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'Wing Commander'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 12, 1999

  Movie Critic

Wing Commander
Freddie Prinz Jr. stars in "Wing Commander." (20th Century Fox)

Chris Roberts
Freddie Prinz Jr.;
Matthew Lillard;
Saffrom Burrows;
Jurgen Prochnow;
Tcheky Karyo;
David Warner;
David Suchet
Running Time:
1 hour, 30 minutes
Contains stage blood, fake-looking explosions and risque pillow talk
Full disclosure: I've never played the video game on which "Wing Commander" is based, but I can't imagine it's as unexciting, as derivative or as confusing as this cinematic sleeping pill. First of all, for a sci-fi adventure there is precious little action and only the stalest effects (we've all seen the 360-degree "stereoscopic freeze" technique in the ads for Gap khakis).

Set in the 26th century during a war between something called the Confederation (thank you, "Star Trek") and a renegade alien race (who look like bendable action figures left over from "Small Soldiers"), "Wing Commander" squanders whatever minimal interest it might muster by focusing less on battle than on the supposedly dramatic conflict between its stars. There's the brash fighter jock "Maniac" Marshall (Matthew Lillard); the half-alien, half-human mystery man Chris Blair (Freddie Prinze, Jr.); and their tough but sexy superior officer "Angel" Deveraux (Saffron Burrows). Those are but a few of the stock characters plucked off the casting rack.We've seen them before in "Top Gun," "Armageddon," "Alien" and a host of other, better films.

Like "Star Trek's" United Federation of Planets, the good guys here are a politically correct United Nations of foreign accents and skin colors. The grunge of the set is "Blade Runner-ish" but, without any of that film's panache, everything just looks dirty. Even "The Hunt for Red October's" submarine chase sequences and "Nightmare on Elm Street's" retractable claw get ripped off here. And the hoary dialogue comes courtesy of every war movie ever made, from the C.O. who barks, "All right ladies, listen up!" to the tear-jerking "Don't you die on me!" Unfortunately for the film, those words come too late.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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