Saturday, February 11, 2012

Monster Crap Inductee: Wing Commander (1999)

Monster Crap: Wing Commander
Proof Even The Creators Of Source Materials Can Screw Their Own Franchises


For years, we have had a lot of hatred for one man.

Now for those of you who don’t know, he created one of the most legendary franchises of all time.

He also (with Steven Spielberg created another icon of the silver screen, Indiana Jones.

So why does his name bring fan boys to pure hatred. Simple, because he has decided that because it is his franchise, he can make whatever changes he wants, no matter how terrible they are. But he is not the only one who has done this sort of travesty to their own creations. Steve Spielberg received loads of hatred for making several changes to his property E.T.

Like Editing Out Agents’ Guns And Turning Them Into Walkie Talkies

But another one is the person we are talking about today, Chris Roberts. In 1990….as a computer programmer for Origin Systems, he is credited with the creation of one of the most famous space combat simulation computer game franchises in Wing Commander.

The game spawned three sequels (several with acclaimed FMV (Full Motion Video)), action figures, an animated series (although it lasted for only one season), several novels, & a collectable card game. So naturally, a movie based on the series was to be created and unlike many films (who are given to people with no care for the source material), this was given to Chris Roberts to write and direct. But unfortunately for those who were hoping to create a film franchise, we got this film instead.

Now………..I have never played the Wing Commander games and the only thing of Wing Commander I knew of……..was the animated series Wing Commander Academy, which I did not think much of. But it doesn’t take a fan boy to look at poster for this film and see nothing but a disaster in waiting.

This film stars Freddie Prinze Jr. (son of famous TV actor Freddie Prinze), who at the time was considered a teen heart throb for being in such films as She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer. It also stars Matthew Lillard, who was very well known for playing wild characters in She’s All That and Scream. It also starred Saffron Burrows, who was an up-and-coming actress who was also scheduled at the same time to star in a killer shark film that I like known as…

It also stars Jurgen Prochnow, who has appeared on Monster Crap before……….but we will get to that after the film. Finally, I should mention that it has David Warner in it, who had been in another cult classic known as Tron.

He Had Three Roles In That Film……..All The Big Villains

And finally we have Tcheky Karyo, who I did not remember……….until I checked IMDB and realized he was one of the trophy hunters in a film that is dear to my heart since I enjoyed this film as a child.

So this is a cast of known actors…few for stuff I actually liked so you know we are in for a world of annoyance, but before we begin…..I have to tell you an interesting story. I was at the dollar store one day looking for whatever…..and low and behold, placed somewhere in the store was this DVD. I decided at the time since it was really just going to be a dollar more to get an actual film, I would buy it. I watched the film at home and a few days later, I decided that I would donate the film since I had no need for it in my house. Now keep in mind, this was long before I was doing Monster Crap, and long before I decided to keep DVDs for future induction so at that time……my DVD collection only involved good movies. But let’s get this out of the way and if feel more disappointed about this film instead of furious, I will explain my reasons afterwards.

We begin with the title screen and opening credits.

Two Films In A Row Where I Get The Opening Title Screen Immediately……….Why Thank You.

We also get a audio montage that explains that we have finally been able to explore the deepest reaches of space and have finally met extra-terrestrial life in the Kilrathi. Unfortunately for us, the Kilrathi have no intentions of being friends with us so there is a intergalactic war going on between the Terran Confederation (humans) and the Kilrathi.

It is the year 2654 and we are at the Pegasus Asteroid Base, which is the headquarters for the Vega Fleet.

The base immediately gets attacked by the Kilrathi and wouldn’t you know it, this base has a Navcom that leads us towards our planet.

Admiral Bill Wilson tries his best to destroy the Navcom rather than allow it to fall in Kilrathi hands, but he fails because of several reasons.

One would be because the self destruct mechanism for the Navcom has malfunctioned. The other is that it is protected by bullet proof glass and for some reason….NO DOORS. You know……with this being a situation that could happen, you might actually want to have a way to manually destroy the device. But no, Admiral Bill Wilson fails to break the glass and destroy the device before the Kilrathi arrive. Looking it up, there is a reason this whole crap has been filmed this way, but I will get into that later.

