Last week, the sad announcement was made that the hilarious,
bad-movie-skewering cult TV hit _Mystery_Science_Theater_3000_ was ending
its run after its forthcoming tenth season. That announcement is even
sadder by the release of _Wing_Commander_, the latest entry in the dubious
"based on a video game" film genre--my, what a field day Mike Nelson and
his robot pals would have had with this prime piece of sci-fi schlock.
Based on the popular computer game of the same name--and directed by no
less than the game's creator, Chris Roberts--_Wing_Commander_ takes place
during a war between humans and the evil Kilrathi alien race in the year
2564. But that's actually more plot details than anyone really needs.
Essentially, the film is about a bunch of guys in spaceships trying to
shoot down and/or blow up enemy ships. But someone forgot to tell Roberts
I doubt I have read a more pretentious statement than one Roberts gives in
the press notes: "_Wing_Commander_ is a hard-core war movie set in space.
In some ways, it has more in common with _Midway_ and
_The_Battle_of_Britain_ than with a science-fiction film.... I wanted to
make a film about people under the incredible tension of battle." It's
more about actors under the incredible tension of poor writing, direction,
and all other facets of filmmaking. Stars Freddie Prinze, Jr., Matthew
Lillard, and Saffron Burrows (the latter being the "wing commander" of the
title) are all atrocious, but the fact that they've all done acceptable
work in other films (yes, even Prinze) puts them at less blame than Roberts.
The story that he and scripter Kevin Droney have come up with is a messy
mish-mash of elements of _Star_Wars_ (Prinze's metaphysically-gifted
character must save the day with The Force, more or less), _Star_Trek_ (the
gibberish-speaking Kilrathi look like papier-mache mutations of the Klingon
race), and bad soap opera, which manifests itself in the form of cornball
"emotional" scenes and even more painful dialogue. Among other things,
lines such as "My adult life I've taken crap because I'm part Pilgrim!" and
"He's a good guy, Angel. There's no reason to hate him" left the preview
audience overcome with laughter. (And, no, hearing the lines in context
does _not_ help.)
Movies like _Wing_Commander_ make me continue to question the logic of the
whole video-game-to-film practice. After all, isn't the idea of
interactivity what makes a video game popular in the first place? Wouldn't
anyone rather sit at home playing the game than pay eight bucks to watch
some dreary feature-length commercial, which is essentially what these poor
excuses for films are? Then again, in terms of _Wing_Commander_, I'd
rather do just about anything than sit through it another time.
To think that we could have actually been spared the agony that is
_Wing_Commander_: the film had been languishing on Fox's shelf until the
inexplicable success of a certain movie called _She's_All_That_ brought
some luster to Prinze and Lillard's names. Just another reason to thank
the general moviegoing public for their exquisite taste.