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WarGames: The Dead Code
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Better Sequel Than You Might Expect"
3 stars

Where Brian De Palma's "Blow Out" was a cautionary fable on the limits of technology, the original "WarGames" and this sequel stress the possible dangers of it.

I don't know if the world is exactly a better place because of WarGames: The Dead Code, an unnecessary sequel to the outstanding 1983 original WarGames, but it's well-made and surprisingly enjoyable from start to finish. This time around, instead of pre-Internet high-school senior and computer-whiz protagonist Matthew Broderick battling the defense department's top super-computer threatening to wreak World War III on its own, we have Matt Lanter as virtually the same character also finding himself knee-deep in trouble with the Feds of the Department of Intelligence and Information. In the somewhat overplotted screenplay, he's initially mistaken for a terrorist by another super-computer designed to detect potential terroristic capabilities based on a player's high score on an on-line simulation game; coupled with this, Lanter's knowledge of biological and chemical weapons thanks to his bio-engineer mother raises another flag, as does the source of funds he used to enter the game (unknownst to him, it was from a supposed Syria terrorist cell involving his innocent next-door neighbor who asked Lanten to straighten out his on-line banking). Instead of arresting him, the Feds pull in and question his best friend and keep a tail on Lanten and his new girlfriend to see where they lead; meanwhile, the super-computer named Ripley ("You don't mess with Ripley; she messes with you.") is on the verge of tumultuously tying half of the civilized population to the anti-terrorist grid and taking disastrous action on its own.

Suffice to say, the film possesses neither a whole lot in the way of originality or believability and has its share of plot holes (like the mother apparently having little trouble in bringing home chemical agents from work, and the Feds doing a one-eighty in trying to arrest the hero shortly after stating their intent to just follow him); yet the screenplay serves up a fair share of fun hurdles for the hero to clear, which the veteran director, Stuart Gillard, stages with agility. For someone whose film debut was the awful The Blue Lagoon rip-off Paradise over a quarter of a century ago and whose career has mostly consisted of TV fare, Gillard is able to install a good deal of both pace and tension into the proceedings; by the token, the action sequences are finely put together in the Paul Greengrass vein of employing a lot of cuts while still boasting good spatial logistics. WarGames: The Dead Code really moves, and even when it takes the occasional breather it's mostly to offer up some neat technical inventions (like the creative use of a Pringles can to listen in on the police from a great distance) and bring back onboard two key characters from the original late in the game (which, without them, the film wouldn't be able to pass itself off as a sequel). No, it's not as fresh as the original in that computers weren't exactly a fixture in most American households back in the day, and the hero-versus-government-thriller story template has grown so old it's hairy. And, yes, as the hero Lanter is mostly bland and uncommunicative, though the spunkiness of Nicolas Wright as the best friend and Maxim Roy as the girlfriend helps alleviate this. All in all, for undemanding audiences this direct-to-video entertainment will likely sate the appetites of most, especially those disheartened by far too many theatrically-released sequels that lazily coast on the original's strengths without ever emanating much in the way of joie de vivre of their own.

It's better than a lot of straight-to-video fodder, believe me.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17571&reviewer=327
originally posted: 07/02/08 16:58:08
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User Comments

9/05/17 Ken I couldn't agree more, Justin. The sequel is a copy of the original. 2 stars
8/07/17 Justin More like a remake than a sequel to the terrific 1983 original. 2 stars
8/10/08 George Barksdale Already done, couldn't think of anything better 1 stars
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  N/A (PG-13)
  DVD: 29-Jul-2008



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