But I guess since someone who I will mention later brought this up, I should mention this as well.

Yes, They Have Spelling Issues In This Film As Well.

The last thing Admiral Wilson is able to do is send a message to Admiral Tolwyn, who is commander of the main confederation fleet and on board the Concordia.

When he receives the message, he is given timetables for arrival to Earth and the Kilrathi will get there in two hours before the Confederation.  Faulty planning strikes once again. However, there may be hope as there is a ship that could intercept the Kilrathi before they get to Earth and that ship is the Tiger Claw. However, any droid that could send the information from their ship would get to the Tiger Claw in two days so they have to send it to a passenger ship called the Diligent, which is sending two new pilots to the Tiger Claw.

Of course we immediately get to see the Diligent head towards the Tiger Claw with its pilot James Taggart and the passengers, First Lieutenant Todd Marshall & First Lieutenant Christopher Blair.

Blair Being Played By Freddie Prinze Jr., Marshall Being Played By Matthew Lillard, And Taggart Being Played By Tcheky Karyo.

Blair is called up to the bridge by Taggart, who tells him that he has a coded message from Tolwyn. Blair goes to see the message and Tolwyn tells of the situation and that this message needs to get to the Tiger Claw. Tolwyn also mentions that Blair’s father served with him during the Pilgrim Wars and that they were very good friends.

We also learn that Blair’s mother was a pilgrim, and as you will find later……that is not a good thing.

That Necklace That Blair Wears At All Times Is A Reminder That He Is Half Pilgrim.

Taggart mentions that there was a time that people looked up to the pilgrims, but ever since they were defeated in the Pilgrim Wars, there has not been a new quasar that has been charted. If you want to know what a quasar is……please look it up before you continue because this word is going to be used a lot. But basically quasars are the centers of super black holes.

We have a short moment where they get into some hassle because Marshall almost gets them into a huge black hole. But thanks to Blair, they are able to escape with their lives. Taggart gives Marshall shit for almost killing them as he leaves. Marshall basically comments that Taggart has an attitude problem.  Um….I think any reasonable person would give you shit for almost getting them killed.

Man, You Can So Tell Freddie Prinze Jr. Isn’t In A Spacecraft

They get to the Tiger Claw and are met by Captain Lawrence Sansky and Commander Paul Gerald.

Sansky is given the disk and when he asked why the disk was given by them and not Pegasus, Blair tells them that Pegasus was destroyed by the Kilrathi. Suddenly when Gerald finds out who Blair’s father was, he is immediately dickish towards Blair, because Blair’s father married a pilgrim woman and Blair is half pilgrim…..and Gerald hates Pilgrims. So yes, we get bigotry in this science fiction film as for the rest of this film; Gerald will call Blair a half breed and won’t trust him with anything. Now like I said with Admiral Wilson, there was a whole subplot that would have further made these characters more three-dimensional and the situation would be more understandable, but I will explain what happened later.

At the flight dock, we see Marshall be more of a pig and Blair accidentally mistakes his commanding officer Lt. Commander Jeanette Devereaux for a grease monkey.

Now I’m sure you are looking at me like “What the hell is wrong with calling someone a grease monkey?” Well, the term “Grease Monkey” is a derogatory term used on the people who repair your vehicle. Now despite our hero later apologizing for the mistake, I would like to remind you that this is our hero, ladies and gentleman. A man who receives prejudice himself for his parents, yet has no problem being prejudice towards those who work under him.

They then head to the cafeteria where Marshall decides to egotistically announce that he is the best pilot ever and that Blair is the second best. When one pilot takes offense to his ego, Marshall produces some alcohol and another woman, Lieutenant Rosie Forbes says everything is okay.

Forbes is as braggadocios as Marshall and the two have an immediate connection. The crew of the Tiger Claw are finally able to decode the message sent to them by Admiral Tolwyn.

Oh I’m Sorry…….Admiral Towlyn…..Can’t Even Get The Names Of Your Own Characters Right.

