For £5.99 Netflix is an utter delight filled with countless hours of great movies and TV shows, but lurking underneath, there’s a dark hole. For every wonderful piece of entertainment, there’s a Hellraiser VII just around the corner. And I’ve found myself watching an awful lot of rubbish, purely because it’s there, one click away. If you look at my Recently Watched list it’s a cause of shame and embarrassment with gems like Breaking Bad buried in the middle of The Crow: Salvation and Saw: The Final Chapter. Which brings me to the Wing Commander movie! It was quite recently added to Netflix UK, it’s based on a video game, so why not give it a review and see if it’s as terrible now as it was fifteen years ago. Spoiler: It is.
The most curious thing about Wing Commander is it’s directed by Chris Roberts, the creator of the video game. So you’d at least think it’d be incredibly faithful to the source material, but it isn’t. The main antagonists of the film (The Kilrathi) have had a design overhaul and characters have changed in nationality, bearing zero resemblance to the actors who portrayed them in the game. For instance, replacing Biff Tannen himself (Tom Wilson) with Mathew Lillard is a terrible piece of miscasting. In fact, all the characters are utterly terrible. The acting being on par with the Wing Commander games, but without the wink wink nudge nudge “yeah, we know this is hammy over the top nonsense” that was so endearing.
I wish I had a better grasp on the story so I could explain. Basically, it’s humanity vs aliens with Freddie Prinze Jr taking over the role of Christopher Blair from Mark Hamill. A blank slate of a character who we find out is half-pilgrim. Pilgrims being these sort of terrorist-like people who fought against…something. I only watched this film a couple of days ago and it’s already, mostly escaped from my memory. The main plot point I can remember is the Kilrathi have captured a navigation computer from a ship they blew up, and in doing so have the location to Earth. With the clock ticking it’s up to Blair and his buddies to save the day.
Say what you will about the likes of Doom, Street Fighter etc, at least those movies had memorable scenes, Wing Commander has nothing. It’s just so, unbelievably boring. During one point in the movie the audience is supposed to care about the fate of a certain character, but we don’t. Because the relationships all feel so fake, not to mention the outcome being guessed as soon as the character is introduced.
You’d think with a space-based action movie the space battles would at least fare better, right? Yeah, not so much. These follow the same lifeless pattern as the rest of the movie. The special effects aren’t terrible (for a movie made in 1999 at least), but the direction lacks the excitement you’d want from these scenes. You’re also really never given a lead antagonist. The Kilrathi exist as one giant being, there’s not really one standout character who you can call the leader. It’s also strange how for a large part of the movie all you see are spaceships, without a single Kilrathi actually on screen. Maybe they were embarrassed by how they look? I mean, they don’t look great, and differ a little from their game incarnation, but the scenes are lit in such a way that it does hide the costumes a little. At least until they get shot by a boarding party later on in the movie, it’s at this point they fall back like mannequins pulled over with a piece of string.
There’s not much else to say really. A lot of the video game adaptations fall into the so bad they’re good region, Wing Commander doesn’t even come close to that. It’s so bad it’s just plain boring. Maybe if it had an actual director at the helm they’d have been able to inject some life into proceedings, but as it stands Wing Commander isn’t worth any of your time.