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September 18, 2008 |

By TK Burton | Film | September 18, 2008 |

13 minutes and 32 seconds. That’s how long it took me to realize just how wretched this movie is. I suppose some of you may be surprised that it even took that long. Don’t get me wrong — I knew from the opening credits that I was in for a rough ride. But I figured, you know, it might be the fun kind of bad. Like “Saved By the Bell” reruns, or dead baby jokes.

I was wrong.

For those who haven’t discerned it from the title, WarGames: The Dead Code is a sequel to the beloved 1983 classic, WarGames, which starred a plucky, adorable Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy as teens who accidentally hacked into a government computer and, well, intrigue and hijinks ensued, bringing the world to the brink of World War III. Now you may be thinking, “Wait a second,TK, ol’ buddy, there’s a sequel? And why in the flying monkeyfuck are you reviewing it?” Well, first of all, I ain’t your goddamn buddy. Second of all, yes, there is sequel — it’s a direct to video affair, released in July of this year. Finally, I’m reviewing it because I like pain. Oh, sweet, sweet suffering. Because make no mistake — WarGames: The Dead Code hurts.

Anyway, I suppose I’ll talk about the plot, for whatever the hell that’s worth. Will Farmer (Matt Lanter — Disaster Movie, The Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream) is a high school computer whiz who spends his time playing internet pranks that have supposedly gotten him into hot water with his school and his mom. We know this because it’s one of the first things he says, even though it’s never expounded upon and never comes up again after the first 15 minutes of the movie. I suppose it’s just there to show what a renegade Will is. Anyway, he’s got all the earmarks of your average movie high-school kid. He’s got a wisecracking buddy, Dennis (Nicholas Wright — Superstorm, Swamp Devil), who is easily the most irritating character invented in the last five years. Seriously, within five minutes, I wanted to bite his eyes out. He’s got a girl he’s crushing on, Annie (Amanda Walsh — an episode of “Veronica Mars,” a bunch of other crap). Of course, he demonstrates his affection for her by cyberstalking her and trying to hack into her life via the internet, which isn’t at all creepy or demented. Instead, when she catches him stalking her she finds it charming and leaves him cutesy messages persuading him to go on a chess club trip to Montreal so they can hang out. Just in case anyone missed the bit I buried in that sentence, let me reiterate: A chess club trip to Montreal. God, I fucking hate this movie. Are writers so bereft of originality that we have to just start coming up with goofy, arbitrary ideas to get people to travel? Of course, of fucking course, chess will come into play later in the movie and help save the day.

Ever watch an entire movie while gritting your teeth yet falling asleep at the same time? I swear to God, I woke up this morning with TMJ.

Where was I? Right, the plot. Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security, in between shutting down movie websites and searching me five fucking times every time I travel, has created a new, eviler supercomputer called RIPLEY to replace the original’s W.O.P.R./Joshua computer from WarGames. Don’t ask what RIPLEY stands for, because either they never say it, or I blacked out during that moment. It’s a toss-up, really. Now here’s the kicker. RIPLEY inserts herself (yes, it’s voiced by a female this time) into the internet as a gambling website, where players bet money on how many people they can kill using things like, in another sad nod to the original, Global Thermonuclear Warfare, and bioweapons, and something called “The Dead Code,” a moniker that is totally and completely irrelevant and has no bearing on the film’s title or the events that take place. Somehow, RIPLEY traces the players and… um… digs into their online information… and… well… figures out which ones are terrorists. Because terrorists … play online gambling games? About biowarfare?

You know how sometimes when you’re eating, you accidentally bite the inside of your cheek? Well, I just somehow bit my own brain. I’m going to need a moment.

So. Because Will’s mom works at a chemical plant, and because he stole some money one time, and because the computer he used belongs to his next-door neighbor, and that neighbor is from Syria, RIPLEY assumes that Will is a terrorist. Stop laughing, you assholes. I’m serious. That’s how it happens! Of course, all of the various nefarious government employees and tech geeks that work for DHS and the department of scary-ass supercomputers all blindly agree that a 17 year-old suburban kid obviously is a terrorist, and they set out to track him down. In Montreal. Because, you know, he’s there for the chess trip. Also? I want to die.