Anyway, the decoded message basically shows the situation and that the Tiger Claw needs to gather information on the Kilrathi’s whereabouts. He tells them to use Taggart since he knows his way around the area. Of course, Gerald doesn’t like this because this information was given to them by a half-breed who was on the Diligent, not because you know, THEY NEED TO STOP THE KILRATHI FROM REACHING EARTH!!!! Seriously, this type of one dimensional character isn’t needed for this movie.

In the cafeteria, Marshall helps Forbes get a checkmate in a game of chess with another pilot. I guess this little bit of information needs to be brought up, but with the way the pieces were set up……….it was not a checkmate yet. More communication makes people realize that Marshall may be arrogant, but he does have some brains in his skull. Blair mentions that he was just looking over the ship of the pilot that he is replacing and someone says that the guy he is replacing does not exist. A scuffle starts and Devereaux takes Blair to the hall to explain to him the rules. I’m just going to let her explain the situation.

Devereaux: Let me give you a reality check. In all likelihood you are going to die out here. We’re all going to die out here, but none of us need to be reminded of that fact. So you die, you never existed. Understand?

I quoted that line because I have a father who is a retired Army Major and my younger brother right now is an Army Staff Sergeant. If either of them saw this movie and saw that line, they would cry BULLSHIT till the cows come home. This is the sort of script writing that is written by someone who has no fucking idea what really military service is like. When someone dies, you don’t act as if that person never existed because like it or not, he or she did exist and most likely….he had family and friends. To even act like he did not exist would be a complete mockery of his or her memory. Nobody…..except some idealistic shithead who believes in a world where there can be no pain……..would ever sign off on something like that. Oh and by the way, way to say he never existed despite the fact that on the ship that somehow is still there despite him dying is still there, his name is still painted on that ship. You aren’t even trying with your own bullshit logic.

The crew also finds out that Blair is a Pilgrim so of course, prepare for some more unnecessary bigotry.

Back at the map room, Sansky (because somehow he actually listened to his bigoted assistant’s comment) asks to show him proof that this is an actual message and not a con. Taggart then produces a ring which he gives Sansky and that’s all the convincing Sansky needs. When Gerald doesn’t get what that proves. Sansky says that this ring has been in Tolwyn’s family for 16 generations and the admiral only gives that ring to anyone who has his full confidence so that shuts up Gerald’s lack of trust………..for just this moment.

In Blair’s new room, Marshall comes in to plead with him to hide that cross because as long as he has it, he is in danger from some moron who does not understand and Marshall doesn’t want his friend to get hurt. In this scene, you can see that both Blair and Marshall are really good friends and that is because with as many movies as Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard have been in over the years, these two have to have a good friendship to continue working with each other. Back to the movie, Blair says the cross is who he is and of course that cross would have a purpose….if not for the subplot that wasn’t meant to be. Marshall leaves understanding of the situation and asks Blair to wish him luck as he tries to hook up with Forbes.

Back to the Concordia, they get a message from Earth’s defenses that while they are ready, they are not sure if they are able to withstand a Kilrathi battle group with help from the Confederation fleet. It’s basically filler to just say the Concordia is trying to get to Earth as fast as they can.

Out on a flying mission, Forbes and Marshall have some chit chat which can also be construed as “I’m better… I’m better”. The two even do some stunts and Marshall does a dangerous stunt to land in the docking bay. Forbes follows and Marshall earns his call sign “Maniac”. The two give each other compliments for their stunts and Devereaux shows up to yell at the two. Forbes is able to ease the situation so the two don’t get in too much trouble for their antics.

In Taggart’s room, Blair comes to him asking why everyone has a problem with him being half Pilgrim. Taggart explains that the first human space explorers and settlers were the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims had such a knack for it that they were able to heighten their senses as to where everything is. They were so good that they didn’t need Navcoms to tell them where to go. However, with new powers came arrogance from them, believing that they were Gods. Because they did a lot of things against the Confederation, not many people have much love for them. So with their extra senses, they are like the Jedi in the Star Wars films………..only their powers are lamer. That’s the best you are going to get out of that whole Pilgrim hatred because that other subplot would have built more understanding for that hatred, but once again…….I will have to explain that later.

