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WarGames (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

If there’s one thing that Shout! Factory can excel at, its getting 80s classics onto the latest home video formats in the more celebrated fashions. During Hanukkah and just before Christmas hits this year, they’ll be putting out Jon Badham’s 1983 classic, WarGames starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy. Just ahead of its 40th anniversary, this 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut features a new 4K scan from the original camera negative. All extras from the Blu-ray edition are intact. You’ll be able to pick this one up on December 20th. If you want to, you can pre-order it using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review at the bottom of the page.

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Film

Computer hacker David Lightman (Broderick) can bypass the most advanced security systems, break the most intricate secret codes and master even the most difficult computer games. But when he unwittingly taps into the Defense Department’s war computer, he initiates a confrontation of global proportions — World War III! Together with his girlfriend (Sheedy) and a wizardly computer genius (Tony Award winner John Wood), David must race against time to outwit his opponent … and prevent a nuclear Armageddon.

John Badham’s WarGames is a nifty little thriller that feels a perfect ground where adults and teens come to meet. It also feels a hair groundbreaking in its subject matter that drives the film. Altogether, the film winds up crafting its own sort of world, based upon true event type studies, that stands confident enough in its realm and caring in its storytelling to hold up 40 years later. While technology and times have dated, the film does well enough in its scripting and characters that nobody checking it out now will bat an eye and it could merely be seen as a period piece.

Prior to Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy incidentally getting involved in military operations via computer programming and video games, there wasn’t much to speak of for this type of subject matter in the movies. This was the door opening and somebody putting it forth in a way to speak to the youth who were familiar, while also educating the “that’s all child’s play” type adults. This one sort of made hackers a thing, and a thing that kids kind of wanted to be after. Later in the year, a sex comedy called Joysticks would release, but we really don’t talk about that one much as it didn’t really embrace the tech much. The Last Starfighter would try a different thing with video games leading to adventures and would be held up fondly like this one.

What probably helps WarGames out, in terms of its ability to hold on over the years, is that it has a master craftsman like Badham at the helm. Its a movie that is largely in the “teen” category, but he treats it with adult sensibilities and it feels quite big. There’s a big orchestral score, some very big scale looking scenes in the mountains. Also, the way many of the scenes are cut add a very nice layer of paranoia and suspense. All in all, by the end, you’re in it, you’re edging up on your seat and ultimately taking in and enjoying the ride.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review from the standard Blu-ray, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail WarGames debuts on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a new 4K scan of the original camera negative.  It carries a bit of a darker, but bolder image. There are very fine details on display, like finger smudges or key scratches on  phone booth, to light touches of dust on desks. The frames are crisp and feature good color saturation and black levels for a very nice, filmic appearance. Most of the rustic, nature sequences look pretty gorgeous.

Depth: Depth of field is pretty strong, which has some nice pushback but also a grand sense of scale in both interiors and exteriors. From the base of operations to the mountains, this movie looks and feels pretty big. Movement is smooth and natural with no motion distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural. They provide some terrific contrast to really strengthen the colors, but also to bring a more refined, detailed and sharper picture. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors have a bold, natural appearance to them. The 80s clothing and colors really carry that pop but also don’t bleed or look too vivid. HDR provides a nice glow for the display screens as well as some of the more radiant colors like an orange backpack or a purple or yellow shirt here and there.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and mostly consistent from start to finish. There’s a closeup of Broderick in bright daylight at one point for a couple shots that is a bit too bleeding and looks to have maybe some crush issues with it from being too vivid. Its not much of a moment, but was a little bit to notice.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

DynamicsWarGames comes with the 5.1 track from its previous life on standard Blu-ray. This is a rock solid track with some good balance and nice deep tones feel plenty full. There is some nice layering and depth with the vocals, score and special effects here, providing some nice nuance and effective louder sequence and contrast between scenes.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer hits in some good natural fashions, but also really punches up the score at time and rumbles to good effect.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a more front heavy mix, but does manage to sneak in some playful moments that channel in a good travel or unique contribution from the rear channels.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

WarGames comes with the standard Blu-ray edition. Aside from the commentary, all bonus features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

Audio Commentary

  • with Director Jon Badham and Writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes

Loading WarGames (HD, 45:05)

Inside NORAD: Cold War Fortress (HD, 10:54)

Attack Of The Hackers (HD, 13:35)

Tic Tac Toe: A True Story (HD, 4:30)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:22)

Summary

After Saturday Night Fever, one could argue WarGames as John Badham’s second most known/beloved film. Shout! Factory gets to debut it on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a pretty terrific new transfer. When it comes to audio and extras, they all carry over, so the new transfer is the upgrade here. And its 4K Ultra-HD, so that’s what you’re looking for, and its worth it for fans of the film.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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