Wing Commander (1999)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/3/99
Director: Chris Roberts
Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Tcheky Karyo, Jurgen Prochnow, David Warner, Matthew Lillard

Even after all of my friends strongly warned me to stay away from this film, I felt like I needed to see it. It really should have been a lot better than it was, and could have even been quite entertaining if only it didn't have such a horrible screenplay. I'm not familiar with the "Wing Commander" video game series, so I don't know how close it hits the mark. Typical of bad B-movies, this one begins with a ridiculous amount of narrative exposition, just to set up the fact that Earth is at war with a nasty race of alien cats. The bad kitties manage to obtain information that will allow them to ambush Earth, and it's up to one lone Earth ship to intercept them before that can happen. Of course, the crew consists of a bunch of hot-headed pilots, including the quiet and sensitive Freddie Prinze Jr. (the only likable one of the bunch). The majority of the film is a cat and mouse game between the good guys and the bad guys, which occasionally erupts into brief firefights (which are oddly stylistically anachronistic - sheesh, that's a mouthful). The humans finally obtain enough counter-intelligence to foil the enemy attack on Earth and send them all to the great litter box in the sky. More than anything, this movie reminded me of an episode of "Space: Above And Beyond" in both look and feel. It's basically a bunch of angst ridden mismatched characters that no one cares about, presenting forced and false bravado through a stupid and contrived script. Fortunately, the film redeems itself from being a complete waste in three places: The musical score is wonderful - a big, heroic sound that's reminiscent of James Horner or Elmer Bernstein. The visual effects (with the exception of the alien make-up) are mostly competent and fun to watch. And it's always a delight to see Tcheky Karyo - he's the only actor who manages to bring any class and dignity to the production. Although bad science fiction is still better than good romantic comedy, films like this tend to narrow the gap.