The crew of the Tiger Claw makes a space jump and….well, this is going to take some explanation on my end. In 1999, there was a renaissance in effects known as bullet time where you could slow a bullet so you can see its trajectory. In that year, there were two films that used this along with a camera doing a 360 shot around the characters. There was this film and….

The Matrix

Guess which film did it better?

If You Said This Film, I Would Like To Know Your Location So I Can Smack You Upside Your Head.

They make the jump point and catch up with the Kilrathi battle group. Sansky sends Devereaux and Blair out to see what the battle group is doing, and specifically says that he doesn’t want them to be seen. They head up towards what they originally believe is an asteroid field, but it is actually what is left of the Pegasus base. They then see a Kilrathi communications vessel, which is meant to detect any spy ships and report them to the battle group. And I guess this should be mentioned….

The Effects For Outer Space Are Laughably Bad

Unfortunately, Angel (that is Devereaux’s call sign) is spotted despite hiding behind an asteroid. Blair panics and the two attack the vessel. Sadly for them, the vessel is shielded so they can’t damage it. So instead, they decide to retreat because there are too many about to come at them.

Back at the Tiger Claw, the two get yelled at by Gerald and once again, he has to be a prick and bring up that Blair is a Pilgrim. Sansky tells Gerald to back off and dismisses Blair. When asked what they should do, Gerald says that he can have his fighters attack the group and destroy the communications vessel before it reaches the battle group. Taggart tries to object to this on the grounds that it would leave the Tiger Claw wide open to attack, but Sansky says that since Taggart is a “civilian”, he has no say so he goes with Gerald’s plan. A complete 180 on Sansky’s part, it’s as if his character was supposed to be something else before we got this.

In Devereaux’s room, Blair comes in upset that she actually questioned his judgment. Devereaux says that she can’t see how Blair can be a Pilgrim and be on their side, but Blair corrects her and says that he is only half Pilgrim. He says that his mother was a Pilgrim and that his father fought for the Confederation. They both died before he was five and that they were killed in a massacre and that cross is all he has of their memory. Devereaux tells Blair to sit down so she can explain why she got the call sign “Angel”. She says that she grew up in an orphanage and that her parents died in the same war as his. Her sisters said that her parents were angels that had gone up to heaven so she prayed to them. However, she learned that her parents weren’t angels; they were dead, gone, and never existed. Again……..this is why that whole “We Say The Dead Never Existed” crap is a complete insult. She also reveals that she and the guy that Blair was replacing were in a relationship. She then says that the two are square and thanks him for saving her life today.

Meanwhile we see Marshall and Forbes having what you would call PG-13 sex (sex with their clothes on).

The Worst Kind Of Sex

Their sex gets interrupted by the P.A. system that says all pilots need to report to the flight deck. There they get briefed by Devereaux on their mission to destroy the communications vessel. Blair’s appointed partner has a problem with Blair being a Pilgrim and won’t work with him so Devereaux takes Blair with her while the other guy can have her partner.

Out in space, Devereaux….

Oh Wait………..I Mean Deveraux…Seriously, You’re Becoming Ed Wood With This Whole Allowing Misspellings To Stay

Anyway, Devereaux leads the squad into battle with that communications vessel when we learn that Taggart isn’t really a civilian. He holds the rank of Commodore in Naval Intelligence with the call sign “Paladin”. You know, Taggart…..when Sansky was dismissing your ideas because you were a civilian, it might have been a good fucking time to bring this up. But yeah, basically Taggart realizes that these are just supply ships and with no defenses, the Tiger Claw is in for a huge ambush so the pilots head back.

The Tiger Claw as expected gets ambushed and they send some more ships out to stop the attack.

Oh Yeah……….In Space, There Is No Fucking Gravity So Your Ships Shouldn’t Be Having A Short Dive Before Flying Away.

Sansky tells Gerald that it turns out that Taggart was right and Gerald suspects that Taggart knew something they didn’t. Yeah, he knew something you didn’t Gerald…….the actual best course of action which is your job. Anyway, despite having their shields up, the Tiger Claw gets hit by enemy projectiles which cause the death of….

