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Case Number 14090: Small Claims Court

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Wargames: The Dead Code

MGM // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // July 18th, 2008

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All Rise...

Presenting Judge Paul Pritchard's band, Global Thermonuclear War. They mostly play folk ballads and are available for weddings, birthdays, and bar mitzvahs.

The Charge

"I doubt the woman could threaten our democracy with gingivitis."

The Case

Way back in 1983, when computers were still new(ish) and scary, a young Matthew Broderick (Godzilla) starred in Wargames, a zeitgeist-straddling thriller that made kids everywhere believe they were only a few keystrokes away from starting World War III. While the film has dated considerably, largely down to the primitive technology and hairstyles of the time, Wargames still retains a certain charm for those suffering a bout of eighties nostalgia; it seems highly unlikely Wargames: The Dead Code will be remembered with such affection twenty-five years from its release.

Sight unseen, it's difficult to ascertain a reason for Wargames: The Dead Code existing; the original film is hardly a classic and left no real threads for a sequel. After watching the movie, it's perhaps even more puzzling to find a reason why this film got the greenlight; even more curious is the tenuous link to the original Wargames.

More a modern-day retelling of Wargames than a sequel, Wargames: The Dead Code replaces the Cold War with the War on Terror and hacking into government facilities with government-funded online gaming.

Will Farmer (Matt Lanter, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) is the resident computer whiz who, in an attempt to make enough money to take a class trip and win the affections of Annie (Amanda Walsh Disturbia), transfers money from his Syrian neighbor's bank account to play an online game in which the player must launch a terror attack on a U.S. city. It's really a secret government project to catch would-be terrorists. See where this is going yet?

Before long, Matt and Annie are on the run from government suits who, apparently, are incapable of independent thought, and let RIPLEY, a supercomputer with delusions of grandeur, tell them what to do. Have these people never seen any of the Terminator or Matrix movies? Everyone knows that advanced artificial intelligence will eventually turn on its creators and threaten world peace in the process.

Hindered greatly by a screenplay that is too reliant on coincidences to keep things moving along (Will's mom works at a chemical company and has recently brought home a large amount of samples, just as her son becomes a terror suspect), Wargames: The Dead Code is simply too uninspired to maintain viewers' interest, and while at times it borders on being a total farce, a bigger failing is that it's generally so transparent you'll see what's coming from a mile off.

Fans of the original, and vastly superior Wargames are likely to have one of two reactions to Wargames: The Dead Code: either total befuddlement at why this film carries the Wargames moniker or seething anger that a childhood favorite has been besmirched by this pale imitation.

A commentary between star Matt Lanter and director Stuart Gillard is too patchy to be worthy of your time, while a 15-minute making of is the sort of fluff piece put out to promote a release, without really giving any insight into it.

The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is a screener copy, so it could vary from the final product; it supports a reasonably impressive 5.1 soundtrack.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 49

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Bad
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary from Director Stuart Gillard and Actor Matt Lanter
• The Making Of War Games 2: The Dead Code
• Photo Gallery


• IMDb

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