WarGames (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A young man finds a back door into a military central computer in which reality is confused with game-playing, possibly starting World War III.

December 13, 2022 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

One of this viewer’s early big screen experiences occurred in 1983 when video games were at an enormous height and arcades were packed to the rafters with kids and their quarters. It was during this time that a film that warned about global thermonuclear war was becoming a big hit and managing to increase the amount of homes with a personal computer and pondered the question, is this a game or is this real? It is WarGames.

When humans are not enough to turn the keys in the eyes of the inevitable, the government looks to replace them with machines that can do the job for them without a conscience in the way. Meanwhile, student David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) seems to have a pipeline with phones and computers to change his grades and go after things that other students can’t. In this case, he hears about a new video game company but what he doesn’t know is that with games like warfare and global thermonuclear war, it’s linked into the governments computer system and they want some answers as to how a young kid got to them so simply even when his tracking down links to a former worker (John Wood) believed to be dead.

This is truly a film of the eighties but not a bad one by any stretch. Beyond the parents who are portrayed as very inferior to their child, this film shows how covers can be found very easily through the line of a phone and tapped into through the keyboard of a computer if only tracked down by a smaller human who doesn’t realize the mess he’s gotten himself into. Through it all, it’s done in the name of fun and it sure brought the audience to know the word and the numbers of DEFCON.

So far, this viewer hasn’t heard a voice like Joshua before or since but this voice is one of the driving things behind this film. It seems like anywhere David goes, when there’s a computer Joshua is not too far behind in words and in voice. It’s enough that within the last quarter of this film with our main characters and the base with all activity, anything is possible and the result is a well done eighties film that does use some brains for the younger generation and foresees that younger people would be able to use a computer better than some of the older generation. Keep your eye out for some character actors that would go on to bigger things later on along with the ones that you know the face but can’t quite place the name.

WarGames delivers the goods and every once in a while, it might help to play a nice game of chess.

Video: How does it look?

I think the last time I saw this was on MGM’s old non-anamorphic (remember when that was a thing?) DVD. Time has been good to the film and we’re now presented with a 4K version that’s taken from a new scan of the original camera negative. In other words it looks pretty darn good. It’s a bit on the darker side, but nothing that screams “this isn’t right!” more along the lines of it looking more theatrical. Image clarity has been improved as well, as we might expect. Colors pop, though the film has always had a muted look to it (consistent with other films of the ear), so I wasn’t expecting much in that department. Overall, as is the case with most other 4K catalog releases, the film looks as good as it ever has. Shout! Factory has done a great job with this one – kudos to them.

Audio: How does it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio mix does utilize the Oscar-nominated sound very well especially with the effects in the NORAD building with all that’s seen on the screen and the little blips and the changing of the defcon number along with the aforementioned Joshua voice. Many of the effects and score can be heard throughout the outer channels while the dialogue is heard throughout most of the center channels. It sounds better than I thought it would, though that’s not to say it’s the world’s strongest mix. Viewers will be satisfied.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc One (4K)

  • Audio Commentary – Director Jon Badham and Writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes combine for a commentary track. Their comments leave very few gaps and as always Badham has his share of informative comments as well as a few laughs while all three delve into what they originally intended to do with the script in its original form right down to an interesting bit of casting for the part of Falken. Nevertheless it’s a most entertaining listen and worthwhile for any film or WarGames fan.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Audio Commentary – Director Jon Badham and Writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes combine for a commentary track. Their comments leave very few gaps and as always Badham has his share of informative comments as well as a few laughs while all three delve into what they originally intended to do with the script in its original form right down to an interesting bit of casting for the part of Falken. Nevertheless it’s a most entertaining listen and worthwhile for any film or WarGames fan.
  • Loading WarGames – Probably the most robust supplement is this retrospective documentary on the film. We see and learn of the movie’s troubled production, the firing of some crew members by Martin Brest and some other assorted goodies. It’s a must watch (providing you haven’t seen it countless times before on other discs).
  • Inside NORAD: Cold War Fortress – There are probably a couple of generations who don’t know what the “Cold War” was and we get a brief history of it as well as a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain facility on which the film’s “Crystal Palace” was loosely based.
  • Attack Of The Hackers – Believe it or not, hackers have been around as long as computers have been. So those “Nigerian Princes” who want you to send them money had their origins several decades ago. This is a crash course in 80’s computer hacking. Totally radical!
  • Tic Tac Toe: A True Story – Of all the supplements I’ve watched on thousands of discs, this is the first one that I’ve seen that has a history of tic tac toe. Hey, first time for everything right?
  • Theatrical TrailerĀ 

The Bottom Line

WarGames eerily predicted a future where interactivity with a computer could have real-life consequences. Thankfully nothing depicted in the film has happened (yet), but at four decades old it still manages to thrill and entertain this viewer. Shout’s new 4K disc has the film looking its best, though the absence of any new supplements is a tad bit disappointing.

Disc Scores

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