.home | art & architecture | books & cds | dance | destinations | film | opera | television | theater | archives
Wing Commander (1999)
2564. The sallow faced Confederation commander stands on the bridge of the star
cruiser, which is being threatened with destruction by the hated alien Kilrathi. As the
ship carrying our heroes observes complete radio silence, hoping the Kilrathi might pass
above them and not know they're there, we hear: "bink-bink." We know that
sound. It's the old water-dripping-onto-a-pipe, the staple sound effect of every
submarine movie in history, where the tension is usually so high that each
"bink" could mean curtains for the good guys. We observe our Confederation
captain, Gerald, deep in thoughts of his own mortality, and at that very moment I realize
Captain Gerald is being played by Jurgen Prochnow, the very actor who was the
fabulous U-boat commander in the epic German submarine movie Das Boot. That was 1943 and
this is 2564 but the man hasn't changed a bit, and he's still got a sub command.
That's one of the beauties of Wing Commander. They have shamelessly stolen from everybody. The special effects and the fighter aircraft are pure Star Wars, the music is practically note for note The Empire Strikes Back, the dialogue is Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, the characters are a cross between Ferris Bueller and Bill and Ted, and a climactic scene where Lieutenant Chris Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is saved by the club-headed bigot who is his nemesis, is lifted straight out of Alien. Blair's problem, you see, is that he is half Pilgrim (on his mother's side), and the Pilgrims are not well loved by the crew of the Confederation. The reasons are hazy and lost in time, but don't worry because Commander Paladin (Tcheky Karyo) has a little Pilgrim trick around his neck as well.
Add a fun loving co-lead, Maniac (Matthew Lillard), who has to be the Spiccoli of the 26th Century; make the head fighter pilot gorgeous Angel (Saffron Burrows) who volunteers to die, but is saved at the end by a method so improbable they don't even bother to explain how it could possibly have happened, and who lives to plant a passionate kiss upon the lips of our Hero Freddie Prinze Jr. - amazing, since she appeared to be stone dead only seconds before - I know! Sleeping Beauty - and you have the makings of a hit.
Obviously, if you want dialogue, character development, or a story that makes any sense at all, go see Shakespeare in Love. But if you want non-stop Special Effects; inter-racial suggested sex (or was it interspecies?); lots and lots of bam bam boom boom whish whoosh; bad guys who aren't really bad at heart; good guys who "have the gift," that is the Pilgrim gift; and a space ship filled with gorgeous female fighter pilots who wear skimpy, sexy nightgowns to sleep even as their world teeters on Kilrathi destruction - WingCommander is the place you want to be.
There is a video game series called Wing Commander from whence this story, title, and the look of the film are derived. Director Chris Roberts also designed the original five video games and characters, and clearly had every intention to make a film his game fans would identify with. Obviously those acquainted with the game will find Wing Commander familiar and attractive.
I liked it too. I liked the unpretentiousness of it all. It doesn't claim to be original, quite the contrary. I liked how they got one of every ethnic group on Earth onto the Confederation ship. I liked the submarine movie imagery, even though they are in deep space, not in deep ocean - the enemy ship is actually called a Destroyer and it drops what look an awful lot like depth charges. There's a lot of "bink-binks." And I liked how they kept the only mystery unexplained until the very end: what would the Kilrathi demons look like?
Well, they are green, they growl, they have little beards and eyes with lots of whites. They look a little like Pat Morita. Wash, wash, wipe, wipe, I wonder why they didn't use that one too? Well, there's always the sequel. And there will be a sequel. This fast moving, action packed, young teen targeted film may just turn out to be a hit.
... - DAK