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Blair, a fighter pilot, joins an interstellar war to fight the evil Kilrathi who are trying to destroy the universe.
For more about Wing Commander and the Wing Commander Blu-ray release, see Wing Commander Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 26, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Saffron Burrows, Matthew Lillard, Tchéky Karyo, David Suchet, David Warner
Director: Chris Roberts
» See full cast & crew
Wing Commander Blu-ray Review
Hardly commanding picture quality.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 26, 2013
Wing Commander may be no great shakes, but the reputation that proceeds it feels a little harsh. Sure, it's another bland video game adaptation and yes, there's nearly no spark whatsoever to be found within the movie, but it works rather well on a dramatically oriented level, touching on a few interesting, albeit stale, themes while paying homage to some classic military movies of yore. Where the film lacks is, well, pretty much everywhere else. There's surprisingly little action and the movie looks ridiculously cheap and uninspired. It plays like a very poor man's take on Battlestar Galactica, not a movie based on a space shoot-em-up video game. Ultimately, the film feels lost in the cinema wilderness, neither offering the kind of nonstop laser beams and explosions sort of entertainment the target young male demographic wants nor really capitalizing on the hints of dramatic relevancy that flow through the film. It's a pity the film couldn't find a happy medium between the two -- and a bigger budget so it wouldn't look so darn tired -- but at least there's something here, which is more than can be said of quite a few of its video game-turned-movies brethren.
In the future, man has traveled deep into space, colonized distant worlds, and built the powerful Terran Federation. Unfortunately, there are other species out there that haven't taken kindly to man's expansion. When all diplomatic ties with the alien Kilrathi are severed, a state of war is declared. In the midst of conflict, two young hotshot pilots -- Christopher Blair (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and Todd Marshall (Matthew Lillard) -- are traveling via freighter to their new command on the Tiger Claw. Blair receives a communique from the Terran Federation that comes from the top. Admiral Tolwyn (David Warner) orders him to deliver news of a Kilrathi raid that has left Earth vulnerable by the aliens' acquisition of a navigational device that will lead them straight to Earth. On board the Tiger Claw, Blair and Marshall meet their wing commander, Deveraux (Saffron Burrows), and a crew that doubts Blair's loyalties when it's revealed his blood may be tainted by that of a "Pilgrim," ex-enemies of the Confederation.
Wing Commander plays around with some interesting dramatic currents, and not to the detriment of the film. In fact, the action is so dull that the heavier emphasis on character relations, interstellar politics, fictionalized future human history, and the stigma of Blair's heritage save the movie from total loss. What probably, by every right, should be a lasers and explosions movie aimed at preteen boys offers instead a fairly balanced narrative of life in the far future, showing how man has changed in some ways and stayed the same in others. The crux of the story deals with Blair's heritage, preconceived notions and prejudices aimed at him, and how his performance on the galactic battlefield satisfies his companions and removes from their minds his bloodline. It's not a particularly new narrative, and it's not too terribly challenging in Wing Commander, but kudos to the filmmakers for aiming above a straight shooter and making a movie that tries, and often succeeds on a base level, to bring something more to the table.
That said, this is a movie based on an outer space shooter, and therefore demands more in the way of robust action. Instead, audiences are presented a terribly dark and dull universe that features limited action characterized by bland special effects. It's a movie not big enough for its britches, falling well short of even modest expectations for a little spaceship vs. spaceship excitement. On the plus side, the picture does take some of its cues from classic sea and air war and combat films. Hints of everything from Das Boot to Top Gun run through the film and, outside of the character drama, represent Wing Commander at its best. The cast isn't half bad, either; Lillard refrains from going too far in his typical frat boy ways, while Prinze, Jr. finds a soul to his character through his struggles to prove his allegiance to doubting brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
Wing Commander Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dull. Dreary. Dare say it, ugly. Wing Commander wasn't made with vibrance in mind, that much is clear, but Anchor Bay's presentation of a 20th Century Fox catalogue title really pushes the limits for somber, unremarkable imagery. The film begins with an opening title sequence that's so soft and so bland that it nearly looks like it was sourced from a VHS recording. Unfortunately, the improvement from there forward is marginal. While there's decent enough clarity, the overwhelmingly dark photography, the muted colors, and the lackluster Blu-ray presentation don't help to improve the image beyond what one would expect to see on a lower end DVD. Details are pasty and smoothed over. There's nothing that screams "high definition." Some shots are hazy, others overwhelming soft and blurry. At its best, the image is stably bland. The visual effects are particularly awful, but the live action footage just screams "flat." Basic skin textures and the red uniforms are about the limits of any sort of bright coloring, and even those appear remarkably uninspired. Black levels are a little noisy and pale, and the image suffers from the occasional speckle and stray pop. It's incredible that a moderately high profile movie looks this tired.
Wing Commander Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Wing Commander's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack doesn't fare very well, either. The best part of the track is its ambience, the light background radio chatter and computer beeps that are heard in some of the more expansive command centers. Otherwise, it's awfully bland. Music delivery lacks vigor and heft, though front spacing is adequate and surround support is a little more than cursory. Clarity could certainly use a major boost. There's a sloppy, muddled sound to the action, particularly whirring star fighters. Even the heaviest sound effects, such as ships "jumping," lack energy and enthusiasm. Dialogue isn't always firm; it sometimes struggles to command the center channel and play with natural pitch and clarity. No subtitle options are included.
Wing Commander Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Wing Commander contains no extras, and no menu is included. The film begins playback immediately after disc insertion.
Wing Commander Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Wing Commander most certainly fails as a shoot-em-up outer space thrill ride, but it works well enough as a fairly intimate character piece. It's absent the sprawling future worlds feel, the space action severely lacks, the special effects stink, and the movie just looks dull and tired. Nevertheless it proves rather engaging elsewhere, though probably to the alienation of the target audience and a large reason why the movie ultimately flopped. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of this 20th Century Fox catalogue title features bland video and subpar audio. No extras are included. Worth a rental.
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Wing Commander Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Anchor Bay to Release 6 TCFHE Catalog Titles in August - June 20, 2013
Anchor Bay is releasing six bargain-priced Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment catalog titles on August 6th and 13th: Freaked, Lucas, The Pick-Up Artist, Silver Streak, Stuck on You and Wing Commander. Each title is available for pre-order.
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