Sansky Which Means Commander Dickhead Is In Charge

When all seems lost, the pilots who were sent on Gerald’s failed attack arrive to save the day. However, despite being told to return to the docs, Marshall and Forbes decide to disobey those orders to kill some more Kilrathi. However, when they finally decide to follow orders, Forbes doesn’t crashes and dies as Marshall is grieve stricken.

Devereaux is very upset to see a friend of hers die, but because her crashed ship is blocking the way for other ships to dock, she makes the very tough and somber decision to push the wreck out of the way. It’s a very sad moment in most films……….but not in this film, because other than Taggart….no one has acted their way into a death that anyone would be sad by.

By The Way, For Reasons Unknown To Me…..Gravity Once Again Allows That Ship To Fall Off The Tiger Claw.

Devereaux gives Marshall flak for Forbes’ death and is about to put a bullet in his head, but Blair stops her saying that his friend has paid the price already. However, Devereaux warns Marshall that if he endangers another pilot, she will kill him. The Tiger Claw crew decides to hide in a crater in case addition Kilrathi ships come by to continue the ambush. This almost works except that the Kilrathi aren’t that stupid (well not yet anyways) and they start to nuke every crater. Blair almost dies when a structural leak almost sucks him into outer space, while several dicks in the crew watch on, doing nothing. It takes Marshall growing a pair to save Blair from death.

While Marshall is bleeding, Blair tries to comfort him with the whole “she never existed” crap which Marshall rightfully tells him to not pull that on him as he wants to know that she existed. I would like to thank you Marshall for bringing some actual sense into this whole argument.

When they find out that another Kilrathi ship is coming, it is decided to send several pilots up to blow that ship up from the inside. When they get up to the ship, they kill some Kilrathi and with luck of all lucks, this ship just so happened to have the Navcom that the Kilrathi stole from the Pegasus base.

How Convenient….

Well, I’ve been putting this off for so long, I guess I should explain the subplot that never was. You know Admiral Wilson from the Pegasus? Yeah, he was supposed to be still alive at this point and we were supposed to find out very early that he was a Pilgrim traitor working for the Kilrathi. At this point in the film, he was supposed to get Gerald and Blair to start a knife fight with each other, but Blair sees through this ruse and stabs Wilson, killing him. In fact, there was an actual figure released for this film called Pilgrim Traitor, which if you remove the mask is Admiral Wilson. So yeah, while it would have opened some plot holes, like why would the Kilrathi work with Pilgrims, but it would have given Gerald a three dimensional character of being not a complete bigot, but having a reason in this film to distrust Blair and Taggart, despite them fixing every mistake he makes. Also, Captain Sansky was supposed to be in league with Wilson and once Wilson died & Sansky is busted, Sansky commits suicide rather than be capture. Because this whole subplot was cut out, Sansky dies from what appears to be a head injury, Wilson is killed back at the destruction of the Pegasus base, that whole stupid shit where they had no doors so they could not get into the Navcom room to manually destroy the device happens, and Gerald is basically a complete bigot for no reason. Now, there is a very good reason this subplot got cut, but I will explain that reason just at the right moment and now is not that time.

Because they now have the jump coordinates for the Kilrathi, they need to send this message to Admiral Tolwyn so he can form an ambush of his own. They originally are going to send a drone to relay those coordinates, but the drones aren’t working today so they need a skilled pilot to do this and really…….they need a Pilgrim who knows his way around space. And they just so happen to have one in Blair. Well, they technically have two since we find out that Taggart is also a Pilgrim, but they are sending out Blair and he is going to be escorted by Deveraux. By the way, when Taggart gives Blair his cross (Blair lost his cross in the subplot because he used it to stab Wilson), we see Blair’s hand is bandaged, which is the only remaining part of the whole subplot that they somehow kept. They reshot entire scenes to get rid of this subplot, but they could not or would not get rid of that. Pure laziness, kids.

