|Category||Adventure||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.85:1 (Non-16x9), Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:18)|
|Year Released||1983||Commentary Tracks||Yes, 1 - John Badham (Director), Lawrence Lasker (Writer), Walter F. Parkes (Writer)|
|Running Time||108:10 Minutes||Other Extras||Booklet|
|Start Up||Language Selection then Menu|
Fox Home Video
|RPI||$34.95||Music||Arthur B. Rubinstein|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
|16x9 Enhancement||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Meanwhile, after a routine test of the procedures used to launch nuclear missiles reveals an alarming failure rate in the human element of twenty-two percent, a plan is conceived to remove the human element from the American military's strategic defense. McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) has worked everything out, from the hardware that will be used to the manner in which it will be programmed and run by a supercomputer called the War Operation Plan Response machine, or WOPR for short (inventing new anagrams was a favourite pastime in that era). The only thing he didn't count on was that a young hacker with too much time on his hands would investigate the history of the man who programmed the machine and work out the "back door password". While this plot device was unique and esoteric in 1982, it has since become one of the most dire and woefully inaccurate clichés that Hollywood has ever produced in the last eighteen years. However, one aspect of the film that hasn't become trite or clichéd with the passage of time is the remarkably personal characterization of the computer and its creator, Doctor Falken (John Wood). Without ruining the few real surprises that this film has, suffice it to say that the powerful supercomputer used in this scenario assumes the personality of Falken's son, Joshua. So, for all intents and purposes, David's innocent mistake leaves the military fighting with the digital equivalent of an overly intelligent school child. I shudder to think what sort of condition the world would be in now if I had the capability to launch nuclear missiles at Russia just as a game, because I can't think of a single thing that I knew when I was younger that would have made me stop myself from obliterating the world.
Obviously, stories about the world of computing do not stand up all that well to the test of time, and this is especially true of WarGames. In the year 1982, the computers responsible for such mundane tasks as printing documents took up an entire room, with what was then termed the microcomputer only just beginning to find a home market. Now, the processing capabilities of the military supercomputers depicted in this film are less than a tenth of those belonging to computers that can be bought at your local Dick Smith's. So, to make a long story short, as a computer film, WarGames is decidedly dated, as are all computer-based films from this era with the sole exception of Tron. However, as a story about a computer enthusiast and his attempt to make up for a serious blunder, with a nicely presented anti-war message to boot, this film is definitely worth checking out.
The sharpness of the transfer is definitely better than VHS or television broadcast, but not by so much that it will make you leap out of your seat, or decide to show the film to friends who have yet to be convinced about the virtues of the format. The shadow detail was acceptable, but clearly lacking in the few scenes shot at night or in low lighting conditions. Thankfully, no low-level noise appeared to make these parts of the film look any worse.
The colour saturation is surprisingly warm, but the early 1980s fashion and architecture combine with early 1980s film stock to present a rather aged look which increases the generally dated feel of the film. Skin tones and clothing come up looking nice and bright, although the characteristic overbalance towards red that exists in most shots, which is common to early 1980s films, is present and accounted for.
MPEG artefacts were not present during the main feature, partly because there simply isn't enough opportunity in the film itself for them to manifest, but also because the film has plenty of space to breathe. The bitrate of the transfer is almost always at the maximum ten megabits per second, and doesn't fall very far when it does fall below this level. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor aliasing, but the total amount is exceptionally mild compared to what one would normally expect from a film with this much machinery in it. As a matter of fact, the most noticeable instance of aliasing is at 34:34, and occurs in the slats on the sides of the door to the Lightman residence. Given how many opportunities for aliasing there are in this film, this is quite remarkable. Film artefacts were generally minor, with only the occasional large spot on the picture being noted. Overall, this is a very clean transfer with little to complain about aside from the lack of 16x9 enhancement.
Another area where the packaging error bug has struck Fox Home Video is in the subtitles list, which fails to mention that there are actually two sets of subtitles for English and German, not just the Hearing Impaired versions. This is a minor quibble compared to some of the other packaging errors I found, but it is still quite annoying.
This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place at 59:48, which is a few seconds after WOPR/Joshua responds to David's question as to whether the data being shown on a terminal happens to be "for real", so to speak. This is an excellent layer change in spite of its placement, as I had to run through it twice with the audio commentary turned on to notice it. The layer change pause is barely perceptible under these circumstances, even on two players where layer changes are often very noticeable.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, partly because the dialogue seems to have originally been mixed about ten decibels above the rest of the soundtrack. Being that this film is more driven by dialogue than excessive sound effects, this is a very important aspect of the soundtrack, so the heightened presence of the dialogue is perfectly acceptable. Audio sync was not a problem during the main feature.
The score music in this film is credited to Arthur B. Rubinstein, and it is an especially quirky and dramatic effort which occasionally lends a certain comedic and manic feel to the on-screen action. Moments in this film that could have fallen flat are enhanced by the score, and in some cases are even rescued by its comic vitality. This is no small feat given that this film looked implausible when it was initially released, and looks exceptionally dated in this age where more households have computers than not. The score music transforms this film from a comedy to a thriller and back again, and sometimes makes it both at once, with an eerie string arrangement often accompanying a quirky rhythm section that wouldn't sound out of place in one of the Ghostbusters films. This is one of the better film scores you will hear from an early 1980s film.
The surround presence on the English soundtrack is very limited, to the point where there seems to be little difference between the English 5.1 remix and the Spanish 2.0 Stereo dubbing. The 5.1 remix has the bare minimum of surround activity necessary to constitute a surround soundtrack, but there is nothing discrete or subtle about it, nor is it particularly enveloping. Having said that much, one thing this soundtrack does have in its favour is the absence of any clicks, pops, or dropouts, which is certainly very good for a film that has been languishing in the vaults for the better part of two decades. The subwoofer was occasionally called into use in order to support the humming of machinery and the music, but there are no explosive action sounds to be found in this soundtrack. In any case, the subwoofer was called upon every now and again, and when it was heard, it was mostly inconspicuous.
The video quality is very good, but spoiled by a lack of 16x9 enhancement, with a few too many film artefacts.
The audio quality is good, but a waste of half the channels encoded into the soundtrack.
The extras are passable in quantity, but surprisingly
good in quality
|DVD||Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer|