Sometimes I just need some campy fun. A space dogfight or two does wonders to rejuvenate the soul on the weekend and prepare a guy like me for a new week. Watching things go boom and aliens freak out is one of my favorite things to do, especially when I get to watch something based on one of my favorite video games from back in the day. It doesn't get much better than that and that's why I decided to check out Starz/Anchor Bay's Wing Commander. I wanted a good time and I got a good time.
It should be stated that this is not a movie for the super-stuffy literary fiction types out there. This is a straight up campy adventure story. It takes place in a war in the far future between humanity and the alien Kilrathi, a race of sentient cat-like humanoids. Humanity is losing and things look grim. An attack on Earth is imminent and it's up to the crew of the Tiger Claw to save us all. I know it's an overdone premise but it adds excitement and that's what these kinds of movies are all about.
This movie is trope-laden and I love it. You've got the cocky fighter pilot who won't follow orders. You've got the commanding officer who cares too much about her pilots. Let's not forget the love interest who never quite seems to make it to the end of the story. She's there too. I could go on. It's like comfort food on a TV screen. I don't know how else to describe. This is the flick for people who like their entertainment to be fun and light. That's okay though. Not every movie has to be hugely original and groundbreaking. Granted, I like to think sometimes but sometimes I just want to soak it in and ooh and ah.
Speaking of oohs and ahs the special effects in this movie are, with one exception (more on that later), exceptional. Exploding ships, fires, gun shots, missile fire, space jumps, they're all there and they look great. Spacefighter battles look great. Shockwaves travel through space and are visible. Computers speak and have to be silenced. This flick is filled with eye candy.
The plot is relentless. First we're here. Then bad things happen. Then we're on patrol. Then more bad things happen. Then something worse happens. The something weird happens. And so on. There is no time given over to rumination. No time to just relax and breathe. Kudos to the writers because WC kept me locked in from the title sequence to the end credits.
Speaking of the title sequence, it was really well done. If you're a newcomer to the Wing Commander universe watch this part closely. Throughout the opening there are news broadcasts playing in the background. These will fill you in on happenings in the milieu leading up to the point where our story begins. It's not complete by any stretch of the imagination, but it's good because the writers didn't spend a whole lot of time on backstory once they brought us aboard the carrier.
That all being said there are a couple of problems with Wing Commander. Firstly, doesn't live up to the standards of a purist. It doesn't really come close. The carrier doesn't look right. The main character doesn't fly enough different types of ships. Things just don't match perfectly. Part of me wants to assume that it's because a movie has a much bigger budget than a video game. With more money comes the ability to do things. Part of me thinks that it's for simplification's sake as well. There is no need for a movie watcher to research all of the various fighter designs and figure out why this pilot didn't do what the other pilot did. That's fine though. Trying to min/max in a video game is all well and good but I don't want my movie going experience to take that kind of concentration, so in the wash I think it works.
Another beef I have with this flick is that the Kilrathi in it look almost lizard-like. They should be cat people. There supposed to look like lions. It drives me crazy looking at them. Granted, they're not on screen much. This isn't a movie about infiltration or a work that shows the enemy as sympathetic but damn. If they could make a Kilrathi that looked right on a Playstation they should be able to make one look right on a movie screen. The two were made at about the same time. I mean seriously. What happened here? That much being said, they're not on the screen for long and I really did enjoy WC otherwise.
Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Exploding Spaceships
Starz/Anchor Bay, 1999
Wing Commander is available for purchase here: