. Falken was the man who designed the super computer in the original film named Joshua after Falken’s teddy bear loving son. And we learn that he was also on the original design team for R.I.P.L.E.Y. In WarGames: The Dead Code, Falken is played by Gary Reineke (who you may remember from Iron Eagle II). In the original, Falken was played by John Wood. Falken befriends Will and Annie and gives them the key to shutting down R.I.P.L.E.Y. Spoiler Alert, it is the Joshua computer from the first movie (aka WOPR). Falken had Joshua moved to Canada (where it was running a power grid) after he and the computer were put out to pasture by the feds.
I thought WarGames: The Dead Code did a decent job of updating the premise of the 1983 original. Although the multiple appearances of flip phones already make this one seem older than it really is. In many ways the movie felt more like a throwback to the 1990’s when cyber thrillers were all the rage than it did to it’s 1980’s predecessor. Matt Lanter’s Will Farmer was easy to empathize with and to me was more likable than Matthew Broderick’s character from the original. I’d recommend this one to anyone who is a fan of the cyber thriller genre or a fan of watching teenagers on the run.
I recommend that all of you check out these bonus Bullet Points…
- Sitcom Friend: Will’s friend Dennis ALWAYS seems to be hanging out in Will’s basement. This is the type of friend you usually see on television sitcoms. Dennis was played by Nicolas Wright. Along with his acting work, Wright has gotten into the writing side of the movie business, with Independence Day: Resurgence being his first feature length screenplay to date. He’s also been tapped to write an upcoming Stargate reboot.
- Familiar Faces: Chuck Shamata plays Bill Carter, one of the agents that works on the R.I.P.L.E.Y. project, who is beginning to question the super computer’s motives. You may recognize Shamata from his work in Death Wish V: The Face of Death or Spill aka Virus …Colm Feore plays T. Kenneth Hassert, the government official who oversees the R.I.P.L.E.Y. project, you may remember him from Iron Eagle II and Face/Off.
- Acronymystery: Unless I missed it, I don’t believe that it was ever explained what (if anything) R.I.P.L.E.Y. stood for. I do know, thanks to this movie that, F.I.G.J.A.M. stands for F*ck I’m Good, Just Ask Me.