Wing Commander (1999)

How do you ruin potential for a great adaptation of the cult franchise “Wing Commander” in one fell swoop? You cast Freddie Prinze Jr. of course! The leading man with the charisma and talent of a mop stick leads the charge in this science fiction adaptation of the hit video game series, while Matthew Lillard is his spaz sidekick who screeches like a coked up C3P0 during battle, in spite of the fact that we’re told these are experienced soldiers.

The pair look like they came out of a California spa, but that’s okay, because Prinze as Chris Blair is a dreamy eyed descendant of human settlers called pilgrims, and he is fighting to gain respect among other star fighters. Meanwhile, his friend Todd (Lillard) is so over the top that he literally spends the entire film trying to act for both he and Prinze Jr. So he attempts to build the charisma, excitement and enthusiasm for he and Prinze Jr. and fails big time. Lillard is supposed to be a skilled soldier but spends most of the film cracking wise and bouncing off the walls. Meanwhile he and Prinze’s character team up with a ragtag group of broadly written characters that we all know are just cannon fodder.

Gorgeous Ginny Holder is practically introduced with a toe tag. Except for Saffron Burrows of course. She’s the caucasian rough neck Commanding officer who is supposed to fall for Chris Blair because–well–because they both have top billing. So they bark at one another and fight despite the fact they really want to roll in the hay. Meanwhile, Lillard pulls double duty, while delivering awful dialogue like a champ. I’m surprised he never walked off the set with dialogue like this between he and Holder’s character:

“You got balls.”
“You should see them.”
“Mine are bigger.”
“They say size doesn’t matter.”
“She lied.”

Who needs exposition and complex characters of substance when we have a slew of flat one-liners and terrible jokes like that? In case you didn’t catch on, that’s supposed to be sexual chemistry the writers are attempting to convey. The plot for “Wing Commander” involves a settlement in space, a war with goofy monsters named the Kilrathi who want to seize a ship to destroy the galaxy. And Blair along with his group have to deliver… something to someone. I was never sure. Jurgen Prochnow and Tchéky Karyo have thankless supporting roles as commanding officers, while Saffron Burrows looks like she’s being forced on-screen half the time she plays  ‘Angel’ Deveraux, a character I imagine is a spunky pilot in the games.

The “Wing Commander” cinematic universe lacks any nuance or appeal, as director Chris Roberts makes the entire galaxy of these star fighters seem mundane and dull, when we should be excited and invested in their exploits. Everything from the ships to the villains, right down to the CGI is uninspired and instantly forgettable. “Wing Commander” is definitely one of the lousiest and tedious science fiction entries of the late nineties, and one in desperate need of a reboot with a cast that actually seem to care about the material.