It seems like everyone involved in Wing Commander conspired against it and managed to craft a movie that’s almost impossible to recommend to pretty much anyone.
The problem with most video game movies is that they completely rely on the popularity of the franchise they’re based on, so you end up with something like Super Mario Bros., a name that’s easily recognizable by most people, but its idea isn’t enough to make a compelling movie. That’s not a problem with Wing Commander, since the film’s based on a cinematic space simulator filled with action sequences and pristine vistas. Nevertheless, everyone involved in this film conspired against it and managed to craft a movie that’s almost impossible to recommend to pretty much anyone.
In the year 2654, there’s an interstellar war between humans and an alien race called Kilrathi, who are similar to domestic cats. Humans tried every diplomatic solution, but it all comes to one final option: start a war with the galactic invaders. But the alien force responded by capturing and destroying a remote space station known as Pegasus and got their hands on the NAVCOM artificial intelligence. So the human race decided they had enough and send Lieutenant Blair, a young and reckless commander, to retrieve the encrypted chip. The crew successfully gets the A.I. and all of its members have to join a new unit. Soon enough, the aliens find the location of the unit and, as you would expect, several fights take place in space.
There are some parts about this film that I really liked, such as the impressive special effects and the pristine vistas that make you feel like you’re part of a convincingly recreated universe. I think fans of science fiction who have never heard about the game can watch Wing Commander and enjoy it. Also, Wing Commander feels like a combination of Top Gun and Battlestar Galactica and this is the best compliment I can give this movie.
But for every strength, Wing Commander has several weaknesses. Dialogues are meaningless and boring. Not only are the characters uninteresting and one-dimensional, but they keep talking and they never say anything remotely interesting. The film is full of cliches (there’s the former son of a war hero who’s always lived under the father’s shadow, the reckless pilot who’s used as comic relief, the commander who has a strong accent and constantly gets mad, the lieutenant’s romantic interest and so on.) Ultimately, the film fails when it comes to explaining anything about the enemy. Their only motivations and intentions are annihilating our race, but we never know why and as a consequence, they feel like faceless creatures that barely speak which makes them really hard to hate them. There are also several silly lines, such as “It’s not faith, it’s genetics”, “You gotta believe in yourself man, you can do whatever you want”, “Now we can make ’em sorry they were ever born.” It’s hard to take the story seriously when the characters utter lines like that and at the same time, it’s hard to laugh at this film, because this isn’t like Fast and the Furious that knows it’s bad movie and keeps making fun of itself.
When I started watching Wing Commander, I was dazzled by its clean visuals and convincing special effects, but soon afterwards, I realized that this is yet another film based on a video game. The story is boring, the characters are one-dimensional, the dialogues are laughable and there are numerous cliches. And it’s a shame because if there’s one video game franchise from the 90s that was obviously inspired by movies, that would certainly be Wing Commander. Watching Wing Commander is painful not necessarily for what it is, but for the promise of what could have been.