I can’t believe I’ve spent this much time summarizing the plot of this case of cinematic gonorrhea. Next thing we know, Will and Annie are on the run through Montreal trying to escape the black hats, as RIPLEY taps into everything from cell phones to the security cameras at a 7/11 (because obviously those are hooked up to the internet, and she controls the internet) to track them down. Eventually they run into Professor Stephen Falken (a recurring character from the original but played by a different actor) who has also been tracking them, and then some shit blows up, they get captured and somehow end up in Washington D.C., where RIPLEY is now trying to kill half of Philadelphia. Will, Annie, and Dr. Falken have to save the day by getting the original Joshua program and RIPLEY to play “Suicide Chess.” Somehow that works, RIPLEY backs down and everyone hugs. I, meanwhile, am considering kneeling down and begging my DVD player for forgiveness.

Did that make sense to everyone? Because I’ll be honest — not only is the movie shamelessly derivative, poorly directed and flat-out boring, it’s also so utterly discombobulated that trying to make sense of the plot will literally make you woozy. It is complete and total nonsense. In an effort to try to make it seem complex and clever, writers Rob Kerchner (responsible for instant classics like Bloodfist V: Human Target and Casper Meets Wendy) and Randall Badat (Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream — who thought that would be referenced twice today?) instead came up with a series of concepts that have no grounding in reality at all. Once again, Hollywood writers display a breathtaking ignorance of how computers and the internet actually work, instead trying to force their deranged, blockheaded ideas into some semblance of a story. Well, it’s a story that sucks relentlessly and without mercy — and not in the good way. Instead, it’s needlessly complicated, with transitions and leaps in logic that are nothing less than an intellectual cockpunch to the viewers.

The director is equally guilty, mind you. Stuart Gillard (responsible for directing a few episodes of “Charmed” and… holy fucking shit, Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream — hand to God) directs the film with such epic hamfistedness that it’s almost dazzling. He, the writers and the producers are clearly fans of the Scott brothers — the computer is named RIPLEY (and in one moment, a character actually says, “Like in Alien”), and they have obviously borrowed the worst aspects of Tony Scott’s directorial style — hyperkinetic, frenzied, headache inducing editing, those annoying fast-then slow-then fast again shots, super zooms from far above to ground level… all of those tricks that hack directors think makes them look skilled, but instead just look like a live-action version of “Battling Seizure Robots.” Not to mention the innumerable scenes that are just idiotic — Will and Annie are arrested on top of a mountain in Montreal. They open a door, and somehow end up in a bunker in Washington DC? There’s a scene of the two of them literally outrunning a car. They are running in a straight line. The car is not dodging anything, yet it can’t catch them? The assjackery in this film is absolute, I tell you.

On the bright side, the acting is actually quite decent. HA! Suckers. That’s a bald-faced fucking lie. The acting is worse than my fourth-grade play. There’s only one actor I’ve even heard of — Colm Feore. The thing is, I actually like Feore, so I was at first disappointed, until I read his iMDB resume and… whew. Dude is not what you’d call “selective.” Suffice it to say that his performance alternates between resoundingly mediocre and completely overwrought. He somehow manages to deliver lines like, “RIPLEY operates at 98.6% efficiency — the temperature of human blood.” Incidentally, I believe that was the line delivered at the 13:32 mark. His is also easily the best performance in the film, unfortunately. The two protagonists are awful — simpering caricatures who couldn’t convey a real human expression if you pointed a gun at their well-coiffed heads. That’s all I’m going to tell you, for fear that my eyes start vomiting again.

I was a little concerned when, about halfway through the movie, I turned to my cat and asked him, “Seriously Little Man, what the hell is going on? I mean, are you following this at all?” This tells you two things: that WarGames: The Dead Code makes absolutely no sense, and that it will drive you completely insane. It’s a movie that literally fails in every way a movie can fail — direction, acting, writing, editing, music, set design, production, everything. I understand that it’s a DTV release, and that I shouldn’t get so worked up about it. But there are entertaining DTV releases out there… not good, per se, but at least amusing. WarGames: The Dead Code isn’t amusing. It’s not entertaining. It was worse than I thought it would be, and I had some pretty damn low expectations.

TK can be found wandering aimlessly through suburban Massachusetts, wondering how the hell he got there while yelling at the kids on his lawn. You can find him raising the dead in preparation for world domination at Uncooked Meat.

You're Fucking Kidding Me, Right?

WarGames: The Dead Code / TK

Film | September 18, 2008 |

TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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