March 13, 1999 -- "Wing Commander," the legendary computer game, has been transformed into a slightly above average movie, directed by the creator of the game, Chris Roberts.
I have played a couple of versions of "Wing Commander," and I have a copy of "Wing Commander II deluxe edition." Based on what I've seen the film is remarkably similar to the game.
While many films these days look like video games, this particular game has a pretty elaborate plot and it pays attention to characters, so it is not surprising that the movie also has some strong characters and a pretty solid plot. Those who have played the game will immediately recognize the sets, the names of ships and characters in this movie.
The story borrows heavily from "Star Wars," with the central character, Christopher "Maverick" Blair, (Freddie Prinze Jr. of "She's All That,") being the son of a "Pilgrim" (like a certain son of Jedi named Luke) with certain inherited Pilgrim powers (such as the ability to "feel" black holes) very similar to The Force. There's even an Obi-Wan kind of character: Commander James "Paladin" Taggart (Tchéky Karyo of "La Femme Nikita").
Blair, the untested son of a great warrior, is thrust into a key role in a war between humans and the turtle-like Kilrathi (in my game they are cat-like, but these are very menacing-looking turtles). He is not trusted by some because of his Pilgrim background, but in the end his Pilgrim powers come in handy. There's a subplot involving his hotshot fighter friend, Todd "Maniac" (Matthew Lillard of "Scream") and Todd's friend, Rosie Forbes (Ginny Holder of "The Saint"). Blair's love interest is his wing commander, Jeanette "Angel" Devereaux (Saffron Burrows of "Circle of Friends").
The battle scenes are well done, with dog fights between opposing fighters and heavy cruisers duking it out with big missiles. The main ship, The Tiger's Claw, is handled much like a submarine. Ironically, Jürgen Prochnow, who appeared in perhaps the best submarine movie ever made, "Das Boot," also serves aboard the Tiger's Claw. The sea-going analogy is carried to ridiculous lengths with torpedoes, sonar-sounds, bombs like depth charges and an actual broadside volley just like in the old days of sailing ships armed with cannons. The fighters land on the Tiger's Claw as if they were landing on the deck of a carrier.
It is obvious the makers of this film weren't trying to make a science fiction movie with any sort of realistic science. Little attention is paid to Einstein's theory of relativity or Newton's laws of gravity and motion. We keep hearing sounds in space where there can't be any. This is more of a comic book war movie with a nod to the old swashbucklers and aviation movies like "Top Gun." It is a fairly shallow action movie and it delivers on that level with plenty of action, engaging characters, competent acting, good pacing, good special effects and a solid plot. This film rates a C+.
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