Anyway, Devereaux and Blair go out and are attacked by a torpedo. Devereaux destroys the torpedo, but the blast destroys her ship so that she needs to eject. She only has an hour left on the life support and Blair has to make a tough decision. If he leaves her, she will most likely die, but if he goes to get her, he will not be able to get to Admiral Tolwyn in time. Devereaux orders him to leave her and get the coordinates to Tolwyn. He follows her orders, but we get a very touching scene of them saying their last goodbyes. Or it would be if either of these characters earned my ability to give a care if they die.

Also Blair Doesn’t Help Matters With This Stupid Expression

I know people who actually saw this film in theaters and this scene along with several other scenes produced laughter instead of sadness. That is not….I repeat NOT….the response you want from what you are trying to convey as an emotional moment.

Meanwhile, the Tiger Claw destroys a Kilrathi ship using pirate ship techniques of going right next to the other ship and firing at it.

Blair heads towards the quasar, but he is being followed by another Kilrathi ship. And now ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the reason that subplot was cut from the face of this earth.

The Failure Of The Kilrathi Animatronics

Excuse me for a moment……..

*Goes in another room to laugh his ass off at how ridiculous those damn things are*

I’m sorry, but seriously…..someone was paid to create that.

Oh I’ve seen reviews for the Wing Commander games and I have seen that the Kilrathi don’t age so well from then, but this………..these were terrible when this film was released. They basically shaved the freaking cats and only left the fact that they had a beard.

Oh it gets even better, the puppets were supposed to be in many scenes of this whole subplot, but because the animatronics failed so many times, that they basically rarely showed the Kilrathi, except for in millisecond shots and in scenes where they needed to be seen in the film. Even the filmmakers were embarrassed by their own creations. And while I give CGI so much shit, this is why every no human is basically CGI these days, because if your practical effects fail in this day of rushing your films to release, you are fucked.

So yeah, back to the movie….the Kilrathi follow Blair into the radius of a giant black hole, thinking that it is the fleet.

Yeah……..Sure That Is A Confederation Fleet, Dumbass

The trap works and Blair’s smaller size is advantageous in this situation as his ship is able to get out the way and the Kilrathi’s larger ship gets destroyed by the black hole, but not before we get this great line by the Kilrathi ship’s leader.

No Shit Sherlock…..

Blair gets the message to the Concordia and the Kilrathi attack fleet is just sitting ducks for this ambush.

The day is saved and because somehow, Taggart was able to save Devereaux, she lives and Blair and her share a kiss as this film ends.

This film was released in theaters and was supposed to be Freddie Prinze Jr.’s breakout role so that he can escape being type casted into romantic comedies. Unfortunately for them, that wasn’t the case as this film commercially and critically flopped. But even worse was the reputation of the Wing Commander franchise, after this film was such a failure……..planned sequels for the Wing Commander games were scrapped and it wasn’t until 2007 that a Wing Commander game was ever made. Chris Roberts, the film’s director, was the scapegoat for this film’s failure and has never directed another film since. The two big actors and the one up and coming actress had issues of their own and while they may make a decent living, they never got to the same success that they may have intended.

This film owns up to being considered a complete betrayal to fans of the Wing Commander franchise, and even as a guy who never played any of the games, I could tell you this. I remember seeing previews of this as an adolescent and just knowing that this would fail. The science fiction/Wing Commander fans are going to be furious with the choices made and teen fans of several of the cast members are not going to appreciate that this film is boring. This film deserves its obscurity and while I may have moments where I was screaming at this film, I see this film with pity and sadness, such as what you would feel if you were that kid who had to kill Old Yeller. So my only reaction is just to feel bad about this because it truly is such an abortion of a film.

But if you want a more rage-filled review of this film from an actual fan of the Wing Commander franchise, I would check out a video released by the Spoony Experiment where Noah “Spoony” Antwiler rips this film to shreds.

Now there is also a reason I am not as angry as you would normally expect me to be with this boring mess of a film. You may want to know that I am saving my anger for my next induction because in March, we finally induct the winner of the 2011 GINO Award and a film that I feel is a betrayal to me as the film it is a prequel of is my favorite film of all time.

Yes, This Is NEXT

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