Revisiting the Reviled — ‘Wing Commander’ Crashes and Burns in the Shadow of Other Movies

GameStop, Inc.

wing-commander-0004

Every week with Revisiting the Reviled, Sean looks at a film that was meant to appeal to geeks and failed, often miserably.

In hindsight, the late ‘90s seem like this magical era of resounding naïveté. I was approaching the end of my life in high school; Napster had suddenly provided a totally free form of downloading music which in no way would harm the creators I held so dearly; discontent liberals tired of the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton were prepping their protest votes for Ralph Nader; and, finally, a new Star Wars film was on the horizon, fulfilling a dream held since childhood that we’d see the creation of Darth Vader and understand so much more of the expansive world of endless imagination created by George Lucas. Man, what a crock of bullshit. But before the crushing weight of adult disillusionment would firmly set in, I already had two realizations that would serve me well through the rest of my adult life – movies based on video games suck, and Freddie Prinze, Jr. is not a movie star.

In 1999, however, my two realizations had not yet been fully realized by society at large, and one is still being woefully neglected. In March of that year, the release of Wing Commander brought about much fanfare, and by fanfare I mean that many people went to see the movie because a trailer for The Phantom Menace was attached. Aside from being a footnote in the dissatisfying history of The Phantom Menace and video game movies as a whole, Wing Commander has a very distinct standing among its video game inspired peers as that it’s the only film, as far as I could find, that was written and directed by the creator of the gaming series. But Wing Commander would be Chris Roberts’ lone attempt as a writer-director of feature films, though he would serve as a producer on other films afterwards, including Lord of War and Lucky Number Slevin.

wing-commander-0001

The opening credits of Wing Commander feature a snippet of a speech from J.F.K., as if using the voice of the slain president would add a bit of gravitas to this story of space pilots, before moving into obligatory expository voiceover explaining the situation before the audience. The military forces of Earth are about to enter a war with the Kilrathi, an alien race of nameless villains. The Kilrathi stage an attack on an outpost in an attempt to secure the NavCom, a navigation computer with remarkable A.I. With the Kilrathi approaching Earth, Admiral Tolwyn (David Warner) contacts the Diligent, a supply ship helmed by Captain Taggert (Tchéky Karyo). The Admiral requests that the young pilot Christopher Blair (Prinze, Jr.) deliver a special message to Tiger Claw, a massive battleship-type starship. There Blair and his best friend Todd Marshall (Matthew Lillard), a brash hotshot pilot, must become part of the crew led by Lieutenant Commander Jeanette “Angel” Deveraux (Saffron Burrows). Of course, Blair and Marshall have to earn the trust of their new shipmates before – oh so unexpectedly – saving the day.

wing-commander-0002

In many regards, Wing Commander is a valuable lesson in how not to write science fiction. There’s the Chosen One in Christopher Blair, a character whose skills aren’t earned but handed down to him genetically through birth. Then there’s the death of a character, played by Ginny Holder, who is only killed off so that Todd Marshall can face some kind of consequences for his arrogant ways. Worst of all, there’s this meandering subplot about a past war with a group of people known as the Pilgrims, a race of people that had a form of premonition about space travel. Funnily enough, that genetic advantage didn’t stop them from losing the war. It is also revealed that Captain Taggert is a Pilgrim, an entirely non-shocking revelation. Meanwhile, Commander Paul Gerald (Jürgen Prochnow) has an intense distrust of Pilgrims, but that distrust is entirely tossed aside once he takes over command of Tiger Claw from Captain Lawrence Sansky (David Suchet), who is mysteriously incapacitated or killed – it’s not clear what happened to him.

Wing Commander also fails as special effects laden spectacle. The film features some of the first uses of the Bullet Time technology that was made famous by The Matrix, though the film’s use of it is quite underwhelming and would be quickly obscured by The Matrix, which opened just weeks after Wing Commander. But the space fights aren’t even that impressive for its era. The blend of practical and computer effects never quite works. It’s a film that very much has the look of those live action scenes from ‘90s video games – you know, like Wing Commander. Things are made all the worse by the comically rubber Kilrathi, who are never as menacing as they are hilarious. It’s obvious as to why they have very little screen time.

wing-commander-0003

The legacy of Wing Commander is mostly defined by the fact that it was one of the few films that ran the trailer for The Phantom Menace before it. Even in an era where trailers weren’t readily available on the internet, Wing Commander wasn’t able to gain a box office boost by being one of the few areas where people could get their glimpse at one of the most anticipated movies of all-time. Wing Commander opened in seventh place on its opening weekend, behind such enduring classics as The Rage: Carrie 2 and Baby Geniuses. A kind of Top Gun in space, Wing Commander has no personality of its own worth remembering. Instead, it’s a film that is a footnote in the history of other, better movies. Yes, that even includes The Phantom Menace.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Disney’s ‘Young Woman and the Sea’ is a Triumph of Will – Review

Disney’s ‘Young Woman and the Sea‘ is a Triumph of Will...

‘Skywalkers’ Takes Love to New Heights on Netflix – Spoiler Free Review

‘Skywalkers: A Love Story‘ Takes Love to New Heights while Scaling...

‘Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three’ – Leaves us Wanting More! – Spoiler Free Review

‘Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three‘ is a...

Event News Event Reviews
‘Sweeney Todd’ is a Close Shave at the Chance Theater – Review

‘Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street‘ Cuts it Close...

‘Sweat’ Heats Things Up at the Long Beach Playhouse – Review

‘Sweat‘ delivers a powerful theatrical experience that resonates long after the...

The ‘California Dreams’ Band Reunite on The Sunset Strip For a Night of 90s Nostalgia – Concert Review

Don’t Wake Me Up if I’m Dreaming, The ‘California Dreams‘ Band...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Derek Gumin Talks Planet 13 and UFC 303 Meet and Greets – Interview

Director of Wholesale Accounts at Planet 13, Derek Gumin spoke about...

Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Blood on the Cactus, nearing the end of the 3rd act.

What IS that big dust cloud on the horizon?

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Blood on the Cactus, Endgame

Mhuhahahahahahahah!

Fantoy Comics Presents: A 4th of July Message!

Seriously, America, THIS crap?!?!?

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Michael Hirsh Made Gen X Citizens Via his ‘Animation Nation’ – Interview

Legendary Animator, Michael Hirsh goes from Immigrant to Emperor in his...

Billy Eddy Talks His new Book ‘Our New World of Adult Bullies’ – Interview

Lawyer, Mediator and Personality Expert Bill Eddy Provides a Six-Step Strategy...

Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...