johnlink ranks WING COMMANDER (1999)

WING COMMANDER was considered a bad movie almost before anyone saw it. Based on a video game during an era that being so was not a positive label. Never saw it in the past decade and a half, but seemed like a reasonable selection for late on a Friday night.

WING COMMANDER, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, 1999, protecting injured comrade

I watched WING COMMANDER (1999) on 11.20.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

This is a movie which opens with a speech from JFK and a rousing musical score. This is a movie which thinks highly of itself. It doesn’t take us long to feel differently. Sometimes a movie suffers from not knowing where it stands in the hierarchy of its genre. WING COMMANDER, to be sure, is a movie which doesn’t quite know how bad it is. This is not a terrible movie, but it would have been well served by a smidgen of self-awareness. There is way more time devoted to jewelry – be it a bladed necklace or a power representative ring – than is necessary. WING COMMANDER needed a common sense edit before getting out of the gate.

The computer interface is a relic of the 90s, but it isn’t without some merit. The three dimensional representations show some technological foresight. The battle sequences aren’t horrendous, but they seem married to the video game perspective in some key moments. All this would not be bad if the CGI was;t abhorrent, but the CGI and special effects are almost unwatchable in some of the key battle sequences.

If considered as a ‘B’ science fiction movie, I suppose this isn’t criminal. But compared to the movies of its era, there really isn’t any excuse for how artificial it all feels. And, it would seem, the actors were operating under the assumption that the post-production would hold up to the work done before. Not that these actors are killing it, but they act like they are in a legitimate movie.


Male versus female dynamics are not revelatory. While the titular Wing Commander might be female in the person of Lt. Cdr. Deveraux (Saffron Burrows), she is never shown as an authority figure. Instead, she is the love interest of the our hero, Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr.). An exact same power scenario plays out in the B story line with Lt. Forbes (Ginny Holder) and Lt. Marshall (Matthew Lillard).

This movie has some clear influences. Star Trek provides a militaristic structure for the film. TOP GUN gives some of the major storyline beats. STAR WARS influences the battle sequences. Submarine films like THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER are referenced in a scene of stealth. And if we want to go cynical, it tries to channel ARMAGEDDON for its late-movie heroics and, I suppose, THE ROOM influences the acting (I kid, I kid).

But, as the acting goes, Freddie Prinze Jr. is serviceable. Saffron Burrows and Tchéky Karyo are far better than the movie they are in. And Matthew Lillard, who is an actor I normally love, comes across as someone stuck in the lingo and style of the 1990s. He is the worst part of this movie, which really sucks to say.

This is also a movie which suffers from a lack of a villain. Sure there is an alien race (less than subtly named the Kilrathi) who serve as the bad guys. But we don’t see them. We don’t know their motivations. We don’t see them at all until 73 minutes in. They are the faceless and formless ‘other’. It would take a movie with much stronger heroes and much better story to overcome a lack of a strong villain. WING COMMANDER doesn’t provide this.

And – while I don’t mean to pile on – when we do finally see this menace, they are basically feline like humanoids with green eyes. Clearly they suffer from man-in-suit syndrome, but the execution is lazier than a movie made in the closing months of the 21st century has any right to be.

Is there any entertainment value at all? Sure. This isn’t a boring experience. WING COMMANDER isn’t good. Not by a stretch. And the climax is really bad. But it does barely enough – mostly in the dedication of the actors – to make it not terrible. I don’t hate this movie, but I can’t say I like it. I wish there were a better endorsement to be found, but it won’t be found here.



The negative bonus point is for the really horrendous CGI. It makes this hard to take seriously.


FINAL SCORE: 3.75 out of 10


~ by johnlink00 on November 21, 2015.

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