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  Wing Commander Press To Play
Year: 1999
Director: Chris Roberts
Stars: Freddie Prinze Jr, Saffron Burrows, Matthew Lillard, Tchéky Karyo, Jurgen Prochnow, David Suchet, David Warner, Ginny Holder, Hugh Quarshie, Ken Bones, John McGlynn, Richard Dillane, Mark Powley, David Fahm, Simon MacCorkindale, Mark Hamill
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 2654, and the human race has expanded from our home planet to colonise the rest of space, but they have only reached so far before being attacked by the villainous Kilrathi, a breed of space aliens who have made it their mission not merely to stop human expansion in its tracks, but to exterminate every one of us as well. At an outpost on an asteroid, a special item of equipment is held, and the aliens want it for their own so mount an attack; luckily, it is removed just as the base goes up in flames, and a small spacecraft which is crewed by Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr) and Maniac Marshall (Matthew Lillard) may be able to save the day - and the war.

Wing Commander joined the seemingly endless list of box office failures to be based on a computer game back in 1999: you would think that lessons would be learned by the turn of the century, but here we were decades later and they still adapted a medium expressly suited to interaction and tried to fashion a compelling narrative out of them. Once again, there's a reason why what makes a great game doesn't make a great movie, and this was one example among far too many, a crushingly dull enterprise that had only the game's creator to blame, for Chris Roberts was at the helm and guiding the whole project in a manner you had to assume he was satisfied with even if the fans weren't.

Those fan complaints were typical, that the motion picture had changed too many elements, or misused the ones they did implement, and concocted something that missed the excitement of playing by miles, basically the same moans that were heard every time one of these were dropped into cinemas to general indifference. Turning this sci-fi effort to the big screen also had a problem with the science, and became mildly notorious for how much it got wrong about space and simple physics, but most of that could be put down to the fact it wasn't science fiction like the obvious Star Wars comparisons it courted, it was a World War II movie Roberts was faithfully emulating.

So much so that the results made Wing Commander come across like a bundle of extremely tired clichés he was trying and not succeeding in breathing life into, with barely one line of dialogue sounding as if it had not been flogged to death in a military entertainment back in the nineteen-fifties. Characters spoke in the most hackneyed terms imaginable, so much so that you could practically tell what they were going to say before they said it, and in many instances your improvised lines would be better than what the cast were struggling with. Before long, a grinding tedium set in thanks to a script that contained not one whit of suspense or surprises, leaving you wondering if your time was not better spent with The Dam Busters or The Cruel Sea instead.

Also irksome were such scenes as Maniac living up to his name by placing crewmembers' lives in danger for a laugh, which at least Roberts had the guts to follow through on by having him kill a colleague with his recklessness, but it turned you off not only his character, but anyone who believed he was worth having in the fleet, including Blair. He had his own barely comprehensible backstory about his rebel parents who died in an alien attack, somehow rendering him untrustworthy in a subplot that made you tired just thinking about it. Then there was Saffron Burrows, playing the group leader whose idea of wit was to call her pilots "Ladies" over and over to the point of infuriation - some of them are men, you see! Hilarious. One who was not a man was Ginny Holder, whose race and gender insultingly placed her in far more peril than any of the other pilots. Tone deaf throughout, only the terminally easily pleased would be diverted. Music by David Arnold (from the games) and Kevin Kiner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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