Hollywood Visits the
Video Games, Part One
by Al Backiel
There are several movies in which video games are a part of the storyline.
TRON, released by Disney, is a rather elaborate sci-fi epic. A programmer is reduced to "byte size" and swallowed up by a computer. Here he must fight being taken over by the Master Control Program. Gamers will be able to notice the resemblance of the "grid battles" to the classic games of Surround and Battlezone. This movie was the inspiration for a slew of games: Tron Deadly Discs, Adventures of Tron, Tron Solar Sailer, and Maze-a-Tron, besides becoming a successful coin-op in the arcades. [ED: Tron was released in 1982 and stars Jeff Bridges and David Warner. Leonard Maltin's video guide gives it 2 stars out of 4.]
In THE LAST STARFIGHTER, a video game called Starfighter is used as a secret test by an alien named Centauri. When a teenager from a trailer park breaks the record he is recruited to fight for the survival of another world. This movie just barely made it out as Star Raiders II for the Atari computers and the XE System. A 5200 namesake prototype exists as well. [ED: released in 1984, Wil Wheaton from Star Trek: TNG has a small part. Maltin gives it 2 1/2 stars.]
THE WIZARD concerns the adventures of three runaways who are hustling their way arcade-to-arcade from Utah to L.A. Their goal is to have their best player compete for the grand prize in the video game finals. Nintendo provided the graphics with several of their games on display. The championship round was Super Mario Bros. 3. [ED: released in 1989, Stars Fred "Wonder Years" Savage, Beau Bridges and Christian Slater. Maltin gives it 2 stars.]
NIGHTMARES is a collection of four Twilight Zone-style short stories. One of these is a little gem about a teenager's obsession with beating a coin-op game called The Bishop of Battle. I don't want to give away the ending, but there are some neat special effects in this one. [ED: released in 1983, stars Emilio Estevez in the videogame segment. Maltin: 2 stars again.]
In SUPERMAN 3, there is a scene in which Superman is flying over the Grand Canyon. The movie reverts to a video game at this point featuring the Man of Steel fending off the guided missiles of an evil genius and racking up points in the process. The graphics were created by Atari. [ED: Also released in 1983, stars Chris "Superman" Reeves, Richard Pryor, Annetto O'Toole, Jackie Cooper, Robert Vaughn, and Margot Kidder. Maltin gives it a generous 1 1/2 stars.]
D.A.R.Y.L. is the story of a foster kid with amazing abilities. Not the least of which is his prowess with video games such as Pole Position and Missile Command. He later learns of his origins. [ED: released in 1985, stars Mary Beth Hurt and Michael "Lenny" McKean. Maltin gives it 2 stars.]
In WARGAMES, the action centers around a computer simulation called Global Thermonuclear War. A hacker breaks into the computer at NORAD and plays against the computer. He later finds out that the computer ins't playing for fun, but for real. This one packs a lot of suspense as the world teeters on the brink of disaster. [ED: released in 1983 and stars Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, and Ally Sheedy. Maltin gave it 2 1/2 stars.]
ANDROID features graphics done by - Vectrex! Incredible as that may seem, the game of Star Trek is an important part of the plot. GCE also did some of the other special graphics. I couldn't help wondering if they were from games under development at that time. [ED: released in 1982, stars Klaus Kinski. Maltin gave it 3 stars... and you thought there was no pleasing this guy!]
CLOAK & DAGGER is a spy thriller that centers around the Atari 5200 video game cartridge of the same name. The game falls into the hands of a youngster who immediately becomes the target of the bad guys. The thing that makes this cart so valuable is that it contains an "Easter egg" showing top secret military data. There are subliminal plugs for Atari all over the place. If you look closely you will see: the Atari 5200 Cloak & Dagger cart w/label and box, the box for 5200 Tempest, several 5200 systems and various other Atari boxes. Cloak & Dagger is actually demonstrated showing the title and several levels. Why this game hasn't shown up (even in prototype) is beyond me. Even if you are not into the 5200, this movie is worth watching due to the views of San Antonio, the Alamo, and the River Walk. [ED: released in 1984 and stars Dabney Coleman. Maltin gives this one 3 stars, too.]
SUPER MARIO BROS., the newest release features the adventures of Mario and Luigi. This one has a lot of potential to be a big hit because of the popularity of the games.
Many movies were translated into video games. Unfortunately, they're notoriously weak - merely trying to capitalize on the name recognition. Computers are being used more and more behind the scenes in movie-making to create animation, music, and outrageous special effects.
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