June 13, 2020

Watch_Dogs And Hacking: Hollywood Is Right And Wrong

To be honest, I relished on the fact that I’ll get to write about Watch_Dogs. Why?

Well, because in my entire tenure here at IndieGala, I’ve never written about anything remotely similar to this. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of niche topics and weird characters. I’ve written about infamous dictators, iconic mobsters and dirty cops. And Pablo Escobar of all people. I adored every single one of these posts I must admit, but the Watch_Dogs post seems like a particularly fascinating challenge.

Watch_Dogs and Watch_Dogs 2 are on sale

First and foremost, I must also mention that we do have plenty of War_Dogs video games on sale. Two, to be more exact. Including the most recent oneWatch_Dogs 2, as well as the original Watch_Dogs. If you’re a fan of the Ubisoft’s action-adventure games, make sure to stock up.

Secondly, movies about hackers are some of my favorites to watch. But I feel that most often than not, Hollywood can’t really nail the accuracy and realism behind the covert operations. However, before I touch on the issues that Hollywood has with the hacking itself, I feel that it’s my prerogative that I mention a word or two about the game that has hacking as its cornerstone.

Now, I’m going to focus on Watch_Dogs 2 in my explanation. But as previously mentioned, both Watch_Dogs and the sequel are available for purchase at IndieGala.

Watch_Dogs

Watch_Dogs 2: What’s the game all about?

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft, Watch_Dogs 2 is an action-adventure game. A sequel to 2014’s Watch Dogs that’s set within a fictionalized version of the San Francisco Bay Area. You get to play as Marcus Holloway. 

A brilliant young hacker living in the birthplace of the tech revolution, the San Francisco Bay Area. Also, you can team up with Dedsec, a notorious group of hackers, and expose the hidden dangers of ctOS 2.0. Which, in the hands of corrupt corporations, is being wrongfully used to monitor and manipulate citizens on a massive scale.

Therefore, with the power of hacking and Dedsec by your side, you have the ability to launch the Hack of the Century, take down ctOS 2.0 and give freedom back to whom it belongs: the people. Additionally, Watch_Dog 2 features four competitive multiplayer modes, such as hacking invasion, bounty hunter, Showd0wn and racing mode. So, go ahead. Be the best hacker you can be. Watch_Dogs 2 dares you.

The origins of hacking in Hollywood

Much like with everything else, Hollywood caught the bug of hacking early on. Back when nobody owned a personal computer, let alone knew what hacking is. I’m talking about the 80’s and frankly early to mid 90’s. Sure, we might sneer now at those early attempts, and think that they’re silly. But movies like War Games, Tron, Weird Science really did pave the way for the portrayal of hacking in modern cinema. Because of them we now have Sneakers, Swordfish, Johnny Mnemonic, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Matrix and even Inception for that matter. 

And of course, we have Mr. Robot. One of the greatest TV Shows ever made. Mr. Robot cleared plenty of misconceptions about the hacking itself but also portrayed the very act of hacking more realistically. It’s not always dynamic and fun nor it’s always gloomy and frightening. As often Hollywood leads you to believe it is. Which brings me to my question. How realistic is hacking in most Hollywood movies? Does Hollywood nail the hacking process and pretty much everything that goes with it?

mr robot darlene GIF

What Hollywood gets wrong?

A disclaimer is in order here. I am not a hacker by any means. And this part of the post is based solely on research, so take it with a grain of salt. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Because time is of the essence in most Hollywood movies, we often get a quickly edited and fast-paced hacking scene in front of a computer screen. Accompanied with some modern techno music (or even rock music in some instances) and a very amused, slightly concentrated actor, wearing a black hoodie, in front of at least three computer screens, in a really dark room. Admit it. You’ve seen those scenes way too many times. You know what I’m talking about.

In most cases, nothing could be further from the truth. Most hacking involves plenty of time management, planning, coding, analyzing security systems and so on. It’s a boring lengthy and tedious task that requires lots of attention to detail. It’s not always a scene of Enemy Of The State nor The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, although the latter is pretty realistic and accurate according to most modern hackers or tech industry experts. Hacking is not very stylish either. It’s also not a very exciting job in order to be cinematic and catchy for the eye. But Hollywood can work its way around that indeed. And the results are sometimes astonishing. 

But what movies got it right?

Believe it or not, Hollywood can sometimes portray things (events, people, even skills) properly and realistically. And when it does, it’s really entertaining to watch the final product.

According to my research, Michael Mann’s Blackhat is one of the most accurate movies on the subject of hacking. So is Swordfish, Track Down and the 90’s gems like Sneakers and Hackers. But also The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, The Fifth Estate and even Ghost In The Shell, to a certain degree.

Frankly, I was most surprised by Blackhat. Although I loved it unlike most of the critics and audience, there’s no denying that Blackhat was a critical flop and a box office bomb some 5 years ago. Which is a shame, because it was brilliant in my opinion. Visually stunning and thematically interesting enough to grab your attention for the entire 130 minutes of screen-time. Michael Mann delivered a pleasant surprise with that one.

Watch_Dogs

Watch_Dogs and the future of hacking in movies

Frankly, I don’t see a major shift in the hacking portrayal in the foreseeable future. Certainly not in the realistic portrayal of the act. However, we might get some interesting and innovative portrayal that strays as further for the truth. Especially if the movie in question blends genres and themes.

But whether you like it or not, some good movies on the subject are really fun to watch even now. The Net, Sneakers, Swordfish, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Blackhat are some of my favorites. What are your picks? Tell us in the comment section below. We’d love to know all about them for sure.

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