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Wing Commander

video review out of 4 Movie Review: Wing Commander

Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Saffron Burrows
Director: Chris Roberts
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: March 1999
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action, War

Review by Greg King
1½ stars out of 4

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, etc).

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

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