Wing Commander (1999)
Directed by Chris Roberts
Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Saffron Burrows, Ginny Holden, Tcheky Karyo, Jurgen Prochnow, David Suchet, David Warner.
1999 105 minutes
Rated: (for sexual situations, mild violence, and profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 14, 1999.
Well now I've seen everything. "Wing Commander," based on the popular video game and directed by the game's creator, Chris Roberts, makes 1994's "Street Fighter" and, dare I say it, 1997's "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," look good in comparison. The only thing I'd like to say is that I so very much wish the late Ed Wood (director of "Glen or Glenda" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space," both widely considered two of the worst films of all time) were alive today. After viewing "Wing Commander," even his immediate reaction would be, "what complete and utter garbage!"
Although I suffered through the entire 105-minute running time of "Wing Commader," I couldn't tell you what it was about if you paid me, and it's not because I wasn't paying attention, either. Instead of reading someone else's review and then trying to reword their synopsis of the story, I'm going to instead tell you what I did understand. Set during the 27th-century, there's this big space ship thingy in space with a big crew, which gets even bigger when a few new recruits board on, including two young men, Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Maniac (Matthew Lillard). Every once in a while they go out in their own little space fliers and shoot other space thingys and blow them up. Blair is smitten with the wing commander of the crew (whatever that means), Deveraux (Saffron Burrows), even though she is a tough and stern little cookie who mostly ignores or hollers at him. Blair is also having some problems since people judge him because he's part-pilgrim ("My father was a pilgrim!"). Later, another crew member tells Blair, "there's nothing wrong with being a pilgrim." Meanwhile, Maniac likes the smart and sassy black crew member, Rosie (Ginny Holden), who is so sex-crazed and horny she gets off on flying space crafts and then blowing up in them! So, anyway, near the end, the crew has to fight the bad Kilrathis, people dressed up in clunky cat costumes with retractible Freddy Krueger claws who basically stand still in their spaceship and talk in "Kilrathian." At the end, a couple of the people we've grown to...well, grown to feel nothing for, get into danger and their lives are put at stake. They mostly pull through though and in the end, I wasn't sure what I had just sat and watched.
"Wing Commander" is such a mind-numbing, awful, embarrassing, idiotic, corny, ludicrous, laughable, superficial, just plain bad, movie that I almost couldn't believe my own eyes or ears most of the time. How could 20th-Century Fox, the movie's studio, have the nerve to even release this...this...I can't even think of a word awful enough to criticize it with. Although they, no doubt, decided to release it wide after both Prinze Jr. and Lillard had huge success with the box-office hit "She's All That," "Wing Commander" is going to hurt their careers rather than help them, since I now relize that they both had absolutely no excuse to make this movie. Heck, Prinze Jr. would have been better off making, "I Still Think I Know, But Refresh My Memory About Twenty-Five Summers Ago" than this depressing "product," which might have been pretty funny if I hadn't been so sorry for the people involved in its making. Of course, they did get what they deserved since they obviously forgot to read the screenplay (if there even was one) prior to signing on. As for Saffron Burrows, how in the world could she go from the sweet, realistic 1995 Irish film, "Circle of Friends," to this?
There's honestly not much else to say about "Wing Commander." I saw some Halloween cat costumes, some cheesy effects, and some stick people arguing about the nobility of being pilgrims. Several times while watching it, I clenched my eyes shut praying to fall asleep, but then I fought against it because I knew I'd have a little fun tearing the movie apart in my review if I stuck with it. When someone like Ed Wood, who loved all films, good or bad, would have laughed this movie off the screen, you know you're in trouble. Even Akiva Goldsman (the much-hated hack screenwriter who destroyed the "Batman" film series) would brush this waste of film space off as "rubbish." Roger Ebert once compared, in his review for 1996's "Mad Dog Time," the film to watching a blank screen for the same period of time. I'll go one step further and say that staring at a blank screen would be at least fifty times more entertaining and visually stimulating than all of "Wing Commander" combined.
©1999 by Dustin Putman