- BD-50 Dual Layer Disc
- Region Free
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- French DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
- Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
- Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
- Dutch DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
- English SDH
- Audio Commentary
- Four Featurettes
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Exclusive HD Content
Best Sellers and Deals
20th Century Fox / 1983 / 114 Minutes / Rated PG
Street Date: August 21, 2012
- Offer Details
- List Price: $19.99
- Amazon Price: $14.99 (25%)
- 3rd Party Price: $11.55
- Usually ships in 24 hours
Reviewed by Shannon T. Nutt
Monday, September 24, 2012
Please welcome Shannon T. Nutt to High-Def Digest! Shannon is the former Editorial Director for DVD Empire and a former staff reviewer for DVD Talk. He's a lifelong movie buff who got hooked at the age of five when his parents promised to take him to a screening of 'Bambi,' totally miscalculated the start time, and instead treated their impressionable son to 'Race With The Devil.' When he isn’t reviewing for HDD or working his tedious desk job for a major conglomerate, Shannon spends his free time drinking massive amounts of Diet Mt. Dew.
It’s easy to be critical of 'WarGames' almost 30 years after its theatrical release. The computer technology used in the film is not only archaic, but downright prehistoric by today’s standards; and the movie was both made and takes place in an era when nuclear war was not only highly possible, but – in the minds of many - only a matter of time. I loved this movie when I first saw it as a teenager, but wondered if it would still hold up given how drastically technology and global politics have changed over the past few decades. I’m happy to report that 'WarGames' is every bit as much fun as it was back in the 1980s, and it now has the added bonus of being a period piece that properly reflects the tensions and worries that were part of the Cold War era.
The movie begins deep underground at NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) where officers work in pairs manning the stations that will launch nuclear missiles to Russia. Shortly after taking over duties for the night, two men (played by 'The West Wing's John Spencer and, in his first movie role, Michael Madsen) are relayed the encrypted codes to launch the missiles. The senior officer can't bring himself to do it, although we soon learn this has only been a military test of the officers' willingness to follow an order that would almost certainly mean worldwide destruction.
The top brass at NORAD, under the advice of McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) decide it might be best if the decision to launch the missiles was kept at the highest level and then engaged by the War Operation Plan Response computer ("W.O.P.R."), which has been designed to continuously run a series of "war games" to determine the best tactical strikes during a nuclear exchange. Others at NORAD, particularly General Beringer (Barry Corbin), are less than thrilled about the nation's security being turned over to the W.O.P.R.
Viewers are then introduced to teenager David Lightman (Matthew Broderick), who is an underachiever at school, but a whiz when it comes to computers. While leafing through the pages of a magazine, he sees an advertisement for Protovision, a new computer games company, and uses his home computer to search for the dial-up number for the company's server. Instead, he accidentally stumbles upon the NORAD computer, which won't let him login, but generates a list of strategic games, beginning with "Falken's Maze" and ending with "Global Thermonuclear War." With the assistance of some of his "hacker" pals, David discovers that the first game on the list refers to Dr. Stephen Falken (John Wood), who designed the W.O.P.R. computer, and is presumed dead.
David and his classmate, Jennifer (Ally Sheedy), eventually figure out the password to the NORAD site and decide to engage in a game of "Global Thermonuclear War." While they think it's only a computer game, the folks back at NORAD are getting every indication that the Russians have started World War III. David is brought in for questioning to NORAD headquarters, but he soon discovers that the W.O.P.R. computer is playing the game for real and will soon launch the actual missiles. His only option is to try and escape from NORAD and track down the last known address of Dr. Falken… who may not be dead after all.
