Welcome to the futuristic world of the mid-90’s. Everybody roller blades, people where flannel like its going out of style(I guess it kind of did…), and nobody knows what is actually going on inside a computer. The world is on the technological fast track and everybody is just trying to get used to it…except the hackers. This pretty much puts us where we need to be in “Hackers”, a film designed to show us that sometimes we need people to break into computers in order to save us…from people that break into computers.
We meet hacker Zero Cool when he is arrested for causing the crash of 1,507 computers with a single virus…at the age of 11. His punishment? A fine of $45,000 and he is banned from computers(and touch tone phones) until his eighteenth birthday. Cut to present day: Dade Murphy(formerly Zero Cool) is enrolling in a new school and stretching out his hacker muscles. He meets some friends that share his enthusiasm for “the game”, and soon he his part of the huge underground hacker sub-culture(they even have their own party warehouse as all misunderstood teen groups from the 90’s seemed to have had). Life sure is looking up for Dade, who now goes by the handle Crash Override, especially after meeting fellow hacker Kate AKA Acid Burn.
When one of his new pals manages to hack into a corporate super-computer and download some seemingly useless files, things start to get heavy. The file is actually part of a program that will steal millions of dollars while causing a string of major oil spills as a distraction, and all of it will be blamed on hackers. Soon the government is tipped off by the creator of the virus(a programmer for the corporation), and Dade and his friends become the prime suspects in all things technology. How will they hack their way out of this one?
Recruiting the help of some Asian guys(because who knows computers better than Asian guys?) and uniting the hacking world under one common goal, they declare war on the super-computer that has the virus. The plan: destroy the computer to stop the virus and then show the world that hackers saved the day…except for the hacker who made the virus in the first place. The evil programmer(played by the awesome Fisher Stevens) isn’t going to let that happen, and with the help of Penn Jillette(yeah, of Penn & Teller….) fights back with all his megabyte might. Alas, he is no match for the combined efforts of the entire world, and his super-computer turns into the world’s largest system error 404. His plan is broadcast around the world, using Matthew Lillard as a mouthpiece(did all movies in the 90’s have him in them), and the hackers(the good ones) are set free from the watchful eyes of the government…just like that.
It seems like whenever a movie involves hacking, it is always portrayed as being very fun and colorful. The computer work looks more like a video game than the tedious realm of codes and files that actually make up a working computer. And if you think that hackers are going to be a bunch of highly social fun-loving party-people that can log into a payphone and cause some serious cyber-damage, guess again. Hackers are the guys that live in their basements with 3 computers and 6 monitors, playing WOW while they spend exorbitant amounts of time sifting through lines of basic(a computer term!) and surviving on a steady diet of delivered pizza and Monster energy drinks.
Thanks to Sideburns Steve for the suggestion, it was definitely a period piece that has become horribly dated and obsolete. Until next time, you say ’em, I play ’em!