The latest in a long line of video games making the jump from cyberspace into a theater near you, Wing Commander falls far short of its legacy and gets sucked into a gravitational cesspool of sci-fi clichés. Introduced in 1990, the interactive game was a pioneer in space combatflight simulations. Featuring stellar special effects, it allowed players to determine their own fate and mold the main character by making tactical decisions. Creator Chris Roberts, in his directing debut, seems to have lost sight of his successful formula.
In Wing Commander the movie, the fate of the Earth rests on the shoulders of a blankly earnest rookie pilot, Lieutenant Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze Jr.), who was born with the ability to navigate through space and time. Blair comes from troubled stock, a superhuman race called the Pilgrims imbued with something akin to the Force. They are ostracized by humans as potential betrayers even though the real enemy would seem to be the Kilrathi alien invaders. The wing commander (Saffron Burrows) and her squadron are called upon to deliver secret intelligence past enemy lines. Though this could be the meat of a good space story, the combat scenes are weak variations of the game’s. The props are sadly antiquated by 27th-century standards— torpedos, bullets, and huge headphone sets that make the original Star Trek series look light years ahead by comparison. And Matthew Lillard, as Blair’s fly-boy buddy, keeps his manic side in check, which is unfortunate since what this film needs is more of what made
Starship Troopers so enjoyable— campy comic-book fervor.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 16, 1999