Saturday, 4 October 2008

NO CARRIER

Back in the good old days of 1996-1997 when I was lucky to go to school three days a week I became something of a midday movie specialist. Hey, the internet was still shit then - what else was I supposed to do? Watch the Midday Show? I don't think so. The movies they have on during the day are generally low budget made for TV slopfests about some American idiot overcoming the loss of their frontal lobe to win a spelling bee or something, but occasionally they throw in something that was huge in it's time but has dated so horribly that they can't put it on anywhere else.

And thus more than a decade later I found myself comatose on a couch in the midst of a semi-legitimate sick day watching the MOST DATED FILM OF ALL TIME, Wargames.

For those of you who aren't familiar it goes a bit like this. Pre-Bueller Matthew Broderick is a massive early 80's computer nerd who is inexplicably being cracked on to by a pre-hot in The Breakfast Club Ally Sheedy but is too busy with 5 1/4 inch disks to do anything about it. In attempting to 'break in' to a computer company's system to play some new game he comes across another computer that doesn't identify itself. With the help of what surely must have been the first ever stereotype computer nerds in a feature film Bueller learns that every system has a 'backdoor' password which you can type in and that will bypass EVERY security aspect that it has. Even allowing for the fact that this was probably true in 1983 it seems fairly ludicrous now. Eventually he gets in by typing the immortal code-word Joshua and instead of choosing to play one of the sensible sounding games like Chess he and Sheeds decide on a round of Global Thermonuclear War.

Of course he's actually logged into NORAD and suddenly everyone thinks that the Russians are about to drop 500 megatons of nuclear weapons on top of them. High alert, Defcon 2 and various panic ensues until they realise it was all a fake. Much soul searching takes place before they discover that it was actually some punk kid and arrest him coming out of a 7/11 drinking a Big Gulp (no slurpee available?)

Of course by now the program has a life of it's own via various wacky shenanigans it decides to set off a nuclear war of it's own. Cue some of the most retrospectively hillarious dialogue in history ("What about we attack the deep logic?" "I keep hitting a firewall!") and a farcical finale where Bueller beats the government super computer with a mind of it's own by forcing it to play tic-tac-toe against itself. All charges are presumably dropped and he finally cracks on to the girl.

Absolutely ludicrous television by today's standards but it must have blown people's minds in it's day. I can just see hundreds of freaks buying a 300 baud modem (that's about a billion times slower than the internet you're on, no matter what type it is) and desperately trying to stick it to the government.

Incidentally there's a bit in the film where the makers must surely have been taking the piss. Fast forward to 1.30 of this clip and take a look at some of the simulation names they have for nuclear war. Next time there's any sort of international conflict I want my government waiting for the "Hong Kong Variant", "SEATO Decapitating", "Iceland Maximum", "Sudan Surprise" or the time honoured "Angentina Escalation" (whoops, didn't think anyone would see that did we?) I'm surprised the "Dirty Sanchez" didn't get a run somewhere.

So, err, anyway. If you're tired of life and have two hours to waste you could do worse than sit down and watch this movie. For instance you could stick your hand into a meat mincer or jump into the lion cage at the zoo dressed like a chicken roll.

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