Computer games don't translate well into feature films - just
check out Mortal Kombat, Streetfighter, Super Mario Brothers and Judge
Dredd for proof. Now you can add to this inauspicious list Wing
Commander, a dull and cliché-ridden futuristic space adventure that
makes The Phantom Menace seem like Citizen Kane by comparison.
Set some 500 years in the future, Wing Commander is a science
fiction adventure aimed squarely at undemanding teenage audiences.
The plot deals with a Confederation attempt to stop an attack on Earth
launched by the hostile slug-like Kilrathi. Apparently the Kilrathi
have gained access to a navigation device that will enable them to
launch a surprise attack on the earth. Sent to counter this threat
are two rookie pilots straight out of military academy and the
Diligent, a decrepit old trade vessel piloted by the enigmatic Paladin
(Tcheky Karyo, from Bad Boys, etc).
The aptly named Maniac (Matthew Lillard, from Scream, etc) is
full of bravado but little actual combat experience. Christopher
Blair (Freddie Prinze jr, from She's All That, etc) carries a vital
coded message about the planned invasion. Although his father was a
legendary hero, Blair is not entirely trusted by Confederation
commanders because of his mixed heritage. Their flight commander is
Deveraux (Saffron Burrows, from Circle Of Friends and the upcoming
shark thriller Deep Blue Sea, etc), a tough-as-nails woman who has
forgotten her humanity.
Chris Roberts, who conceived and developed the series of
computer games on which the film is based, makes his feature film
debut as a director, but his handling of the material is less than
emphatic. The special effects are good, but the action sequences lack
genuine excitement. One of the key sequences, in which our heroes
hide from an enemy fleet that is tracking them by radar, resembles
those old W.W.II submarine movies of yesteryear, a comparison that is
enhanced through the stolid presence of Jurgen Prochnow (Das Boot,
The seemingly hurriedly written script has enough holes to
sink a black hole. The hunky youthful cast will certainly appeal to
the target audience, even if their enthusiastic, but shallow,
performances lack conviction. The international supporting cast of
veterans (Prochnow, Karyo, David Warner and David Suchet) deliver
dour, wooden performances that suggest they are uncomfortable acting
with the computer generated special effects. They also seem to be
having second thoughts about their involvement with this clichéd
and unexciting adventure.
Unfortunately, this is one wing commander that fails to take off!
Copyright © 1999 Greg King