If you want more for your $8 than just a video game brought to life bya cast of third-tier actors without a modicum of depth, excitement or reason,"Wing Commander" probably isn't for you. But I will give it creditfor two things:
1) Through 100 minutes devoid of a single spark of creativityor character appeal, somehow I was never bored.
2) The World War II-in-space inspired production designis far more inventive than a movie based on a CD-ROM game deserves.
From the dogfights in spacecraft fashioned as futuristicStuka dive-bombers (complete with flak and machine guns instead of lasers)to the combination submarine/air craft carrier battleships that fire broadsidesat each other, "Wing Commander" borrows heavily from 1940s militaryinfluence for both models and sets, lending the film a uniform visual stylethat feels wasted on a movie this bland.
The story is also borrowed -- or rather pillaged -- froma dozen hit movies with very little attempt to hide it's origins. "TopGun" and "Star Wars" are the most notable sources, anda depth charge scene that finds a submarine-like ship trying to avoid detectionon the shadowy surface of an asteroid is lifted almost whole from "DasBoot," even bringing that movie's star, Jurgen Prochnow, with it.
Freddie Prinze, Jr., Matthew Lillard (both seen in "She'sAll That"), and Saffron Burrows ("Circleof Friends") play hot-shot pilots who battle the Kilrathi, a raceof feline-faced aliens who look like they raided the defunct "Dr.Who" wardrobe for their costumes.
Writer-director Chris Roberts (who also created the gameon which the movie is based) attempts to fatten the measly plot with anunnecessarily complex historical backstory -- something about a race ofhuman pilgrims with a gift for navigation who were wiped out in a civilwar -- but you'd need an abacus to keep track of it all.
Anyway, the history lesson only serves as a springboardfor Prinze's last-act heroics where he, as a descendant of the pilgrims,is the only person who can fly a ship through an unstable wormhole andsave humanity as we know it. (It was all I could do to keep myself fromshouting out "Use The Force, Luke!")
"Wing Commander" doesn't pretend to be high art,but so much more could have been done with the WWII navy theme that onecan't help but be disappointed when it comes up so very empty.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th March 1999
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Production compaines: 20th Century Fox, No Prisoners Productions, Origin Systems Inc.
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 10%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 43
IMDB: 4.1 / 10
Director: Chris Roberts
Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr. as 1st Lt. Christopher Blair, Saffron Burrows as Lt. Cmdr. 'Angel' Devereaux, Matthew Lillard as Lt. Todd 'Maniac' Marshall, Tchéky Karyo as Cmmdre. James 'Paladin' Taggart