Fox // 1999 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // July 16th, 1999
At the edge of our universe, all hell is about to break loose.
Wing Commander comes off a stellar run on the computer gaming scene onto the big screen in what is nothing less than a horrid film.
A few years back I picked up a game called "Wing Commander III" upon the recommendation of a computer store salesman. I had my reservations about the game since past games mixed with live action film (thanks to the onset of CD- ROM) had always turned out to be lacking in real game play. "Wing Commander III" was different though. The game mixed an engaging storyline with great fighter pilot action, along with a pretty good cast to move the story along (including Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell). Decisions made in the live action part of the game would effect where your ship went and the missions you were assigned. Nowadays, this isn't much of a feat, but five years ago when the game came out it was nothing less than revolutionary.
Naturally, when I heard that a Wing Commander movie was in development I was extremely excited. As a fan of the series, I couldn't wait to see the film, which I hope would either continue the storyline of the games or recreate that storyline with the actors from the games (fully capable of handling big screen roles). However, a movie made along these lines would probably only appeal to the fans of the series, and so the film Wing Commander re-shaped the universe and characters from the game to create something new and different which would appeal to a wider audience. If done well, I would have no problem with Wing Commander, but the film was poorly written and executed.
Keeping in the tradition of the game series, Wing Commander centers around the Earthlings of the future who battle a ferocious alien race, the Kilrathi. The film starts with the Kilrathi infiltrating a human military communication station where the Kilrathi are able to obtain the coordinates of Earth, kept hidden from then so they could not launch an attack on the human home planet. As fate would have it, only one ship is able to reach Earth before the Kilrathi, the Tiger Claw. Our heroes, fresh out of the Academy, Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Todd "Maniac" Marshall (Matthew Lillard) join the crew of the Tiger Claw as they prepare for a suicide mission to defend Earth. As the story unfolds we learn that Blair is a "half breed," whose mother was a member of a gifted race of humans called "pilgrims" who first charted the galaxy. Eventually, Blair has to put his hidden talent to use in order to expose the Kilrathi attack and (surprise, surprise) save Earth.
The disc itself is what is quickly becoming Fox's standard fare; which isn't all that bad. Video is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen (non-anamorphic), which is crisp and clean, as one would expect a transfer of a film released six months ago to be. As opposed to others, I found the special effects for the film to be adequate, and look quite nice on this transfer. On the other end of the spectrum we have a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. With science fiction movies of this caliber you expect some ear-shattering explosions to compliment the action on screen. For the most part, the Wing Commander DVD delivers on the audio end with a ton of surround effects (due to ship fly-bys and dog fights) but nothing really on the ground shaking end.
Extra content? Well it's good to know that your typical overpriced Fox DVD will get you some extra content. In the case of Wing Commander you get a few TV spots for the film along with its theatrical trailer. Also included is a small booklet with production information on the film and its actors. The menus are also pretty well designed, if you're into that kind of stuff. Extra content like this just makes me want to pay an extra $10 for all of my DVDs!
Ahh...I can now tear into this film! First of all, it wasn't my dedication to the video game series that made me dislike this film. If anything, I wanted this film to be great, whether it was a remake of the video game series or an expansion of it. Had the film been an expansion, the audience would be a bit limited, but the film would at least satisfy some people. The story is poorly paced and painfully predictable. I sat and awaited the action sequences looking to at least have some mindless fun. I was foiled yet again. The action sequences are few and far between and extremely difficult to follow on-screen. Star Wars: A New Hope is probably the best example of exciting space battles. The original cut of the screen was a bit difficult to follow but still exciting, and then when George Lucas did the Star Wars: Special Edition, the new CGI shots added to the sequences made it more exciting and easy to follow. Wing Commander has short space battles during which time you're trying to distinguish who's who, by which time someone has died and all excitement gained from the scene is already lost.
The acting in Wing Commander wasn't really bad, it's just that the actors had nothing to work with. The characters were poorly structured and their lines seemed to be those you'd expect from an average after school special. Then there is Matthew Lillard, who plays Maniac. Despite the fact that he ruins one of my favorite characters from the game series (played in the series terrifically by Tom Wilson), aren't we all just sick of this guy? His "like totally" attitude was fine in Scream, if not a bit annoying, but now it's just old. A bit restrained in this role, Lillard seems to be playing the same character over and over again, making me question if he really can act.
Finally, there's the Kilrathi. I didn't particularly dislike the re-design of this tiger-esque race in the film except for the fact that they looked like puppets. When you see the Kilrathi speak, you have to laugh as their mouth movements don't follow their speech and they look like huge clay puppets; which they probably are. In the game, hairy and more animal-esque, the Kilrathi were much more believable as characters.
Then I can gripe about the disc...first of all, if this title was only $20, I wouldn't have that much of a problem with it. What pisses me off is having to pay a premium price for absolutely nothing. New Line releases DVDs bursting at the seams for $20, while Fox releases DVDs with next to no extra content or anamorphic widescreen for an extra $10. DVD must be the only format where you pay more for less and less for more at the same time. After seeing this film, I wouldn't be too interested in hearing a commentary or behind-the-scenes footage, but it would at least be nice to know that Fox made the effort to include them.
I find it hard to recommend this DVD in any way, shape or form. The video, despite not being anamorphic, looks really good and the audio sounds great; however, there is absolutely nothing entertaining in the film to accompany this. Wing Commander fans might want to take a peek at the film out of curiosity, but don't expect anything (and I mean absolutely nothing) from this film.
Sentenced to 100 minutes of torture (which all viewers of this film sit through) and then death by being blown out of an airlock in deep space, Alien style.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* Original Television Spots