Sunday, 23 August 2015

No.233 : Wing Commander

Wing Commander at the IMDb

 Films based on video games are invariably great so this should be a lot of fun…

Oh well, let’s have a look anyway. This 1999 film is based on a video game series I haven’t played but it has a pretty strong cast and has some decent special effects so hopefully it won’t be a total waste of time.

The film is set in ‘Earth Year 2654’ and opens with JFK’s speech about the benefits of space exploration before giving us a potted history of the future leading up to the ‘present day’ where mankind is engaged in a war with the Kolrathi, strange cat like beings who have shinier spaceships than us. An initial skirmish goes badly when the bad guys knock out one of our ships and steal a navigation computer that will allow them to find Earth.

The field command, lead by David ‘Poirot’ Suchet and David Warner (for once not a baddie) have to get some intel to a remote station and the only vessel capable of getting there ahead of the aliens is the lowly ‘Dilligent’ crewed by Fred out of the Scooby Doo films and strangely Shaggy as well. This pre-dated Scooby by a couple of years so someone must have thought they had chemistry together or maybe there was just a lazy casting agent with some Tip-pex.

Anyway our men get the orders delivered and join up as pilots in Saffron Burrow’s fighter squad. She’s the ‘Wing Commander’ of the title which is strange as she isn’t the focus of the film and isn’t in it too much, but a franchise is a franchise I guess! There are a few bits of conflict, mainly about Fred’s ancestry and Shaggy’s recklessness but the remainder of the film is a cat and mouse chase with the bad guys as our heroes try and save Earth whilst trotting out as many sci-fi clichés as possible.

This is a really poor film that demands a lot of the viewer who is willing to stay the course. It is hard to be invested in any of the characters who are all thinly drawn with arcs so dismal that they look a lot like straight lines. The hero Fred faces challenges as he has a ‘Pilgrim’ mother - this is an untrusted alien race and his heritage allows lots of prejudice and conflict - bit like Misters Worf and Spock really. That’s a bit unfair given Worf came later but it’s just such a familiar sci-fi trope that it is hard to get interested. He even has an ancient amulet - a bit like Lone Star off ‘Spaceballs’!

The action scenes are reasonably well done with 3-D space well rendered and the dangers quite real. The problem is that one battle lurches into another and it’s hard to keep the energy and indeed interest up. I started to lose track of what wormhole was what and where we were in relation to the eventual victory, which was never in doubt. There really just was nothing to get invested in and despite some noble sacrifices and heartbreaking losses it showed its video game roots with immediate respawns of near identical characters taking up the slack.

It wasn’t downright terrible but it just lumbered along and given the bad guys would have been laughed off a 1970’s ‘Dr Who’ episode for being unconvincing it’s no surprise that the inevitable victory was tinged with so much ‘so what?’.

It’s a shame a good cast wasn’t better utilised and I got the feeling several of them had ten minutes on set to secure their pay cheques and places on the credits to make it look a more worth endeavour than it actually was. Forgettable cookie cutter stuff.

Best Bit : First space battle was good - fourth replay less so.
‘W’ Score 8/23

1 comment:

Brigonos said...

I remain curious what actual airmen and soldiers with dead comrades made of the film's idea that once someone dies defending freedom, justice and the Wing Commander way, everyone in the army just pretends they never existed. That must save a bit of dough on memorial plaques!