Reflecting the social fears of a cold war still burning with nuclear tension. John Badham’s 80’s teen thriller also foresaw the dangers of artificial intelligence in a newly emerging computer age. Combining a human-led cold war standoff with the risk of computer-driven intelligence. Ultimately delivering a thriller that has remarkably stood the test of time. While in many ways still reflecting our modern age of tech-driven communication.
It is important to remember that WarGames came to cinema screens in a year that saw Apple launch the Lisa computer, and Microsoft launch the first Word package. While in film Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan used the first-ever computer-driven effects with Lucasfilm’s DEC VAX computer. This reflects the infancy of home computing in a world where computer to computer communication was just beginning to enter the public consciousness. As ARPANET was born as a precursor of what we now call the internet. Therefore the combination of secretive human warfare and an emerging computer world ticked every possible box in audience engagement. However, WarGames may have been a very different picture under its original director Martin Brest.
Brest had opted to take WarGames down a much darker path but was replaced just over a week into filming by John Badham. With the new director lightening the tone of WarGames while further embellishing the ”hacker’ elements of the script. In turn, creating a teenage thriller with its roots in cold war espionage and sci-fi/fantasy. Its box office impact leading an American President to enact the first US policies on data surveillance and protection.
Parts of WarGames are very much of its time and place in early 1980s America. However, this is also a film that transcends its 80s roots. Providing us with an intelligent and energetic exploration of A.I. One that continues to enthral audiences 37 years later.
Directed By: John Badham