Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ReWatch: Wing Commander

1999, Chris Roberts --- Netflix

Speaking of video stores; this one was a big renter back in the day. Clunky space opera was always a good renter, whether they were Star Wars or substandard wannabes. I recalled enjoying it in the theatre despite accepting it was rather bad. But it was space opera based on a video game series I loved, so I was there. The thing is, I am kind of surprised it was 1999. That was when I was still in Montreal but it looks so so dated, I just kind of assumed it was back from my Ottawa mid-90s days.

Wing Commander grew from a desire to make Top Gun, in space. The idea of transplanting aircraft carriers and destroyers into space is a pretty standard trope, as big heavy "boats" fit into the mindset of space battles. But this one wanted the hotshots and the deck crashes and the competing egos of all the dogfight movies. And wrapped around it was a pretty decent world building of a deep space war between humans and the cat-like Kilrathi. The games were only about space bound dogfighting, so of course its not difficult to be true to the source, but the creator of the games, who also directs the movie, decided to seed in even more world building and added an additional conflict along religious lines -- the Pilgrims. They were a "race" of humans descended from the original space farers, who had warred against other humans, after they became too full of themselves. The movie uses them as an excuse for emotional baggage and personal conflict, but not much else. Shame.

The movie is terribly dated, from the washed out CGI on bluescreen effects, to the barely passable acting. You have so many familiar faces, from the edgy in their day Tchéky Karyo and Jürgen Prochnow, to the lovely mugs of Saffron Burrows and Freddie Prinze Jr. And somehow they actually made Matthew Lillard a tough guy. This is before Scooby Doo.  Despite this damning recollection, I really do believe this movie was partly inspirational for the way they envisioned the new Battlestar Galactica. There is just a feel that actually carries from this movie onto the popular TV show, and while you may say it was probably more the other way around (original series influencing this later movie), its only five years later that BSG becomes a thing.