'WarGames' was directed by John Badham ('Saturday Night Fever') and written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter Parkes (who got an Oscar nomination for their script, and would go on to write the equally entertaining 'Sneakers'), and it's just a brilliant piece of moviemaking. Although the film follows the "teenager gets himself into trouble" plot seen so often in movies (especially during the 80s), 'WarGames' never seems unrealistic or unbelievable. It’s one of those films where everything clicks and it remains one of the best movies you'll find (right up there with the original 'Fail-Safe') that dramatizes the tensions and uncertainty that existed during the Cold War.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'WarGames' arrives on Blu-ray on a single, 50GB dual-layer disc in one of those annoyingly flimsy recyclable cases. After the 20th Century Fox logo and FBI warning, the movie automatically starts, with the only menus being of the pop-up variety (which run along the bottom of the screen when activated). The Blu-ray is region free.
'WarGames' is presented in the 1.85:1 ratio and with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoding.
For a catalog title being released at a catalog price, the transfer here is about the best anyone could hope for. The image is sharp without showing the signs of excessive DNR. Grain is visible without being overbearing. In other words, the Blu-ray manages to maintain the look of the original film while providing details that one would have probably never picked up on when viewing this in the theater back in 1983. I reviewed the 25th anniversary DVD back in 2008 (for another website) and it appeared then that the film had gotten a great restoration. I’m assuming that's the transfer we're seeing here – although why Fox waited four more years to release the Blu-ray version is anyone’s guess.
The Blu-ray comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 options for French, Italian, Dutch, and Spanish.
Much like the video, the audio here exceeds expectations for a catalog release. The quality and activity of the track is most noticeable during the NORAD sequences (particularly the finale), as well as during some of the musical soundtrack (particularly the opening "Video Fever" sequence where we meet David Lightman for the first time). Subtitles are also available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch, and Polish for the hearing impaired.
The good news is that virtually all of the extras that were on the 25th anniversary DVD release have been carried over to the Blu-ray. The bad news is that nothing new has been added. Still, if you're a fan of the film, you shouldn't be disappointed with the supplements. All the featurettes are presented in anamorphic SD, with the exception of the theatrical trailer, which is in 1080p HD.
- Audio Commentary with Director John Badham and writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter Parks – While the audio commentary isn’t a new one (it’s actually the same one that was present on the original DVD release back in 1998), it’s still quite informative, entertaining, and worth a listen if you haven’t heard it before (or a second listen if you have!). This is the kind of commentary track movie buffs love – with the commentators actually giving the listener insight into the making of the movie, rather than merely commenting on what characters onscreen are thinking/doing/feeling.
- Loading WarGames (SD, 45 min) – This behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie brings out numerous tidbits about the film that many might not have knowledge about. Like the fact that Martin Brest ('Beverly Hills Cop') was the original director of the film, only to be fired during production. Viewers will also learn that the role of Dr. Falken was originally written for a certain British rock star who tragically was never able to portray the character written with him in mind.
- Attack of the Hackers (SD, 13 ½ min) – This is a look at how the movie got people interested in the "hacker" phenomenon (not to mention probably influenced a few bright minds to become hackers themselves). In addition to some of the people connected with the movie, we get comments from noted government people, including former National Security Council member and counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke.
- Inside NORAD: Cold War Fortress (SD, 11 min) – While this featurette covers the actual NORAD base (which has now moved above ground, although the mountain base remains in operation), it also gives a good mini-history of the Cold War.
- Tic Tac Toe: A True Story (SD, 4 ½ min) – This is the only truly dismissive featurette on the Blu-ray, a rather silly (and by "silly" I don’t mean funny) look at the history of tic-tac-toe, including tips on how to play (in case the game was a little challenging for you!).
- Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 ½ min) – The theatrical trailer for 'WarGames' in 1080 HD, although (like most original trailers on Blu-rays), no attempt has been made to clean it up/restore it, so dirt and defects on the print are quite visible.
There are no high-def exclusives.
No easter eggs reported for 'WarGames' yet. Found an egg? Please use our tips form to let us know, and we'll credit you with the find.
It’s rare that a catalog title gets the kind of love and respect that 'WarGames' gets here. Even better, the movie comes at a very attractive price (Currently $7.99 at Amazon!). Fans of the movie will definitely want to add this release to their library, while newcomers should know that this is one of the most entertaining and affordable blind buys to hit the shelves this year. Recommended!
All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.
Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.