Seldom does this happen, but I have to say this... This review says nearly everything I feel about this movie. I bought my first computer to play WING COMMANDER III, then upgraded for IV. When I went to see the movie, I pretended in my mind that I was there to see a movie along the lines of THE LAST STARFIGHTER or BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. And for a bit, I thought that's what I had received. But then... reality came creeping in, and the thought hit me... Where the hell was Mark Hamill, John Rhys Davies, Malcolm McDowell, Ginger Lynn and Biff from BACK TO THE FUTURE? I mean you are making a science fiction movie knowing that it will be coming out the same year as STAR WARS EPISODE ONE. Your movie is based on a video game starring LUKE SKYWALKER as your main character. But instead you go with Freddie Prinze Jr. I don't understand. The film's effects were very nice and I liked the film more than the recent installment of Star Trek, but... it was riddled with porblems. And for now, I'll let El Cosmico tell you about them. On Tuesday I have a q&A that I'm doing with Chris Roberts at SXSW and I hope to have a very frank discussion about the difficulties of making the move from Video Games to Feature Films as well as what he learned from this project. I consider the film to be a Saturday Matinee film. And for now... here's El Cosmico....
Good day, Harry.
I have been instructed to send you a review. There were many emotions expressed by the others I joined at the premiere which somehow have, in their confluence, brought this task to me. I probably do not need to elaborate on such matters. This being said, I give you my review, to do with as you wish. You may choose to not publish it, and I will understand. If you wish to credit me, please use the name El Cosmico.-
First, I should say that this film demonstrates some very competent special effects work, and in doing so, improves Austin's general ability to produce quality films independently of more traditional means. This is a fine accomplishment, and Digital Anvil should be commended for it. Second, a consideration in judging the film is that it was created in a fairly short span of time, on a very limited budget. For the latter reason alone, this film will likely be quite profitable, which is not at all an undesirable thing. Also, the director seems like a nice fellow, and it's his first film. However...
The reality we inhabit for most of our lives is a confusing one, full of things which cannot be known. Human culture attempts to make sense of things, and for a time, many of us can imagine that there is sensibility in the world we encounter. Human culture, however, also has the ability to confound.
I experienced such a confusion during most of my viewing of Wing Commander: The Movie. It reminded me of journeys into alternate perceptions of realities that I have had. During such adventures, amidst the great confusion, there is often a clarity to be distilled from the senseless.
The after-party, with its yummy finger foods, free liquid, and delightfully formed waitresses almost disarmed me. My frustration arose again when I realized that the femme I was visualizing pleasure with was probably on the south side of legal. Perhaps she would lie to me about her age, I thought. Then again, sometimes one must act against legal concerns when issues of justice are concerned. After all, can one legislate love? I think not. The matter left me when I was distracted by the barmaid's bosom. This led me to miss out on a free refill of my beverage. More frustration.
I left and drove home listening to Santana-You Just Don't Care. Thinking about the responsibility of telling the truth, and wavering, I felt like I was being accused of kindness and understanding. As Soul Sacrifice began, I pictured a ghostly bracelet around my wrist, with the glowing words, "What Would El Cosmico Do?"
I would warn the world of an industry which seeks to extract around seven dollars from innocents...in exchange for something of less value. If I could bargain with the ticket counter, like a market vendor in Marrakesh, I think I would try to take the fellow down to a couple of bucks and a beer on this one. Perhaps I would simply walk away.
I kept asking myself if this film intended all of the great number of cliches I perceived, or some of them, or perhaps even none. I came away without clarity on this matter. I am sure, for instance, that the Das Boot reference, complete with Jurgen Prochnow, was intended. I don't think, however, that it was meant to be quite as ridiculous as it was, or as lacking in continuity and quality as it was.
From this entire experience, I am able to recollect the following disturbing puzzles:
Aren't the Kilrathi supposed to be cat-people? If so, who were the stiff and ugly rubber people who kept hanging around and fucking shit up? Why did the stand-up model in the lobby look better than the ones on screen? Why must people keep casting the fellow who played "Maniac" in films that I see? Can Freddie Prinze Jr. spend more than a few moments without his mouth hanging open? I mean, can he? Surely one Keanu Reeves is enough for the world. This is not a niche which needs expansion. Please let The Matrix be a cool movie...oh please. How could the makers of Eaters of The Dead change the name? That has to be the coolest name ever and you people are changing it? Are you on crack?
Okay, back to this particular pelicula. More questions. So we've got this precious AI navigation unit which must be safeguarded at all costs from capture. Its self-destruct mechanism malfunctions after someone sneezes or something, just when the rubber people are about to enter the room and take it. Of course, it is housed in an impenetrable chamber, so it cannot be destroyed. Then, the rubber people steal it from the impenetrable chamber. After they are in possession of it and are going to use it to invade Earth, the humans attack the rubber people ship which houses it, and have the option of taking it home, but they leave it. If there was a word which illustrated the concept of a question mark better than "huh?" I would use it.
There is also a morality system in which pilots deny the existence of fellow pilots who have met their doom in combat, because it is apparently too painful to deal with. Again, I say "Huh?" Who are these wimp-asses? Are these people soldiers or not? Do we want people with such repression piloting our spacecraft? Even more puzzling, how is it that Freddie manages to convince these people to abandon this system of repression that they have apparently maintained for quite a long time with just a few short words? I was so unconvinced by his speech on the matter that I almost decided that from then on, I should repress all of my own emotions. This feeling soon lapsed as I wondered why the Kilrathi command ships looked exactly like the human command ships...even the bridges looked the same. Did they both hire the same production designer? There were also some problems with the motion effects on the Rapier fighters, which just looked dingy and not-quite-right.
I must also wonder how Jurgen Prochnow was convinced to utter invectives against "Pilgrims" on so many occasions while keeping a straight face. Surely, at some point while reading the script, the fellow must have mentioned to someone, "Look, I think they get the damn point. Pilgrims suck." We're never quite sure why people hate the Pilgrims so much, and when an attempt at explaining the issue comes up, I repeated the mantra of the evening, "What the hell? Is this supposed to be over-the-top stupid funny, or is it just really bad?" I think it was probably pretty bad. Keanu, I mean Freddie, also seems to have trouble dealing with the issue, as well as every other issue. This is merely a symptom of a greater problem with the film, which is the effort to cram a great deal of background information into a very short amount of time, through the use of bad writing. Imagine trying to explain Kabuki in 30 seconds while you are drunk off your ass. The listener's reaction would be similar in both cases.
There are more things I could complain about, but it's all the same sort of stuff, and I'm sleepy. I don't like saying bad things about something that people have worked hard on, but this movie just wasn't good, and that's all there is to it. I think teenage girls who dig Freddie will probably like this movie. I'm sure it will make plenty of money. I think that if there's a sequel, it will probably be better. If it's any indication, I overheard some people who work for either Digital Anvil or Origin (the company that made the video game series) express anguish at watching this film, feeling that it was bad, and not even faithful to the original story line.
I too felt anguish. I don't care if it followed the original story line or not. All I know is that the acting wasn't there, the dialogue wasn't there, there was no plot exposition, no continuity, and, well, most of the effects were pretty good. It was sort of fun at moments, but mostly not. That's about all I have to say about that. I wish the filmmakers good luck at the box office, and hope their next projects improve upon this one.